How the intranets in-a-box market stacks up by Sam Marshall

Where do the intranet in-a-box solutions that are built on top of SharePoint stand now? What is good and what is still lacking? And what is Valo’s role in the intranet space?

Last week I was delighted to give a keynote at the Valo Partner Summit 2018 in Lisbon. My job was to give an external perspective, so I talked about “How intranets are evolving, how SharePoint is responding, and how the in-a-box market stacks up”. Here’s a short summary of what I covered.

How intranets are evolving

I’ve been involved in intranets for almost 20 years now. I’ve seen them go from having a clear internal communications role, to trying to be a solution to all communication, collaboration and information needs.

At this point intranets can lose their way, because they can’t do everything well. If we re-focus on the digital workplace as a whole though, we can see it as a set of services that an organisation needs:

  • Communication and engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Finding and sharing
  • Business applications and services
  • Agile working

We should be comfortable focusing intranets on what they do well, and leave the other workloads to more specialist tools. However, we do need to manage it coherently, so that each role is clear.

How SharePoint (and Office 365) is responding

SharePoint has traditionally done a good job of document-based collaboration, and a partial job of supporting communication. The rich set of additional tools brought by Office 365 also fills many gaps around informal collaboration (we shouldn’t forget that collaboration can also happen in conversations or as part of a workflow too).

However, there are still many gaps that in-a-box products like Valo need to fill to create an enterprise-grade intranet.

Hub and communication sites are a very welcome addition, but they still don’t give the functionality of a ‘news centre’ that most intranets need, where news can be published on multiple pages and centrally managed.

How the Intranets in-a-box market stacks up

The in-a-box market has grown rapidly, adding 10-15 new products per year since 2011, reaching a total of 70 or more today. As you might expect, most do a decent job of closing the gap between regular SharePoint and the needs of internal communicators to manage news publishing.

Most also improve the UX and integration elements too. However, I would still like to see more ready-made answers included to analytics and employee services needs, especially when vendors focus on small-medium enterprises.

What’s still missing

Finally, I shared what I see as the three big challenges for digital workplaces. These are challenges that won’t be met by products alone, even if an in-a-box vendor creates the perfect product.

1) True enterprise search

We tease our employees by showing a ‘Search Everything’ box, but we rarely index everything, such as content in workflow applications or HR self-service platforms. Moreover, search needs to focus on giving actual answers, a Google cards do, not just links.

2) Unified notifications

We are overwhelming ourselves with distractions, and in the workplace we don’t have a single place where we can ask “what do I need to act on right now?”, or even say “silence everything for 90 minutes so I can concentrate”.

A key goal of any digital workplace should be to create the equivalent of our smartphone lock-screens, something that combines alerts not just from Office 365, but also from our CRM, HR, IT helpdesks, Finance systems etc. too.

3) Reaching field and floor workers

This employee group is being digitally equipped in a way we’ve never seen before. It creates fantastic opportunities to engage with them and shorten the feedback loop from our customers and product users. However, we can’t engage with them as we have with desk-workers; they have different needs and their work environment makes unique demands on how they use their devices.

Sam Marshall and Vlad Catrinescu at Valo Partner Summit

Sam Marshall and Vlad Catrinescu at Valo Partner Summit in Lisbon, Portugal 2018

Valo’s journey

It was good to see such an active and involved partner community coming together (the partner model is a significant trend in the in-a-box space). Valo has one of the largest networks in this space, and it’s one way in which customers can feel confident that they really are buying a properly supported product, rather than engaging an agency with ‘accelerator’ code.

Valo has one of the largest networks in the intranet in-a-box space

At the start of the event the Valo team took us through their roadmap. With so much coming out from Microsoft around intranets, I was intrigued to see how a major player like Valo would be responding. Their answer is in keeping with their long-standing philosophy: to make the most of the Microsoft offer and then extend it where necessary.

With so much coming out from Microsoft around intranets, I was intrigued to see Valo’s roadmap in Valo Summit 2018, how a major player like Valo would be responding. Their answer is in keeping with their long-standing philosophy: to make the most of the Microsoft offer and then extend it where necessary.

One observation shared in the Valo Partner Summit sums it up very well indeed:

Customers are asking if they need an intranet in-a-box product now that they have communication and hub sites, but when you see what Valo brings on top it makes sense.


See the Valo interview: Sam Marshall and three challenges of digital workplace

 

About the Guest Blogger – Sam Marshall

Sam Marshall is an Intranet Consultant and the founder of ClearBox Consulting, with almost 20 years of experience with intranets and the digital workplace.

Sam was invited to give a keynote at Valo Partner Summit 2018 in Lisbon, May 2018 from an external perspective. He talked about “How intranets are evolving, how SharePoint is responding, and how the in-a-box market stacks up” that this article is based on. Thanks for coming, Sam!

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Want to explore more about SharePoint Intranets?

Every year ClearBox Consulting releases its independent SharePoint Intranets in-a-box report. You can download the full SharePoint Intranets in-a-box Report 2018 to see a comprehensive comparison of 34 solutions build on top of SharePoint. In that report, Valo was recognized with the Intranet Choice – Value 2018 award.

clearbox-intranet-choice-value

Valo awarded for an excellent and outstanding price-performance balance

You can also watch the recording of our popular joint webinar Managing Multilingual Intranets together with Valo and ClearBox Consulting and read how new Modern Valo answers to the challenges Sam brought up.

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