Can Teams replace your intranet?

Teams makes it easy for people to meet, communicate and collaborate online. Several functions of Teams and the intranet are therefore duplicated, with many users shifting to Teams as their primary work tool and entry point to corporate information and collaborative workspaces. This user trend has also led to many CIO’s and other decision-makers entertaining the possibility that Teams could perhaps replace the intranet altogether. In this blog post, we analyze the pros and cons of replacing the intranet with Teams.

For a large portion of the working population, having a Teams meeting is today synonymous with attending an online meeting. But Teams is really so much more than just a meetings application. Users can, for instance, manage their calendar, share files, start up and drive projects, and make calls. The application also serves as a hub for Microsoft 365 and it’s easy to create your own apps in Teams or activate third-party apps so as to expand Teams’ functionality.

All over the world, the rapid development of Teams has boosted productivity and efficiency in companies and organizations. But it has also presented challenges to current intranet strategies. What keeps many CIO’s and other executives awake at night are questions like “How to make better use of Teams to improve internal communications?” and “Can Teams take over the role of an intranet?”

For organizations with more than a handful of employees, we firmly believe it’s a mistake to use Teams as an intranet. There are numerous reasons for this, but the most crucial are:

  • The structure of Teams isn’t designed to fulfill the purpose and functionality of the intranet.
  • Teams is not a CMS (Content Management System).
  • In Teams your brand becomes invisible.
  • Company- and organization-wide information has no given place in Teams.

Merging the intranet with Teams can, however, be very rewarding. In this blog post we’ll further examine the arguments against using Teams as an intranet and explain why it pays off to instead integrate the two solutions.

Flat structure makes navigation harder

To make it easier for users to understand, navigate and find information in a complex digital work environment, you need a clear, categorized and hierarchical navigation and information structure. Intranets are typically designed for this purpose. An intranet’s mega, sub and drop-down menus, mouse-over alerts, summarised start page, filtered and structured search functions all help an employee quickly and easily find resources, news or other information. There are none of these features in Teams, which has a flat and uncategorized information structure. Even search results are listed in no particular order. Teams is simply built for the purpose of finding people, teams and projects – not for locating information about your employment, for example.

Teams is not a CMS

For a system to support an efficient and successful content publishing and management process, it needs to have the right structure, policies and functions ensuring that contents are updated, reliable and relevant. This includes governance policies, content ownership functions, access and publishing roles, approval processes, automatic content revision reminders, etc. It’s extremely important to keep the digital workplace tidy and up-to-date, giving employees optimal support and stimulating their work engagement.

Teams lacks these functions and guidelines for the simple reason that it’s a communications application and – unlike Omnia and similar intranet platforms – not a CMS (Content Management System)

Brand invisible

You can’t shape Teams to express the unique identity or brand of your business. The Team canvas is blue and grey and cannot be altered. Nor can you change the font or the color of a team or a channel. The only way to smuggle your brand into Teams is to use logos and illustrations in your own Teams apps and on the tabs inside a channel. Users will, however, only see a few familiar icons against the blue-gray backdrop, which in no way compares with the instantly recognizable feeling of “belonging” normally offered by an intranet. For many companies and organizations, the communication and development of corporate identity and brand(s) are the most important functions of the intranet. Read about Signify’s and Oatly’s intranets, which are built around the companies’ branding strategies.

Poor reach of organization-wide information

Critical company- or organization-wide information and notifications about important news or events are usually published on an intranet’s start page. This can, for instance, be information about mergers or acquisitions, a new business strategy, the launch of a new product or service or new workplace policies. Such information is normally also published on dedicated news pages and in the user’s notification panel. A modern intranet platform, like Omnia, will furthermore enable the content to be pushed to a specified target group (targeting) or to the entire organization. This way, you can make sure that the information really reaches everyone who should or must be informed. And with a Mandatory Read function, you can even get confirmation that the information has been received and read by your employees.

In Teams, however, you have neither a start page nor the ability to create dedicated news pages. Instead, you create teams for different purposes and then publish and share news, files and other content on different tabs in each team’s channels. One team can have many channels and every channel can have many tabs. You can create a so-called org-wide team, in which the entire organization and every Microsoft 365 user are automatically enlisted as members. Everything you publish in this team is pushed out to everyone, which is why many organizations use it to publish organization-wide news and information. However, you cannot control the order in which an org-wide team is positioned in a user’s teams list. It will just be one team among many, putting it at risk of being neglected. There’s also an upper limit of 5000 users in an org-wide team, so it’s of little use to larger organizations.

Conclusion: Integration is the best way forward

If the purpose of using Teams as an intranet is to facilitate better information management and improved internal communications and collaboration, integration is by far the best strategy. By integrating Teams with your existing intranet, the unique properties and strengths of the two solutions will complement each other in a seamless and user-oriented manner.

There are several integration methods. For instance, you can:

  • Integrate the intranet via apps inside Teams. The whole intranet, or parts of it, like pages, blocks, search and analysis functions, templates etc. can be packaged and integrated as apps in Teams.
  • Use deep links to integrate parts of the intranet with collaboration spaces and files in Teams and vice versa. You can link a page or a block on the intranet to a Teams tab and mirror a conversation or a whole channel in Teams on a page in the intranet via deep linking.

Read the blog post Teams and the intranet in perfect harmony to learn more about the benefits of integrating Teams with the intranet. You can also watch our webcast Connecting your SharePoint Intranet to Teams for hands-on examples of how to integrate an intranet, based on SharePoint/Microsoft 365 and Omnia, with Teams. And by all means read the blog post Strategies for integrating your Intranet with Microsoft Teams, which discusses strategies for successful integration.

More information on the interplay between Teams and the intranet

For more information about how you can benefit from the interplay between Teams and the intranet, make sure to watch our webcast How Microsoft Teams changes Internal Communications.

In our blog series, Remote work made easy with Teams you can also get practical tips and advice on how remote work can be made easier, more efficient and more engaging by using Teams.

To learn more about SharePoint intranets, you can read this blog post.