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This chapter is from the book

Deploying a Corporate Intranet Solution with SharePoint

The corporate intranet is used for communicating information to employees and providing them with access to corporate line-of-business applications. The primary goals of a corporate intranet are to provide resources to employees that will help improve performance and to provide employees with centralized electronic access to corporate-based information for things such as policies, procedures, and roles and responsibilities. The benefits of a corporate intranet include providing an electronic means of accessing information as opposed to reliance on human intervention, providing an easier way of finding information, automating processes, and eliminating duplication of effort. The end result is a reduction in operational costs.

Meeting Business Needs with the Corporate Intranet Solution

The general business needs of this group include searching for information, corporate communications, workflow processing, management of web-based content, and application integration. These needs can be mapped to SharePoint features as presented in this section.

Corporate communications:

  • Notifying employees about company events by using an Events list
  • Notifying employees about changes in policies and procedures by using Announcements
  • Obtaining feedback from employees by using discussion boards and surveys
  • Providing access to company policies, procedures, and forms through shared document libraries
  • Providing access to company-maintained information such as employee directories using lists such as the Contacts list or the SharePoint User Profiles

Searching:

  • Finding location-specific information by having the ability to search across local sites, division-based sites, and the corporate portal
  • Having a means for searching content external to the SharePoint infrastructure, such as external websites, file systems, and other internal application databases as well as SharePoint-based information and displaying the results together by using content sources and source groups

Workflow processing:

  • Requiring documents to be approved before "publishing" by using content approval
  • Notification of outstanding items by using alerts
  • Simplifying processing by using Approve/Reject views

Managing web content:

  • Providing non-IT staff the ability to create team-based sites when necessary through Self-Service Site Creation
  • Standardizing the look and feel of sites by creating site templates
  • Enabling users to create a place for collaboration when needed through the use of shared document workspaces
  • Providing a way to make meetings more effective and meaningful by using meeting workspaces
  • Removing the dependency on IT departments for updating sites and site content by using the web-based customization features and document library concept
  • Enabling users to tailor the view of the intranet to accommodate their specific needs by using personal sites

Application integration:

  • Providing a single interface for intranet capabilities and access to applications by using link lists
  • Providing a way for users to view application data without having to load the application on the desktop by creating web parts that retrieve and display application data
  • Minimizing the problems associated with providing multiple user accounts and passwords for various applications by using single sign-on for application access

Implementing the Corporate Intranet Solution

The corporate intranet site is implemented using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and includes Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 sites. Features used on the site home page include announcements, links (to other major corporate sites and applications), search, events, and discussions. In the Quick Launch area are links to lists, such as the Corporate Directory, and to shared libraries, including policies and procedures, newsletters, training, and benefits. Areas can be configured for operational groups within the organization and/or geographical groups within the organization, depending on the organizational requirements. Content sources that contain information useful to employees for doing their job can be added for indexing and search. Security and content approval can be implemented to enable controlled creation of sites and site content by a wide group of users. Integration can be provided for SharePoint-compatible applications by using preexisting integration web parts and/or developing custom web parts. Single sign-on can also be used to make it easier for users to access applications from within the Site collection.

Ideas for Using the Corporate Intranet Solution

This section includes some ideas to incorporate into the corporate intranet site solution in congruence with the elements previously discussed.

Disseminate important corporatewide information such as policy and procedure changes by using announcements. Put an expiration date on them. If users see the same announcements day in and day out, they have a tendency to ignore them.

Use a general discussion for obtaining employee feedback on policies, procedures, events, and other items of interest to employees. Moderate the discussion; have the Human Resources department or Legal department responsible for approving all items submitted to the discussion group to ensure that they are appropriate. Maintain a separate discussion forum for non-company-related items such as employees selling candy for their child's youth group. This type of discussion should not take up valuable home page space, but should provide a link to it from the home page. Surveys can also be used to get specific input on a topic.

Maintain a corporate Events list in a Calendar view to provide visual impact for upcoming events. Depending on the corporate climate, things such as birthdays and vacations can be maintained on the corporate calendar as well as company events and holidays.

Store company policies, procedures, and forms in shared document libraries for ease of maintenance and for accessibility. The department responsible for maintaining the documents should also be responsible for the publishing of documents (approve contents), with read access provided to all other users.

Create content source groups for a logical breakdown of content for searching to prevent an inordinate amount of time from being spent performing searches.

Using Active Directory as the basis for the company directory assists in keeping the SharePoint-viewed company directory synchronized with Active Directory. A customized view of the directory can be created that filters and displays only relevant columns of information.

Using an application such as Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007/2003, InfoPath forms can be created, filled out, and stored in document libraries for access and processing. Alerts can be set up in the library for the person(s) that need to process the documents so that when something is submitted, they are notified and can review the items. Approval processing can also be used to approve and/or reject the documents. This concept could be used for things such as expense reports and other workflow documents. For a real end-to-end solution, application code can be developed to feed the data from the form documents into the appropriate external application (for example, the accounting system) for final processing.

Because there is generally a great deal of information on a corporate intranet, users should take advantage of the ability to create and customize their own personal site to include information they find useful. By using web parts that interface with Microsoft Outlook 2003/2007, the personal site can become the primary user interface.

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