You have Microsoft, so why do you need an intranet?

Microsoft is a mainstay in the technology stack of many enterprises. With a vast number of apps and tools available, Microsoft tools can take care of many of your business IT needs. So why do you need an intranet as well?

Employee working on a Microsoft 365 intranet

Supercharging Microsoft with an intranet

The Microsoft stack features an array of productivity and collaboration apps designed to equip your employees with the tools they need to do their jobs. From word processors and spreadsheets to instant messaging software, Microsoft 365 enables your enterprise to stay connected and efficient no matter where they work.

With all this rich functionality available from Microsoft, why do so many organizations still elect to procure an independent intranet in addition to Microsoft? The reality is that enterprises need a way to bring together the many tools and third-party systems, knowledge repositories, and communications channels that employees rely on daily, and this is where investing in an independent intranet can move the dial.

What about SharePoint and Viva?

Microsoft itself recognizes the need for a consolidative piece of technology that brings together the people, tools, and knowledge employees need to be successful. Both Viva and Sharepoint are capable of solving some of these challenges, but both have limitations that prevent true enterprise adoption.

For large enterprises with complex workforces, independent intranets are the route of choice. You can find out more about why this is in the blog below.

Man using enterprise intranet on laptop to communicate with colleagues


SharePoint vs Viva vs turnkey intranets for enterprise internal communications

Microsoft 365 and SharePoint have become something of an industry-standard in productivity and collaboration tools, but is a SharePoint intranet enough for enterprise internal communicators? And what does Microsoft's latest arrival, Viva, bring to the table? Can SharePoint or Viva deliver as your enterprise internal communications platform? 

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4 things you can do with an intranet that you can't do with Microsoft alone

Investing in an independent intranet to enhance your Microsoft investment offers many benefits. When you couple the power of Microsoft with the power of a modern intranet, the impact on digital experience is profound.

Here are 4 reasons why you still need an enterprise intranet even though you already have Microsoft.

#1. Create a single pane of glass experience

With so many apps and tools in the modern enterprise tech locker, one of the biggest digital experience pain points for companies to solve is, “how do we make it simple for employees to navigate the tools available so they can maximize the potential of our technology stack?”

With a Microsoft-based intranet, this remains a challenge. Microsoft plays well with Microsoft, but how about Salesforce, HubSpot, Jira – all of the other powerful applications relied on by the modern enterprise? Not so well.

An independent turnkey intranet steps over this hurdle with open integrations frameworks that let you unite your existing technology in a ‘single pane of glass experience.’ What does this mean? It means you can not only access all your tools from a central hub, but you can also actually push and pull data from third-party apps; you can complete tasks in other applications from the familiar safety of your company intranet. The result is a smooth digital experience for the end-user that drives productivity gains.

For an example of this in action, we can look at Shell, which is saving circa $42m per year in increased productivity facilitated by integrations. After implementing a Unily intranet that brought the company’s complex digital landscape into a central employee hub, aptly named The Hub, Shell conducted a time-to-task analysis that revealed employees were able to complete tasks 66% faster as compared to pre-Unily data.

Case Study

Shell powers employee experience with a Unily intranet

Discover how Shell is transforming employee experience for 82k employees with Unily, driving savings of over $42m a year in productivity gains.

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As well as improving access to tools and data, integrating third-party tools with your intranet gives you the opportunity to more carefully govern the way that apps are used, and to roll out new tools effectively. The Adecco Group, one of the world’s largest human resources solution providers, was able to accelerate the best-practice adoption of Microsoft 365 by launching an independent intranet.

"Previously our people were sending hundreds of e-mails to collaborate on documents. Now, with Unily Social, Microsoft Teams and the document center, we have seen a change in behavior that has happened naturally."

Mikael Genet - Digital Workplace Manager at The Adecco Group
Case Study

The Adecco Group fuels digital transformation with a feature-full intranet

The Adecco Group in France is the country's #1 Human Resources provider, placing an average of 120,000 interim staff in temporary jobs every week.

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#2. Target and personalize your comms

When you’re operating a large, global, or multi-brand enterprise, not all your communications are going to be relevant to everyone. In fact, only a small proportion are. Given that one of the best ways to disengage an audience is to feed them with information that is irrelevant and impersonal, having the tools to target information to the correct users is essential to achieving your aims as an internal communicator.

SharePoint offers a central space for document management and real-time collaboration, making it a popular choice for organizations to leverage as an intranet. However, while SharePoint will allow you to communicate with your users – and even offers a degree of personalization via recommended content – you don’t have the control over how you target your users.

An enterprise-grade intranet lets you leverage all your existing audience data to distribute communications in a way that maximizes engagement. Send communications out at the right time, in the right language, to the right people, on the right device. Create homepages that populate based on a user’s role, location, and personal preferences. Tailor every experience to individual users. Let Microsoft do what’s it good at, and turn to your employee experience platform or intranet to finesse that experience so your users enjoy the best of both worlds.

Cathay Pacific mobile intranet homepages

#3. Reduce IT reliance without sacrificing flexibility

Complex enterprises need their central employee platform to be able to support niche use-cases, but there are limitations on what you can do with Microsoft in terms of creating unique experiences. SharePoint can be developed upon, but as any enterprise that has elected for a SharePoint intranet will know, the costs often exceed the return.

Alternatively, most modern intranet platforms come with ‘drag and drop widgets’ that let intranet owners with little technical ability change the look, feel, and functionality of a page or site without any need for coding. By allowing those that are responsible for the success of your intranet to take true ownership of the technology, your IT resource is free to focus on optimizing experiences, while your comms leads and department heads focus on engaging and informing employees.

For enterprises with developer resource, the most advanced out-of-the-box intranets (Unily included), provide developer frameworks that allow for even greater levels of customization. Build integrations, create your own widgets... the possibilities are as endless as your imagination! With Sandbox environments, you can test new ideas in the safety of a staging zone so your users are only introduced to new functionality when it’s ready.

Fast-food chain Zaxby’s seized the opportunity to build custom widgets for their platform, ZNET, developing additional tools where they needed them. With Unily providing such an easy back-end functionality, Zaxby’s was able to create almost 50 custom widgets from scratch, combining them with the pre-made tools and widgets to ensure their intranet software performs exactly how they want it to.

'Zaxby’s unites retail franchises and corporate employees with an intranet' case study flat pages

Case Study

Zaxby’s unites retail franchises and corporate employees with an intranet

Zaxby’s restaurants serve thousands of customers daily across America with fresh, high-quality chicken. But with more than 1.9k corporate and franchise owners spread across more than 900 locations throughout America, Zaxby’s needed a way to unite its stores under one cultural initiative to ensure employee happiness and a set model for business standards.

Download case study

#4. Outsource maintenance, support, and product innovation

A modern intranet requires more than just the tools to help employees do their jobs. It’s about providing the whole package to digitally transform the employee experience.

The final reason enterprises turn to independent intranet products to enhance Microsoft and bring digital employee experience to life is that these dedicated products have been designed to solve specific challenges. Intranet platform providers have employee experience as their sole focus, meaning not only do they do it well, but they also ensure the platform can deliver the complete package and continues to innovate over time.

As an example, Unily customers not only benefit from an evergreen product that innovates in response to changing enterprise needs, they also receive a service to complement ongoing success. Consultants, Customer Success Managers, Support Managers, and a resource-packed customer community portal, are all on hand to support the delivery of a performant solution that provides a return on investment. This is all backed by huge product development teams whose sole focus is creating innovative digital solutions for the latest EX and employee engagement challenges.

Working with a dedicated intranet provider means you benefit from the experience of their people and additional manpower behind your platform. For your IT developers, that means they can step back from the detail and focus on the bigger picture.

Use your intranet to level up your Microsoft experience

With an independent intranet at the center of your digital workplace, you can govern your Microsoft apps more easily and remove friction from the digital experience. App switching is one of the best ways to drain productivity in the modern workplace, but a modern intranet solves this by bringing tools together into a single, seamless digital experience, where everything you need to work is accessible from one place.

Don’t think of your intranet and Microsoft stack as standalone products. Blend the two together to create an overall enhanced experience for your entire organization. Your Microsoft apps will ensure your employees can do their jobs to the best of their ability, while your intranet serves as a bridge for communications, connection, and optimized digital experience.

Find out more by getting in touch with the experts at Unily.

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