EasySharePoint – lifting the lid on one of the leading ‘out-of-the-box’ intranet platforms
In our work here at the Internal Comms Team doing internal comms reviews or channel audits for clients, more often than not we find a clunky, out of date intranet with limited functionality suffering from lack of investment. These intranets were typically built in-house or bought years earlier and are no longer fit for purpose with poor structure and out of date content irritating employees on a daily basis.
Add to that a lack of functionality to host multi-media and news round-ups, never-mind socially engaging content, and you have some major frustrations for internal comms professionals. Often key stakeholders in the business e.g. HR have lost confidence in the intranet as a channel and have built their own portal e.g. on SharePoint, resulting in confusion for users about where to find everything and an inconsistent look and feel.
So in our review reports we’re often recommending the introduction of a new platform and supporting on implementation.
To build or not to build?
Of course, everyone would love to have an intranet that is bespoke to the unique needs of their organisation but this comes at a price, can take a long time, and it’s not always easy to justify and quantify the value to business leadership. Aside from the cost, IT resource is scarcely available to support existing platforms let alone build from scratch in line with our requirements as communicators.
Pros and cons of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions
This is where ‘out-of-the-box’ or ‘pre-canned’ intranet solutions come into play. There are many pros to this approach, not least that years of intranet best practice and client feedback are built into the platforms.
These solutions come in two flavours – those built on vendor specific platforms – Interact is a popular platform and one what we like – and those built on top of third party platforms such as Office 365 and SharePoint, which often appeals to stakeholders looking to utilise existing Microsoft licences. Products are kept up to date with regular software updates as part of the license so in theory you should never have to worry about your intranet going out of date / being unsupported.
One of the market leaders is EasySharePoint and I’ve recently had experience of implementing this out-of-the-box Intranet – not once but twice in the last 18 months!
EasySharePoint – the basics
EasySharePoint provides a set of pre-built intranet capabilities that include content publishing, news feeds, colleague directories, integration with social tools such as Yammer for collaboration, corporate calendar, search functionality and document management – more than the basics of a good Intranet. It’s fully responsive so can be accessed from desktop, tablet or mobile – including personal mobiles (some intensive negotiation with your IT Security team required of course!)
The biggest plus is it takes literally less than half a day to deploy the site onto internal systems which means you can be up and running from anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months. I’ve experienced both timelines – the difference largely depends on your content audit, your resource availability and the breadth of stakeholder management you plan to do.
EasySharePoint comes equipped with a branding tool that allows you to put your company colours, logos and fonts onto the site with no development work needed. If you have a particularly demanding brand team, further customisation can be added to fully embrace the subtleties of your brand – at an additional cost.
In my opinion, these are a good thing to bring an element of consistency to the site. That said, the choice is small and where you can’t find the template your looking for, again further customisation and cost will be incurred. I personally think this side of things becomes easier after set-up, when you’re familiar with the templates and are not having to retro-fit content, instead designing it with the templates in mind.
CMS learning curve
Remember, it’s built in SharePoint and this brings both good and bad news. SharePoint takes a bit of getting used to and while EasySharePoint has built a nicer user interface on the content management system, the principles are the same so if you’re coming from a background of no SharePoint experience, expect some frustrations and a learning curve. This is where having implementation support from someone with experience of the platform can play huge dividends.
It’s worth it
While out of the box solutions like EasySharePoint and Interact are not without compromise compared to a build to order approach, what they do offer is a fast and straightforward route to your new social intranet, leaving you and your internal comms team to focus on the things that matter – effective governance, intranet strategy, design and structure, and developing strong and engaging content.
If you need help with reviewing / upgrading / creating your intranet or would just like to know more about my experience with EasySharePoint, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org