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June 29, 2021

How to Combine Your Intranet with Microsoft Teams

Updated May 2023

The purpose of Microsoft Teams and a company intranet can often be hard to differentiate. The lines have been blurred and many are wondering how to establish the difference in their environment.

While defining and differentiating in the minds of employees is important, figuring out to combine and integrate the two is the future. Let’s take a look at how we can use both these platforms to improve end-user experience and how Microsoft Viva can play a significant role in creating a unified ecosystem.


The Microsoft Teams and Intranet Intersection

There is a continuum between Microsoft Teams and the intranet that progresses from communication to collaboration. A simple way to understand this is through this pyramid:

ms teams - the intersection with your intranet
Image: "The Intersection Between MS Teams and the Intranet" by Sam Marshall

At the bottom of the pyramid, we see personal storage capabilities that are fulfilled with OneDrive and right at the top we have rarified, high-quality information that relevant to everyone that would live on the intranet or on a SharePoint Communication Site.

It is the middle of the pyramid which truly captures the intersection as that is where most of the collaboration work takes place. In smaller groups, it is MS Teams that assumes the role of the go-to collaboration platform, but at the peer-to-peer level, where groups become larger and the extent is not something that can be managed through MS Teams, then you would switch collaboration over to the intranet or a SharePoint Communication site.

SharePoint is Here to Stay

Among all this talk of combining your intranet with Microsoft Teams, it is important to clarify that SharePoint is not something that can be replaced, and it will continue to be a part of your collaboration ecosystem.

Organizations often misconstrue the usage of an intranet or the bringing in of Microsoft Viva as a replacement of SharePoint. This could not be further from reality, as SharePoint is the underlying structure layer in all of this.

To put it more simply, SharePoint is where all the information is stored and Microsoft Teams is the user interface to communicate and collaborate about that stored content/information.

sharepoint underneath ms teams and independent communication sites
Image: "SharePoint as the Underlying Part of Your Collaboration Set Up" by Sam Marshall

The Myth of the Single Entry Point

Microsoft Teams is increasingly feeling like the hub of everything. The single point of entry for end users, but one should approach this with caution. This is because it is an overwhelming experience to treat it like a one-stop-shop for all business communication as not every employee or end user has the same starting point.

Ranging from always open tools that are job-specific, regular tools that are used for collaboration every now and then during the week, and the infrequent tools that are accessed once a month or even less, MS Teams is not exactly the hub of all these interactions.

Therefore, MS Teams may be a handy notification layer, but not every transaction is going to happen within Teams. In fact, we still need a ‘windowing’ environment so we can do a task in one pane, but keep going with conversations, meetings etc. in another. In that regard, an intranet may still be better in a browser for anything more than a quick check.


Where does Microsoft Viva fit?

Microsoft recently launched Microsoft Viva to reimagine the employee experience by bringing communications, insights, learning, and knowledge into an integrated experience delivered in Microsoft Teams. In this blog, we are focusing on Viva Connections, the engagement and communication side of Viva, that helps keep employees informed.

microsoft viva interface - desktop and mobile
Image: Microsoft Viva Interface

Viva Connections Teams App

This is currently the easiest way to surface your intranet into Microsoft Teams. The Viva Connections Teams App provides some noteworthy features that make the integrated experience even better:

  • Navigation: The App Bar navigation offers consistent global navigation and is accessible when clicking the app in MS Teams. So, you can easily navigate around your intranet within MS Teams.
  • Custom Branding: The App does not have to be called Viva Connections, you can brand this App with your own logo and name!
  • Targeting: You can target this App to users so that it appears by default. You can automatically pin that app to everyone within your organization or you can be granular about it by pinning it for only certain members.
  • Full Page View experience: News pages are viewed in a full-page experience, providing a more user-friendly interface to end users.
ms viva connections - connections teams app
Image: Microsoft Viva Connections Teams App

Among other pieces that make Viva Connections so useful are:

  • New SharePoint Web Parts: These Web Parts are yet to come, but prove to be very promising for the platform. Among the most impactful are:
  • The Company Feed: A new way to show aggregated info from SharePoint, Stream, and Yammer in one web part along with external content.
ms viva connections - company feed
Image: Microsoft Viva Connections Company Feed Web Part

  • Dashboard: The most exciting piece, providing easy-to-use interactive cards with the possibility of external integrations, the cards can be targeted based on geography or role of the engaging end user.

Setting up Viva Connections

Setting up Viva Connections is not much effort on the technical part as it is about understanding what needs to happen from a business and change management perspective. You can get Viva Connection ready and started in 5 easy steps, within 15 to 30 minutes:

  1. Define your intranet as your SharePoint Home site that needs to be your modern communication SharePoint site.
  2. Define global Navigation in the app bar.
  3. Run PowerShell script.
  4. Upload the MS Teams Application to the MS Teams Admin center.
  5.  Deploy App to End Users.

Voila! You have your intranet integrated with MS Teams platform.


The Good and The Bad of Viva Connections

Viva makes your intranet available through Microsoft Teams, but at the same time if members of the organizations do not use MS Teams regularly, then it is only adding another layer in between them and the intranet. But MS Teams users can now search across SharePoint communication sites and hub sites and the Dashboard feature is sure to add a useful integration layer. The most remarkable bit is that it comes at no additional cost!

While Viva Connections will be an exciting addition, it is not certain how often users will engage with the App. Another aspect to be mindful of is that navigation is complicated and can get messy. Also, as part of the mobile experience users will be interacting with the dashboard and not the actual SharePoint Home site.

So before you surface your intranet through MS Viva Connections ensure you evaluate your present employee interactions and how they will be engaging with this new integration.


MS Teams as a Platform for Your Intranet

There is more than one way to integrate your intranet with MS Teams. Microsoft views the Teams application as the operating system for the enterprise, using it as an app to not only bring in Microsoft 365 apps, but also 3rd party apps.

Moreover, MS Teams is still a new concept with a lot of potential to grow for years to come.

ms teams - an enterprise platform
Image: "Microsoft Teams as An Enterprise Platform" by Sam Marshall

Here are other prospects that you are  able to take advantage of:

MS Teams Based Notification: Microsoft has opened up the Microsoft Teams Activity Feed, and now you can send notifications programmatically. You can enjoy the possibility of integrating notifications from multiple applications in a common digital workplace scenario giving users the power to control notifications settings.

Microsoft Teams Bots: Microsoft Teams can host Bots directly in the application to further establish it as the enterprise collaboration platform for the organization. Bots have a conversational interface which can provide a rich experience for various types of applications.

ms teams bots
Image: Bots in Microsoft Teams

Using the Combined Environment

Once you are utilizing both Intranet and MS Teams, it is essential to make some architectural decisions around which information lives where and what are the channels of communication for a particular purpose. Here is a brief and generic outline that can help you map this out for your organization:

  • Use the intranet for structured, authoritative communication: corporate and divisional news, reference and ‘static’ employee information, and information that can be seen by all members of the organization.
  • Use Teams for closed-group collaboration: Posts are immediate but transient, so you might want to pin them if you want team members to have access to it at all times. The use of links to highlight intranet content is a great way to share information with a particular group.
  • For larger groups such as departments/business units: You need to decide on a channel approach and standardize it across your organization. A simple approach could be: use the intranet if layouts and transparency matter more and MS Teams if immediacy, notifications, and two-way communication matter more.

This is a session summary of our excellent webinar on “Combining Your Intranet with MS Teams with Sam Marshall from Clearbox Consulting. You can get in touch with Sam about your Intranet concerns and more through LinkedIn: @sammarshall

Mobile & Desktop Displaying Microsoft Teams Channel
Image: Microsoft Teams - MS Teams Channel.

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