For years, enterprises have been spending huge amounts of money and time building their intranet on top of the SharePoint platform. Intranets take lots of planning and development even to get the most basic of functionality. Throw in heavy branding and responsive design and you’re looking at a significant investment. Launching a new intranet has just been too long of a process with too many technical hurdles, but things are going to improve.
Figure 1: SharePoint’s new publishing experience will be responsive.
Microsoft has announced a new page publishing experience that will make a lot of publishing scenarios much simpler. It provides an updated page authoring canvas that allows for simple branding and page layouts while still having some extensibility hooks. Best of all, what you create here is responsive and works seamlessly with the new SharePoint app. Out-of-the-box you will be able to quickly create pages without a bunch of up-front configuration first. Remember what you had to do before? You know, create content types, page layouts, master pages, workflows, page libraries and more. Not to mention, Microsoft has been telling you to stop customize master pages for some time now. You want to go back to that?
SharePoint becomes a first class citizen in Office 365
A few years ago, you might have noticed that references to the actual term SharePoint were few and far between in Office 365. The only real entry point to SharePoint was through the Sites link in the app launcher. That’s changing. The link will now say SharePoint and so will the navigation in the suite bar. Clicking on the link will take you to the new entry point or SharePoint Home, which pushes sites that you frequent right to the center. It also tracks sites you are following as well as provides links to other sites. This should make it easier to find many of the sites you need without an organization having to put a lot of thought into the information architecture. While it won’t outright replace it. It’s a great starting point for organizations who have never bothered to really set anything up like that.
Figure 2: The new SharePoint home experience will show recent activity.
But my intranet *MUST* do X or we can’t use it
Great! Keep doing what you are doing and customize the whole thing the way you used to. However, if your requirements are flexible, the first release may be just what you need. If you are looking for a simple page authoring canvas with little ramp-up, I think you are going to like it. I think this upcoming release will come close to hitting the “80%” mark where it’s good enough to get people publishing content quickly and easily. If you have advanced needs and you find that you need something more, then you are probably going to have to go back to the conventional publishing model while you wait for new features to come online in future releases.
I have worked at a number of consulting companies and there is good money in helping clients build out elaborate intranets. Sure, a lot of that comes down to the planning and design, but the implementation was just overly complex. Just as Office 365 has brought features like Team Sites and Exchange into small organizations years ago, the new modern pages experience is making the intranet broadly available to smaller organizations. That’s pretty exciting.
Figure 3: The new Modern pages experience
We are about to start a big intranet project or are in the middle of one
This is a tricky place to be in and your organization will have to make decisions about timelines. The new SharePoint Home entry will be here soon, but the modern page publishing features are further out in 2016. Although there is limited information right now. Try and take a look at your requirements and see if the new Modern pages experience will meet your requirements. If you don’t think it will, than continue implementing your new intranet as usual and take another look at it in the future. If you think it does meet your requirements, then maybe take a step back and see what happens and use this as an opportunity to fully vet out your define phase. Ultimately, it comes down to your organization’s priorities, requirements and timelines.
The future of SharePoint is bright. Today has taught us that Microsoft is continuing to invest in the product as a core. If you missed any of the announcements, be sure and read through them to find out everything that’s coming.
Learn more about the topics in this article and more at Unity Connect Online, June 20-23, 2016. Corey will be a speaker at that free event. Sign up today!