When to use O365 Groups - is the Intranet dead?

Frequent Contributor

Our organization is struggling to get started with SPO and O365 Groups.  Yes, I know there are dozens of articles and threads about 365 groups and how they work - and for shorter project teams, groups make total sense to me.  However, the idea of an intranet still has validity, especially when talking about sharing department content throughout an organization.  Bear with me…

 

We have an old SP2010 intranet with the typical problems of an intranet - poorly governed, became a file repository, low adoption, etc.  We're not able to invest in a massive migration at this time, so we want to take a few teams and start working in 365.  Let's say we want to get a few departments running - IT and Marketing.  Now, both instances I immediately think "just create a group - you'll get everything you need".   I could use the new mail address to replace the old distribution lists.  Maybe use planner and onenote for the team, etc.  However, there are many IT and Marketing materials that should be consumed by the entire organization (training docs, brochures, etc).  I wouldn't want to give the entire organization access to the group, as that kind of defeats the purpose of the group collaboration.  Plus, there is no native navigation function for browsing the groups like you would a typical intranet, which would make it difficult for someone from “Shipping” to access a training doc from “IT”.

 

How have others designed their 365 environments to intermingle groups, department sites, and intranet?   Should divisions have both a Group and a publishing/intranet page?  To me, that spreads out the docs and makes things hard to manage.  We could instead just create Groups for the divisions, and use folders with adjusted permissions on the doc libraries for public consumption.  But then the rest of the employees would have to consume the content through some sort of content query on a different page?  Or maybe O365 Groups isn’t right for these types of departments, and we should stick with building subsites for each like the old 2010 days…. (aahhhh!!!) 

 

Looking forward to your feedback!  If you recommend O365 Groups, I’m curious if you recommend Group naming conventions to separate department groups, project groups, and cross-functional teams. 

10 Replies

We had this discussion a couple of months back on RE:Office 365, and the conclusion our panel came to was that the intranet still very much has its place - however is diminished due to Groups.

Now that we know that Communication Sites are coming to O365 as well this continues to change the game.

The "intranet" is a function - not a technology. So saying that the intranet is dead because of O365 Groups is incorrect, as organisations still need a place to share information with everyone else. We can't rely on Delve for everything.

HI Eric,

 

This is a pretty common conversation piece I have with a range of clients: Groups, Teams, SharePoint, even Yammer - when to use what and why. So rest assured you're not alone.

 

Some of my team here at AvePoint put together a really neat infographic you can view here which covers really effectively which solution to for what and when. They do this by splitting it up into three factors: Audience, Tone and Speed before diving a bit deeper into each item.

 

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions. Hopefully it helps a little bit.

 

Thanks,
Tom

Our approach has been to create private and semi-private workspaces for teams that need to get things done. And yes, some of that is creating content to share internally with other people which requires open spaces to publish that content.

Office 365 offers a lot of different tools to do that and we've applied them all in different use cases: distribution lists, open Yammer groups, SharePoint publishing sites overlaid with LiveTiles, SharePoint enterprise wiki sites, and we look forward to having the new Communication sites in the tool belt.

So using IT as an example...

IT teams communicate using a set of Yammer groups. They also have a set of open Yammer groups for community engagement. We post information and we get questions and other feedback in return. Complaints too, that's part of the business. Internal IT documentation is maintained in a wiki document library in a SharePoint site. Documentation and help articles for users are maintained in an enterprise wiki open to the community. Video content is in Office 365 channels.

Maybe we would have done some of the stuff that is in Yammer using a tool like Teams or Groups instead if they had been available when we set all this up. We're debating what, if anything, might be worth migrating.

@Eric Hepinstall

You could instantiate a link to the Group document into the Intranet.

In such a way, all updates to the document will automatically be visible in the Intranet without any additional effort...

I'm not sure this would be feasible for lots of documents.  Permissions would need to be modified for access outside of the group, plus the Group members would have to understand how to post the links to the documents instead of the documents themselves.  Thats why I had considered webparts to consume the public content on an "intranet" page, but permissions are still a problem, and content query templates are a pain!  It doesn't seem that MS is designing things to consume Group content from other Site collections - For instance, the new Library web part for modern sites can't search other site collections/groups.   

Perhaps permissions are not so difficult to set up...

If the Group is public, then "Everyone except external users" is already member of the Group.

If the Group is private, then it is enough to share the document with "Everyone except external users".

Also, you can easily find Link as a choice under New...

Salvatore, so is it your opinion that all documents belong in an O365 group, and that team intranet pages would just have links to those documents? A fairly typical example is Corporate Policies - they need to be consumed by the entire organization, but worked on by a smaller subset of users. Would you create a O365 for "corporate policies" and create a link to every document on the intranet? How would you name the group? Would you add a prefix in some way to separate it from the user created groups? In a few years, how would I know whether "corporate policies" is a critical asset library or just thrown together by a few people to work on something for a week?

Hi Eric.

My advice is not valid in every situation...

You previously wrote: "A marketing team working together in a Group for a campaign, is going to create and collaborate on documents for that campaign.  With the Intranet "source of truth", they are going to have to remember to copy the final versions from their Group, to the intranet for all to consume."

Well, in such situation, a feasible solution is, IMHO, to put in the Intranet links to the Group documents, instead of remembering to copy such documents to the Intranet. In such a way, subsequent versions of the documents never need to be copied again to the Intranet.

On the other side, there is not another solution: either you copy the documents, or you point to them, makes sense?

Other situations could need different solutions, of course... ;)

Dear Eric

 

I tend to think of Groups more broadly to connect people together in a project or team.  Those members can cross over departments, divisions and sites.  Groups gives you a way to define that team and easily share information.  Since groups is an object at the AD level you can associate apps and information at the group level.  This is a powerful concept in the long run and one of the reasons everyone is taking an interest in groups.

 

I could argue groups could replace all the scenarios discussed here but we are too early in built out of groups to know for sure.  There are limits today on what you can do and a lot is still undefined.  I would say that all customers should begin to use groups as in many ways as possible.  If in the long run groups becomes the "go to" way to organize work, then that will pay off.  I think that is where groups is headed.

 

Feel free to reach out to me.  You can schedule a quick online meeting with me using our bookings site  Use the option for the free "Products questions and answers" session and we can talk more about some of your issues.