NielsenNormanGroupThe Nielsen Norman Group publishes a report each year, in which they pick out the top 10 Intranets of the year. Now it’s time for the Best Intranets 2013. This year the trend is pretty clear. 70% of the winners use SharePoint to drive their intranet. I haven’t even read the report yet, just the blogpost describing the report. And yet, I get a few takeaways free. If you have an interest in Intranets and designing Intranets, pick up the report and indulge yourself in 204 full-color screenshots of before and after designs. Content that you normally don’t get access to, unless you actually work for the Company.

6 SharePoint Advices from the winners of the Best Intranets 2013

You get 6 great advices from the winning teams and I’ll just comment a little on those. Being a SharePoint-guy I may be a little biased, but I will try to tone it down.

  1. Use SharePoint features to tackle usability challenges
    Usability challenges such as Searching, Document creation and Management of those is just two killer features that SharePoint utilize in a unique way. I can without a doubt say that of all the Systems, Platforms, CMS’s, CRM’s, Portals and whatever someone choose to call an electronic system that organizes content  (Content = Information, Documents, Pictures, Videos, Metadata and just random files), SharePoint stands out as the one Platform that can do pretty much everything. When it comes to Usability, I often find that it’s up to the Designer and Implementers of SharePoint to make it Usable. Speaking of SharePoint 2003 to 2010, I can say that much has happened, but it’s not until you get to 2013 that Microsoft actually made a unifying design across their Office Products and including SharePoint in that design. I’ve always suspected that Microsoft’s designers are at the back of the production line. Until now. With the 2013 SharePoint gets a huge bump in out-of-box usability design. But still. Don’t expect to have a finished Intranet with your organisations design implemented, the day after you unbox SharePoint. SharePoint can tackle usability challenges but you need to make it do that.
  2. Plan for design customization and development
    I can’t agree more with NNGroup. Every single out-of-box-product needs to be Squeezed, Pressed, Designed and expanded via extra development to perform as the organisation needs. It strikes me that 5 out of 7 SharePoint Intranets, hired external help to make the most of the Platform. As a SharePoint Consultant, this should make me jump up and down in joy. But it also tells me that there is a pretty big need for information regarding what SharePoint can do for the organisations implementing the Platform.
  3. Educate employees about team (collaboration) spaces
    One of the ways that your SharePoint Installation can blow up in your face has always been, the free creation of sites. I’ve seen it more than a few times, that SharePoint is exploding in Space Consumption because of some administrator turned the “Create sites” loose on the employees. And then they just start to play with the thing and creates sites after sites for all sorts of things. Then the Content Strategy is right out the Window. I would educate the Administrators to put in some Approval Workflows when it comes to the free creation of sites. Let the user apply for a project site and explain why the user needs a site for this project and you will get an immediate drop in the creation of sites.
  4. Understand that implementing your own branding can take time
    Great design takes time. Brilliant design takes a little longer! This year the winning Intranets used an average of 2,3 years in building the Intranets. On average, it used to be 3,5 years. So is SharePoint getting easier to customize? Are the developers getting better at developing? Are the companies getting better at explaining what they want? The correct answer is properly a bit of it all. Add a Worldwide Financial Crisis to the mix and you get Companies that focus on getting top-value product for their buck, Developers using better and better ways to deliver complex solutions using agile/scrum/prince2 etc. methods and then you have Microsoft, using a massive amount of energy and money to make their product easier and better to approach for the Implementers and gaining more and more market share. All in all I think that, that is the answer to why the process from inception to launch has gone down.
  5. Keep permissions simple
    Really! It’s the truth. Make permissions simple and you will end up in saving a lot of support time. Protect your confidential data but don’t go nuts in granular security.
  6. Accompany Enterprise 2.0 features with good planning and employee communication
    Using the social features ind SharePoint should require Management to be at the forefront of the social line. And it’s a good idea to draft some company guidelines to accompany the social features, so no-one gets ahead of themselves.