Microsoft Teams – intranet replacement or the perfect companion?

April 15, 2023 Updated: May 1, 2023

Intranets have long played a pivotal role in the internal communications strategy of many organizations but have sometimes had rather patchy adoption. In contrast, the widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams in organizations, particularly since the pandemic, seems only to continue to rise. Many communicators are now actively looking to use Microsoft Teams as another internal comms channel and even as a replacement intranet. Many are also arranging access to a SharePoint intranet through Teams, principally by using Microsoft Viva Connections. But is using Microsoft Teams as an intranet really the way forward and is this as strong as experiencing the intranet through a browser? Or should we be providing both options to support a better digital employee experience?

Intranet Microsoft Teams

Intranets have been used successfully by the enterprise for many years. Forming the heart of the internal communications plan, they have long been effective in engaging employees and enhancing productivity and efficiency. 

But then along came Teams, Microsoft’s business communication and collaboration offering. MS Teams is an all-in-one tool that combines video conferencing with team chat, as well as a host of other productivity features. 

Microsoft Teams has become an integral part of Microsoft’s 365 product, providing fingertip access to a line-up of apps that can support everyday tasks.  

From calendars and contacts, to calls, chat and file access, pretty much everything you might need for the working day is to hand. And then there’s the possibility of accessing other 365 services, such as Yammer communities and SharePoint lists, as well as connecting to third-party platforms like Trello and Adobe. 

Now, with Microsoft pushing Viva, its employee experience platform launched in 2021, employee engagement and internal communications are also being channelled towards being experienced through Teams.

Microsoft Viva is principally experienced through Teams and offers access to SharePoint intranet content, and more, via Viva Connections. With the rebranding of Yammer to Viva Engage, and a new internal comms-focused module called Viva Amplify due for release in 2023, features designed to be experienced through the browser – and most via the intranet – are coming to Teams.  

Intranet and Microsoft Teams… blurred lines? 

The objective for Teams was originally to create collaborative ‘team’ spaces, where you can invite colleagues and hold conversations, principally for collaborating on projects and ongoing work, but also to share content and announcements, as well as access the productivity tools of your choice. This wasn’t necessarily meant to be a place to receive internal communications, which was always considered to be the role of the intranet.  

But, over time, the intranet–Microsoft Teams lines have become blurred. Teams adoption has gone through the roof in some organizations, with many users spending their working day in and out of Teams, meaning this has become their default working space.

In some cases, the temptation for communications managers to push out messages on Teams channels has become too much, often because they are acutely aware that this is where their captive audience resides. The idea is that users will adopt the platform as their primary communications tool of choice, rather than having to visit a separate place (e.g. the company intranet) to access organizational news, announcements and resources.  

But this is not to say that the company intranet has had its day. Far from it. Whilst users may have adopted Teams, there are still numerous things that the intranet can do better. 

Playing to the strengths of Teams and the intranet

Intranets and Teams have overlapping functionality and features. Both can support communication, knowledge sharing, collaboration and the completion of simple transactions, as well as providing access to everyday resources and applications. 

But each has its different strengths. Teams excels as the communication and collaboration hub for project and everyday teamwork, and also increasingly as the starting point for completing transactions, often delivered through integrations with other enterprise systems such as ServiceNow.

But when it comes to being able to deliver the right news to the right people through targeted profiling; categorizing and referencing company-wide information; acting as an effective publishing platform to give every employee a voice; providing a user-friendly navigation and search experience; and tracking the value, effectiveness and quality of internal comms through performance metrics whilst also ensuring communications objectives are being realized, arguably the intranet takes the trophy. 

The intranet also assumes the top podium spot when it comes to putting governance policies in place to manage the lifecycle of content that must be accurate, up to date and engaging.

Plus, there are the issues of information overload and findability. Microsoft Teams often gets out of control, with new collaborative spaces created by users on a daily basis and little use of templating or avoidance of duplication. This means it can get very hard to find what you need as the number of Teams of which a user is a member starts to increase and become overwhelming. Teams search can be very confusing too.

Findability can be a problem on some intranets as well, but on a good, modern intranet this is actively managed. The intranet is generally much better at filtering information to the right channels, by defining how and in what way material and resources are shared, so that everyone knows where to find what they need. Personalization further increases the relevance of content.

Finally, the intranet is company branded. This creates a sense of belonging for users and reinforces employee connection with the organization. 

Teams – fighting the Microsoft corner 

Having said all of this, Microsoft Teams is a fantastic platform. For one, it has a captive audience. It is part and parcel of Microsoft 365, where many employees spend their working day, so it benefits from a familiar, straightforward interface. And it does a great job of bringing people together to collaborate. Frontline employees can easily access everything from the Teams app as well.

And this is why, when it comes to the whole intranet vs Microsoft Teams debate, it shouldn’t really be about one or the other. The benefit to users, and the organization as a whole, lies in the combined concept of the company intranet and Microsoft Teams. 

How do you create a working harmony between your intranet and Microsoft Teams? 

It is actually possible to bring intranet features into Microsoft Teams and to provide a full intranet experience within the platform. If you’re using a SharePoint intranet, then this is possible via Viva Connections. Other intranet and employee experience platform software can also integrate with Teams to varying degrees, meaning that some intranets can be viewed entirely from inside Teams, while others can share content and updates.

The Teams platform is open to the deployment of apps, including custom-made ones. Many intranet products will allow for the creation of custom apps, which can then be deployed in the Teams environment. 

Functions such as streamlined navigation and universal intelligent search are often better in the intranet and not so great in Teams, so intranet apps may need to be created to make Teams operate better in this respect. Other features that could lend themselves to the same treatment are user-friendly forms, governance control, social forums, content publishing and intranet analytics. 

All this is achieved by treating intranets and Teams as two vital channels in the overall digital workplace. Viewing both holistically with a strategic lens and clear governance will help deliver an excellent digital employee experience for users, whatever their preferred channel and specific use case or scenario happen to be.

In summary 

For users, Microsoft Teams may be challenging the company intranet as the go-to platform for communication and collaboration, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for both to work in unison.  

It’s just a case of harnessing the best features of both and implementing the right governance, in order to create a solution that will work on all levels, with the two platforms complementing each other for the benefit of the overall employee experience as well as the wider organizational communications and productivity strategy. 

Eager to create the best possible combined intranet and collaboration environment for your organization? 

Whether you are looking at using Microsoft Teams as an intranet, or are eager to harness the benefits of both intranet and Microsoft Teams platforms (perhaps through Viva Connections) to discover how they can best work together to help meet your company-wide objectives, Digital Workplace Group can help. 

By providing expert unbiased advice, peer connections, research and insights, we are able to guide and support organizations across the world in a unique and practical way on their journey towards digital workplace success. 

To learn more about our intranet consulting service, and to discover whether your organization could qualify for membership of the DWG community, you are welcome to get in touch.  

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