There's new and updated planning resources for modern intranets in Microsoft 365

Here's useful guidance and best practices to help you get started with a new intranet project and helpful advice about moving from classic to modern SharePoint.

header intelligent intranet
Microsoft

Did you know that Microsoft has a rich collection of best-practice guidance and advice for intranet planning? Just this week, it released a new “intelligent intranet” site with videos, templates, customer interviews, and more to help users find inspiration and planning support for their intelligent intranet journey.

There’s a lot of great content linked in the new site – and even more on two platforms: support.office.com and docs.microsoft.com. Though I’m not sure this is consistently the case, the content on support.office.com is largely focused on end users and forms the backbone of the training content delivered with Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways. The content on docs.microsoft.com tends to be aimed more at administrators and covers advanced topics. Both collections provide a wealth of helpful information, with  articles written by a stellar team of technical writers who often reach out to practitioners to help add to the content.

I have worked with the Microsoft documentation team to edit and author some of the content for the intelligent intranet journey; it's been my favorite “quarantine project.” I hope you will find value in this summary of what I worked on over the past few months. I only created one completely new article (plan your SharePoint communication site) as part of this initiative, though I was the author of one of the articles that got a major update (planning navigation). (As you review the content, be sure to follow the inline links to related content.)

If you want to explore at a high level, start at the new intelligent intranet site. Then, when you are ready to dig into the details, here are my recommendations for articles to help you get started. Once you click into any of these articles, take a look at the left side of the page to find even more content that may be relevant.

  • Plan an intelligent SharePoint intranet. This article is the fifth link in the SharePoint / Get Started series – but I think it should probably be the first thing you read. The primary audiences for this article are the business and technical leaders planning a new intranet. The article provides a high-level overview of what you will need to think about – and how to structure a successful project.
  • Modern intranet roadmap. This article is aligned with the intranet planning article and provides information about planning the project team and approach. It includes a description of the tasks and roles for the members of the intranet team – from intranet and site owners to IT pros and admins. There are two little gems that I hope will get a more visual treatment so that no one misses the links: the two infographic links in the introduction to roles, tasks and timelines section. One of the infographics showcases the intranet lifecycle. The other provides a visual summary of the SharePoint intranet building blocks: sites, hubs, and pages. Clicking the links downloads these PDFs to your device. (I’ve asked the team whether these documents can open as web pages.)
  • Guide to the modern experience in SharePoint. This article is the first in a series for anyone who wants to understand more about the detailed activities in planning a modern SharePoint intranet. It includes helpful guides for moving to to modern if your organization is still using classic SharePoint sites. If you are still in classic mode, take a look at second article in the series - How to think about your modern intranet – which covers the primary outcome goals for intranets and the differences between traditional versus “modern” approaches.
  • Information architecture. There was some older content in this article, but it was very general. I was happy to get a chance to try to distill some of the most important IA considerations in this updated version. I teach a full-day workshop on IA for SharePoint intranets, so trying to distill eight hours of content into a high-level 7-minute read was not easy! Reading the article should give you a good start at planning your intranet IA – but consider it the start, not the end, of your information architecture learning journey.
  • Planning navigation for the modern SharePoint experience. Navigation is an important part of your information architecture. I first wrote this article almost two years ago. In principle, navigation best practices have not changed much – but what you can do in SharePoint has. This article got a refresh in both content and imagery and if you haven’t kept up with all the new navigation capabilities in modern SharePoint (or if you originally read this article more than three months ago), it’s time for another look!
  • Moving from publishing sites to communication sites. If you are currently using publishing sites on your intranet, this article will help guide you through the primary differences between classic publishing sites and modern communication sites.
  • Plan your SharePoint communication site. This article provides guidelines for planning each of the communication sites in your intranet. It includes images and examples to help guide site owners to make optimal design choices for their sites. In general, it is a good idea to have a consistent pattern for your intranet sites – so you don’t have to start from scratch each time. However, even when a site follows a common site template or design, you still need to carefully plan the content for the site to align with the topic and the audience. This article will help the owner of each intranet site ensure that it delivers value to the readers. It’s brand new and something I’ve wanted to work on for a long time! Ever since they first came out, I’ve shared a communication site planning guide on my website. The guide can serve as a companion to the Microsoft article and provides a structured document that can be used by site owners to get feedback on the basic objectives and structure of their sites prior to configuring the site in SharePoint.

In the next few weeks, there will be a comprehensive update to the governance documentation for Microsoft 365, including SharePoint, intranets, and Microsoft Teams. The other part of my quarantine project included authoring two articles for that series – one about planning “governance first” when implementing Microsoft 365 and the other detailing how to plan for intranet governance. Look for information about those articles in a future blog post!

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