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47 intranet discovery questions to ask before investing in an intranet

We compiled a comprehensive list of key questions to ask when considering an intranet investment.  In this article, we cover various aspects including intranet functionality, customisation, security, user experience, integration, and support. Helping you make a fully informed decision on your new intranet investment.

In brief:

  • Be led by your business objectives rather than technology functionality.
  • Consider functionality, customization, security, user experience, integration, and support.
  • Be careful that you’re not tied into a platform that doesn’t fit your IT strategy.
  • Consider the total cost of ownership including licensing, implementation and support.

A company intranet can be an extremely powerful communication and collaboration tool. More and more companies are searching for ways to improve internal communication, boost employee engagement, increase productivity and build an enduring workplace culture. And an intranet can help to meet all these objectives.

If you're struggling to define the  purpose of your intranet, start with our aptly named blog:

The True Purpose of an intranet.

However, even if you’re you’re clear on the purpose and benefits that an intranet can bring to you, you may still be unsure about how to go about procuring one. With so many intranet vendors to choose from, how do you know which intranet is right for you and what intranet discovery questions you need to ask your intranet supplier to make an informed and financially sound decision? 

In the latest Clearbox report, 21 intranet solutions exist for SharePoint and Microsoft 365 alone – and those are just the ones that are reviewed. There are huge numbers of other intranet vendor solutions that exist both within and outside of the Microsoft 365 technology stack.

So, with a market this competitive, how should you draw up your shortlist?

  • Use a report such as Clearbox to identify which options meet your requirements. Such reports often highlight award-winning solutions, which can help to guide your decision-making.
  • Speak to your network – find out what people in your network are using and discover their intranet’s pros and cons.
  • Out-of-the box intranet – consider whether working with an experienced Microsoft partner who can configure a SharePoint intranet for you, would better suit your needs, rather than investing in a packaged / add-on solution.
  • Explore the skillset of your workforce – think about the experience and focus of your organisation and its people, especially those that will be responsible for implementing and supporting your solution. What are their areas of expertise and their limitations?

 

If you’re struggling with your research and would like some advice, please get in touch with us at Information EXP. We are experts in intranet and digital workspace solutions and can help you make sense of your intranet options.

As with any significant financial investment, often asking the right people the right questions is key to making a successful decision.

So let's cover the all-important intranet discovery questions you need to ask before making your investment.

SharePoint Online, part of Microsoft 365, is a platform that can be configured to create an intranet that meets the needs of most organisations. Many features that were once unique to intranet solution providers are now part of SharePoint Online.

  1. 1. Are we licensed for SharePoint Online?
    If you have a Microsoft 365 licence the answer is probably yes as it’s included in all packages – although check it covers all your employees, including your field workers.
  2. 2. Have we established our key requirements and validated these against SharePoint Online?

The “packaged solution” uses custom code to create user-friendly intranets that once configured, generally require little input from your IT department. They may sit outside of SharePoint or share some resources. They are typically reliant on a third-party both for support and the technology, and will require an on-going licence fee.

The other is using an “out-of-the-box” SharePoint solution approach. This takes advantage of the toolset that SharePoint gives you to create an intranet solution on a platform most users are already familiar with.

When researching an intranet supplier, otherwise known as an intranet vendor, it’s worth taking the time to dig a little deeper into the company.

If considering packaged solution intranet vendors, often the company that implements the solution is not the one that built it and so you need to establish the relationship between the intranet implementor and the vendor. It’s therefore worth asking the following:

  1. 3. How well established is the intranet vendor?
  2. 4. Is their intranet solution their sole or primary focus?
  3. 5. What experience does the implementor have with the intranet vendor’s product?
  4. 6. Does the intranet vendor have any testimonials from organisations like yours or intranet case studies based on organisations like yours?
  5. 7. Can you access and understand their solution roadmap?
Intranet technology approach

If you’re relying on a packaged solution, it can be difficult to understand how reliable the vendor is in terms of up-time and secure there platform is in regards to protecting your intranet data.

So, before investing in a solution, make sure that it both meets your data security requirements and your availability needs – which for a global organisation might be 24/7.

  1. 8. Is the solution based on the SharePoint modern framework? Is the solution reliant on the intranet supplier’s servers?
  2. 9. How does the intranet supplier manage updates to the solution? Does a third audit the security of the platform?
  1.  
  2. 10. Can the intranet supplier support multiple brands on across the solution?
  3. 11. Do they offer an effective knowledge base?
  4. 12. Does their solution support the full life-cycle management of policy and procedure documents?
  5. 13. Does their solution facilitate effective social communication, such as Yammer integration?

Content is king, so it’s vital that all staff are able to access, add and edit content quickly and easily. It’s worth considering the following:

  1. 14. How do we keep our the intranet content on brand?
  2. 15. Do you provide templates to help maintain the consistency of content?
  3. 16. How easily can ‘non-technical’ staff create and manage content?
  4. 17. Does the intranet support the targeting of information to specific audiences?

It’s important, as with all investments, to be able to monitor its rate of return. To this end, it’s worth considering whether the intranet has a dashboard that can track its usage and performance.

In order to justify your investment and determine whether you wish to continue with it, you need to know what’s working well with your intranet and what isn’t. It’s also worth considering how well your intranet supplier is performing and what your long-term relationship with them might look like.

  1. 18. How will our intranet supplier support us following implementation?
  2. 19. How detailed are the usage analytics and are they easy to access and understand?
  3. 20. How will our intranet supplier help us to keep our intranet fresh and relevant?

In today’s globalised, fast-paced world, companies around the world are striving to ensure that their technology is available to all their employees at all times. Consider those who working offsite, employees restricted to mobile devices and offline working requirements for those who travel.

It's also important to consider accessibility requirements, (the UK Government has published advice here), they say “It means making your content and design clear and simple enough so that most people can use it without needing to adapt it, while supporting those who do need to adapt things.”

It’s worth confirming the following with your intranet vendor:

  1. 21. What accessibility standard does your intranet solution meet
  2. 22. What is your mobile experience? Do you offer an app
  3. 23. Is the intranet going to be housed in a place that employees are already familiar with and know how to navigate e.g. SharePoint or Microsoft Teams?

Whilst it’s vital to ensure the security of your company’s data, how it’s accessed and what security measures are in place to protect it. For many organisations a tight integration into Microsoft’s Active Directory, along with a tight approach to data protection, is a must.

  1. 24. Does the solution support single-sign-on with our Azure Active Directory?
  2. 25. Does the solution support MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication)?
  3. 26. What information will your intranet vendor receive?
  4. 27. Does the intranet solution store your data in their environment? If so what data protection measures do you have in place?

The best intranets don’t interrupt the flow of work, they enhance it. By pulling together information from a key sources, they provide employees with a single view of what’s happening within your organisation. Whether it’s the publication of KPI data, breaking company news or an important policy update from HR, intranets exist to enhance collaboration amongst employees and optimise their productivity and performance.

To ensure this occurs, intranets need to work seamlessly with other applications. It's therefore worth checking which intranet integrations your intranet supplier supports:

  1. 28. To what extent does your intranet solution integrate with our company’s productivity platforms (g. Microsoft 365)?
  2. 29. Will we be able to automate the publication of KPI’s? (Power BI)
  3. 30. Can we highlight assigned tasks? (Microsoft To-Do)
  4. 31. Which social platforms do you integrate with? (Twitter)

Introducing an intranet into an organisation is no easy task. Design, content population and roll-out is time-consuming. The effort involved in configuring the intranet, identifying and securing the resources required to implement it and meeting the project plan can be incredibly challenging.

In our experience organisations typically underestimate the effort and duration required for implementation. It’s therefore worth drawing on the experience of the intranet supplier to understand how much time will be required and how many people will need to be involved to ensure that implementation is a success. Questions you may wish to ask your intranet supplier include:

  1. 32. How long does implementation of an intranet typically take?
  2. 33. Are you able to share a typical implementation plan with us?
  3. 34. What support will you require from us (specifically people and time) in order to implement the solution successfully?
  4. 35. If we’re going down the pure SharePoint route, can you share intranet-out-of-the-box case studies?

The costs of intranet implementation often play a key role in deciding which solution to invest in.

Some intranet vendors offer different pricing models depending on the duration of your commitment, whether you hold charitable status and what intranet features you require.

It’s worth asking your intranet vendor the following to ensure you are getting the best value for money:

  1. 36. What is the typical implementation cost for an organisation like ours?
  2. 37. Can you offer a fixed price proposal, with set milestones?

The most successful intranet projects are the ones where the company purchasing the intranet solution and the intranet supplier nurture the same long-term strategic vision from the outset and are prepared to build an open and collaborative partnership.

Whilst it is tempting to confront any issue that may arise with a ‘if it’s broken, we can fix it’ attitude, such a reactive approach will not foster good relations or long-term success. It’s therefore vital, before investing in any solution to explore your intranet supplier’s ongoing support offer. Questions you may wish to ask include:

  1. 38. What does your ongoing intranet support offer look like?
  2. 39. Are there time constraints attached to the support services?
  3. 40. Will you be able to guide us on best practice?

The cost of your intranet solution is likely to play a key part in your decision making and as such it’s important to try and understand the full lifecycle of costs over a typical investment period, which is normally 3 years.  Once you’ve gained a full understanding of all the costs involved including any hidden costs and add on fees, you’ll be able to determine whether your solution offers you the best value for money.

  1. 41. Is there a licence fee for the solution?
  2. 42. Will there be an ongoing subscription charge?
  3. 43. Which features are included in the cost and which ones will incur an additional charge?
  4. 44. Do we get access to new features?
  5. 45. How will these terms of contract change if we add or lose staff, or if we employee temporary staff?
  6. 46. Will we need any underlying licences (e.g. Microsoft 365)?
  7. 47. Will we be required to budget for any ancillary services (e.g. Azure)?

The intranet market is densely packed and with so many options available and so many different intranet vendors to choose from, knowing how to select the one that best meets the needs of your company, can feel overwhelming. 

Most solutions are industry agnostic, so let say you’re on the hunt for an intranet vendor for financial services – you are probably better looking for an intranet solution provider with financial services experience.  

If having read the intranet discovery questions within this blog, you have more questions or need some additional support and advice, please get in touch by either booking a free discovery call or set a meeting up with us. We’re here to help. 

Frequently asked questions

Q: What intranet discovery questions should I ask?

Ensure that your questions focus on the experience, knowledge and capability of your intranet supplier. Ask them about their data protection measures and intranet integrations capability as well as their post-implementation support offer. And be sure to verify the total cost of ownership including licencing, implementation and on-going support. 

Q: How much does an intranet cost?

Intranet costs generally depend on what you want your intranet to do, whether it’ll be packaged add-on solution or out-of-the-box intranet leveraging a platform like SharePoint. You’ll also need to consider ongoing support costs. A company of 200 people typically invests around £25k-£30k in an intranet solution for the first year.. 

Q: Can SharePoint be used as an intranet?

If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, SharePoint is the easy choice for an intranet. With no additional costs and seamless integration with other Microsoft tools, it’s a great place to start. It also has strong functionality including document management and content publishing capabilities and is highly customisable and scalable. 

Author

Rupert Squires

Client Director

2 mins read

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