The SharePoint Intranet: Understanding your Audience

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience

In the last few weeks, I delivered an onsite day with a large organisation. They are in the extremely early stages of introducing Office365, SharePoint, Document Management Systems and an Intranet, to their ‘audience’. I spoke to many individuals from all areas and levels of the organisation, with one interesting idea standing out to me

“Can we treat our Intranet like any other website that sells a product, like Amazon?”

This was, and still is, an interesting question. I believe that it makes you stop and think about your audience in a different way. It becomes less about enforcing that the users access the site (e.g. making it the only place to book holiday). It’s more about the ways in which you can gain user adoption through the audience making a choice to access.

Why do so many people know about, and make use of, Amazon? This is not the only route to purchasing goods. Therefore, a number of other factors must be in place to keep the system so strong.

In this blog post, I have challenged myself to think of 5 ways that an organisation can utilise their audiences to deliver an Office 365 and SharePoint Project with results that leave users willing and wanting to engage.

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience Point 1

Involve the audience from the start and throughout the project

A number of organisation projects are delivered via a “Top-Down Approach”. This means management make key decisions which they feel are correct for their staff. The biggest issue with this is that many higher personnel in the organisation have been away from groundwork for a while. They are unaware of the current ways of working or issues (not applicable to all organisations, but, many of them).

There is nothing wrong with the use of a “Top-Down Approach”. However, it also needs to be benefitting from the introduction of a “Bottom-Up Approach”. This means that users from all areas/ levels of the business are included within the project, providing thoughts and suggestions.

A lot of users enjoy inclusiveness when projects are delivered. They gain a sense of pride.  This comes from being involved in developing a system that will help with their role, their organisation and their team/peers.

Users will also be more likely to utilise the systems if they feel that it has been developed with them in mind. This delivers less reason for users to rebel. As an example, I have been a user of a new intranet in which every news story revolved around the CEO as opposed to celebrating achievements of other employees as well. This lead to some employees closing the intranet every morning before reading the news, leading to a user adoption decrease.

A few simple days to run Engagement Sessions with your proposed audience, and create/send surveys would provide many benefits. Not only the level of user adoption following launch but would also provide the organisation with a more well-rounded intranet.

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience Point 2

Aim to tackle the audience of most resistance

The audience of most resistance are those in the organisation who offer greatest opposition to the Intranet, Office365 and SharePoint. These users may potentially be the most vocal and may have a number of reasons as to why they offer opposition. For example, they may think the project is too expensive. They may have worked in an organisation where intranets failed in the past. Or maybe they have a number of other projects that they feel are more critical etc…

As opposed to thinking of these users as a barrier, I believe that they should be seen as a challenge. They can actually provide an overall benefit to project delivery. Think about how vocal these users could be about a fantastic new intranet if they were on your side.

These users need to be included in project meetings and engagement days. This allows an understanding of why they are not in agreement with your project delivery.

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience Point 3

Aim to tackle the audience of least efficiency

The introduction of Office 365 and SharePoint should improve efficiency for all users within the organisation. This is usually a standard KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and Objective that is captured within my early project scoping sessions.

There will be many users within all organisations that are either inefficient or will benefit the most from new systems, processes and automation. Therefore, if this audience is targeted during the project you will both solve the most problematic areas of the business. It will also provide further efficiency to other departments that are linked/related e.g. cross-functional working.

As an example, I have been included in engagement sessions in which a number of repeated suggestions were raised about difficulty in locating core policies and procedures. It was quickly understood that the Human Resources Department were making use of a system that was limited in its functionality. This lead to some inefficiency in their working practices. The introduction of a SharePoint Document Management System (adding tags, metadata, version control, search, views and filtering) improved the way that the Human Resources Department worked. In addition, it also enabled all other users in the business to save time locating specific policies and procedures.

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience Point 4

Aim to tackle the audience of least technical prowess

Organisations employ personnel from all generations, and with technology moving so fast it is very difficult for some user to keep up to date. I recently read another LinkedIn post that stated that one of the worst excuses is that “we have always done it that way”. Organisations need to ensure that new systems are delivered in the most efficient way with a level of training to help these become embedded. This will improve the ‘we have always done it this way’ thinking.

As with all systems, usability and the user journeys are critical elements to get right. If a system was only being produced for IT and Technical staff then specific elements may not need to be too obvious or easy to use. This is due to the fact that the audience is skilled at using the systems in general. However, an Intranet is in place to impact all users within the organisation. Therefore, if the system is created in a way that is easy to use for those who may find the use of IT equipment difficult, then there can be confidence that the system is accessible to all employees, and is not avoided.

SharePoint Intranet Understanding your Audience Point 5

Aim to tackle the audience with the least time to spare

In my latest scoping day we discussed a large section of the organisation (emergency services) who worked 12 hours a day. Most are only able to spare a few moments, whilst on the road, to access the existing intranet.

The reason for targeting these users as an audience is that you do not want to outcast users due to time limitations. Furthermore, ensuring that the system is usable and accessible to employees who do not have a lot of time will also benefit all other users who just want to quickly consume some news and correspondence.

As an example, some users may wish to read a full news story and understand all the details. However, this does not mean that an engaging headline and summary should not be utilised. The latter ensures that the message is still received by everyone. Increasing this level of engagement may also mean that users will view the Intranet outside of business hours. This is due to having their interests peaked. Using Office 365 enables access from any device when connected online, so this is a great benefit to take a hold of.


In summary, every person within the organisation offers important opinions that can impact upon the successful delivery of a SharePoint Intranet. From Reception through to the CEO, from in the office to on the road, from home to remote locations (global).  I strongly believe that the capture and review of these vastly differing opinions can help deliver a successful system. One that is accepted by all personnel in the organisation. Not only this, but there are many roles/ responsibilities within the Office 365 and SharePoint environment that can get everyone involved. Read more about this here.

Remember, don’t just force your users to use the systems that you have purchased, but guide them and support them. This way they will both want and need the systems.

Please get in touch if you wish to learn more about SharePoint, Document Management Systems, Metadata and Intranets.

AMT Steve Glasspool

This article was written by Steve Glasspool, our senior SharePoint Consultant.