The Problem with the Intranet-In-A-Box

by Esther Daga

It might seem awkward that I’m writing this post considering my position and role as Powell 365 Technical Lead at Powell Software, but trust me, it makes perfect sense. I was fortunate to attend the Microsoft Ignite Conference and after watching a Modern Intranet session with Mark Kashman and Susan Hanley, it confirmed my thoughts on how organizations approach Intranet-In-A-Box.

As an experienced Microsoft consultant, I identified with many of the points Susan and Mark made during the session. I see the same pitfalls and parallels with how organizations approach Intranets-In-A-Box solutions. Most organizations that approach us ask the same questions:

· What does a Modern Intranet Look like?

· What is everyone else doing?

· What is best practice?

These questions set an expectation that the ‘product’ will not only define the problem but also define a complete solution for all communication and collaboration roadblocks. There are key issues with Intranet-In-A-Box that are easily overcome by changing the way you evaluate and position their value within your organization.


Intranet-In-A Box will not tell you what you need

The message is loud and clear, ‘tell me what I should need or want’. As a consultant I’ve seen a variety of scenarios, organizations and projects, and in my experience, the only constant has been that every organization is different. There are definite commonalities, but the implementation and execution of a solution is specific to the business needs of an organization. Every organization has departments, projects, communications, Forms, Business Processes, etc. but the specifics are never the same. Although I can tell you about commonalities, it will not define exactly what you need.

Make use of expertise and professional services to figure out what you need and how to achieve it. Be wary of products that say they are everything you need. An Intranet-In-A-Box should act as a tool to achieve your goals and give your organization agility to act on evolving needs.


Intranet-In-A Box is never complete

The value of the intranet in a box is based on the 80/20 rule; You have to ask, ‘Can you find a product that delivers 80% of your needs and wants?’ and ‘Can you do without the 20% of your remaining needs?’ Intranets in a box are really the brain child of consultancies that have delivered project after project. Consultancies have capitalized on their experience, leveraged and repurposed code, applications and add-ons that were implemented for several customer projects. Every product has a slightly different take on an intranet, and implementations differ greatly. The most important question when trying to address the 20% is, “How much will it cost?” Depending on the solution, updates and evolutions on the base solution is expected, but can also be extremely expensive.

The devil is in the details! You shouldn’t have to sell the farm to implement or alter a solution, so be sure to read the fine print. Organizations don’t grow stale, but intranets do. The reasons why intranets grow stale is because the intranet itself does not evolve to adapt to the changing business needs. Look for a solution that you can constantly transform, and evolve your intranet with your business.


Intranet-In-A Box can be attractive but may not be strategic

Some Intranet-In-A-box have embraced Office365 and SharePoint Online, and some have decided to decouple their solution from Office365. Choosing an intranet in a box is a more complex endeavour than merely comparing feature set — It’s a decision about a strategic long term investment. The most common challenge is that there are competing agendas and conflicting needs. Outside of budget there are two main competing stakeholders that ultimately decide which Solution to implement: the Business team and the Information Technology team. The struggle is to balance usability vs maintainability, but more often than not (and perhaps unsurprisingly), usability outweighs maintainability. However, problems emerge if a ‘shiny’ new product is presented to the business that, although attractive, is extremely narrow, inflexible and difficult to maintain.

Office365 is a key investment for organizations and is imbedded in fundamental services of Information Technology. Make the most of it! I have seen organizations select products that seem simple, intuitive and attractive in the short term, but are not strategic long term solutions. I am convinced that a balance can be reached and a great solution can be : simple, intuitive, attractive and strategic long term.


Intranet-In-A Box is used as an excuse to cut corners

Many organizations seem to look to Intranets-In-A-Box to avoid training, site step governance, and skip the planning and execution of successful implementation. Businesses must understand that an intranet-in-a-box is not a replacement or an excuse to skip pivotal and critical activities. During the “Modern Intranet” session at MS Ignite, Susan mentioned that one of the most frustrating aspects of projects is that for budgetary reasons, training is always cut or reduced. I would also add Governance to that list.

Any experienced consultant will tell you that Requirement Planning, Training, Governance, Road Map and Execution Plans are essential and non-negotiable activities. Regardless of tools, products and Intranet solutions make sure you prioritize the most critical activities for a successful and effective Intranet.



The intranet-in-a-box should enable your organization, users and teams to function and work more efficiently. Too often, Intranet-In-A-Box are misunderstood and have detrimental effects on the effectiveness and efficiency of users and organizations. Look to a solution to enable your team and business processes, and not to define them. If Office 365 is part of your long term strategy, make sure you select an Intranet Solution that will compliment and align with your long term strategy.

Want more information on the Intranet-in-a-box? Contact Powell 365 today! 

Article by: Juan Larios

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