We designed in a problem with our pilot of SharePoint 2007. Everything was based around unique Team Sites – there was no overarching structure. Nothing connected one Team Site to another, they were literally ‘standalone’.
So Team Site administrators / owners and contributors would start to work on their content, creating intranet web pages and uploading a great many Word documents and PDFs for ‘control’, storage and distribution. A lot of work was put into designing navigation and folders. Each Team Site administrator / owner would reinvent the wheel and build the navigation / folder structure around what they thought was best.
Then it was realised that although dozens of people, or hundreds, perhaps thousands of colleagues technically had access to these Team Sites, not one colleague ‘knew where it was’. There was literally no way of visiting the Team Site from one’s computer. No communications, no education, no links. Nothing.
So Team Site admins would have to email Team Site members and tell them (beg them) to visit ‘for the latest news and documents’. I guess people hoped that visitors would add the relevant Team Sites to their browser’s favourites. Fat chance.
Team Sites we’re literally getting zero hits per month. Spikes in traffic were only evidence that contributors had visited to update a page or revise a document.
This was a pilot, so don’t be too harsh on us! But yeah, we chose to run it as a stealth pilot, telling no one.
Avoiding the standalone, uninhabited island Team Site
So here we are with SharePoint 2010, but the lesson is the same for any intranet or content management system. Don’t create ‘private islands’ of information. Yes, certain info, certain sections of the intranet, should / could be restricted access – I’m not suggesting that commercially sensitive information or customer data should be shared with every employee.
But start from a common launching platform, start from a ‘front door‘ – the intranet. The intranet should be the spider’s web that all sites, Team Sites, databases, online applications and social communications should hang from.
Any ‘island’ Team Site, even a specialist site for just a few people to work on a secret project, should be connected to the mainland intranet in some way. A link.
The intranet is the internal Internet. The Internet, remember, has been around way longer than the World Wide Web, and the Internet is not the Web and the Web is not the Internet. The Web hangs off the Internet. Your intranet is the platform from which other online services hang off. Your home page is your front door, to pages, documents, apps, comms, online services and more. Your intranet is your ‘online estate’ and for your people it is their ‘online workspace’.
So, instead of launching Team Sites and then finding such sites have no audience, we’re creating an integrated intranet site that includes many many sections and Team Sites, all linked up and managed by the content experts themselves, not by me. We are building a ‘many voices’ intranet that’s about getting stuff done, not about broadcasting corp messages.
Photo credit: Ahmed Amir