Office 365 as an Intranet – does it work?

arrow-right All posts Published on 28.04.2020

Office 365 is a hotly debated topic for companies – in many, O365 is currently being introduced or, at least, tested out. Is it the same in your company? Then perhaps you are also wondering whether a modern Intranet can actually be established with O365? And because this topic is currently being discussed by so many people (including us, of course!), we’ve done a lot of research for this article to answer the question of whether O365 can function as a modern Intranet. To do this, we take a closer look at the O365 applications that are relevant for a modern Intranet.  Yammer, Teams, SharePoint – have you lost track of it all? Not to worry! We’ll not only explain how to use them, but also highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the three main tools and show you how to turn the disadvantages into advantages using COYO.

P.S.: For those who want a refresher on what exactly Office 365 is, we have just the right article for you here.  


1. Yammer 

Yammer is a social networking and collaboration tool – similar to a Facebook news feed, but for businesses. Usually, a feed is created for a certain topic, and employees can discuss, link, comment, and exchange files about that topic. In principle, Yammer’s social features represent an important building block for internal communication. But the focus is firmly on bottom-up communication between employees. Unfortunately, what’s missing are possibilities for corporate communication – the targeted presentation of news (as well as content management functions) is something you won’t find. 🤷‍♀️ Instead, Microsoft relies on SharePoint to do this – but more about that later. Another drawback: development and integration of Yammer is slow going, if not non-existent, and offers users practically no interfaces to other tools in the O365 world.


2. SharePoint

SharePoint was originally planned for the storage and exchange of files and was intended to replace classic network drives. The tool was gradually expanded with functions like versioning, workflows, and CMS functions. Today, SharePoint is most likely to replace a classic Intranet in the context of a digital workplace. Using a modular design principle, pages can be created in different hierarchies for groups and teams with the help of “Web Parts”. However, unlike Yammer, SharePoint offers no social features, and thus focuses more on top-down communication. So what does that mean? SharePoint is often used as the basis for Intranet projects – but, in most cases, extra effort is needed to adapt the system to fit your specific needs. Because of the complexity of the system, a specialized firm is usually hired to perform customizations, which in turn leads to follow-up costs.


Standardized user experience? Don’t count on it!

Microsoft itself is striving to turn SharePoint into an Intranet – a look at the roadmap and the developments of the last few months shows: multilingualism for sites, homepages and hub pages for aggregating information, etc. Sounds good, right? Sure! But if you want to actually use these features, you have to switch to SharePoint Online – because only the online version offers these features. That’s a pretty big obstacle for users with an on-site installation, especially if it was already extensively customized. The biggest drawback: companies do not get a consistent user experience. Because jumping between different tools is necessary for different purposes, a user is dragged out of context and has difficulty navigating back again. Additionally, most tools differ in look, feel, and concept. Microsoft’s documentation also has to catch up in terms of usability, and does not provide any answers to the questions regarding overlapping functions. Most users wonder which tool they should actually use for which purpose. 🤔


3. Teams

Teams is one of the latest tools in the O365 world: it has a modern user interface, offers many integrations, and regularly receives new features and updates. Teams is strongly reminiscent of Slack – basically, it’s a communication tool with numerous collaboration possibilities. Its biggest strengths are the many available integrations, meaning that Teams can be tailored to any use case. When implementing Office 365 and Teams, the main question is: “How – and for what purpose – can Teams be optimally utilized in my company?” Not only does the tool overlap with Skype and Yammer – there is also the somewhat paradoxical situation that Microsoft Teams causes within companies. Usually, implementing new software is a means to solve a problem in a company. The problem is analyzed, and the best possible product is selected and implemented. But in this case, it’s the other way around – by switching to O365, you are given a tool and have to decide how to use it and what problems it could potentially solve. Microsoft’s intended purpose for Teams is fast communication between project groups and the exchange of information and documents. Teams can also be easily connected to other existing tools with integrations


Communication within small teams

We also see the strength of the tool here: setting up communication between smaller groups for a specific purpose or within specific departments – for example, a channel for the “Internal Communication” department. In practice, however, we’ve been told that the activity drops off after a while. Teams is also not really suitable for organization-wide communication or exchange between departments, branches, etc. – Microsoft Yammer is designed for this – because Teams becomes confusing once it has a certain number of members, and there is also a limit of 2,500 total users. For communication between departments, on the other hand, you would have to know exactly who you wanted to address, and bring the relevant colleagues together by adding them to a channel. However, if you have a question and it’s not clear who the contact person is, Teams cannot help you.


So what can we learn from this?

At first glance, Yammer, Teams, and SharePoint Online may appear to be well suited to act as a modern Social Intranet. But if we take a closer look, the problems become clear:

  • The tools overlap when it comes to their functions, and it’s not clear what tools are best used for what tasks Microsoft does not offer a clear overall concept, but instead partially isolated individual solutions

  • Although there are many communication tools, there is nothing to implement controlled corporate communication to target groups

  • None of the tools were developed “Mobile First”, thus leaving the employees without a dedicated workspace out of the loop 👤

  • There is no clear “home base” to touch-base with employees

  • The tools are sometimes quite complicated and expensive training is often required


COYO for Office 365 remedies these shortcomings and offers a proven Social Intranet solution as a home base for the Digital Workplace with Office 365:

  • Developed “Mobile First” 

  • Excellent usability

  • Easy access for all employees using proven concepts 🙋‍♂️

  • High adoption rate through flexible branding and configuration

  • Targeted distribution of company news to all employees


Through integrations with SharePoint Online, production tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as communication tools like Outlook and Microsoft Teams, COYO combines both platforms to leverage their particular strengths, forming the missing piece of the puzzle in the Digital Workplace with Office 365. Sound good? You can find more information about successful O365 integration with COYO here.


• Sarah Mag •

Sarah works for COYO as a PR manager and is passionate about all topics linked with communication and media. In her blog she reports on exciting COYO and product news.

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