Is Microsoft Teams the New Intranet?

So, is Microsoft Teams the new Intranet? Is this a ridiculous question to ask?

If you are currently using Teams in your organization, then you can see why this question might come up. Maybe your company doesn’t have an Intranet. Or, if you do, it’s a traditional one normally in the form of a website inside the company.

I was on an internal team of an international organization dedicated to maintaining and expanding a mammoth custom Intranet built on top of Microsoft technologies. It was integrated with many other systems throughout the organization. Back in the day, we would call these portals. On the main page were several sections that presented such content as the weather for multiple locations, access to email, various sources of news and events, a collection of videos, links to benefits information, department sites, and the list goes on.

While there are still organizations that make use of a traditional Intranet, there seems to be a new trend. Or at least questions around the necessity of having and maintain one. Questions I’ve heard are, “Can I use Microsoft Teams as my Intranet?” and “Why do I need an Intranet?”

Trends I’ve Observed

As with most technology, our habits tend to change as we potentially find better methods for getting our jobs done. Some technology, perhaps not even remotely in the same camp, influences us to approach our interactions with devices differently. Think of the influence of apps like Facebook or Twitter and how similar apps began to show up in the enterprise. Remember Web 2.0? At some point, collaboration and social became the buzzwords, and most major software companies like Microsoft recognized the value. Enterprise solutions began to include some form of these elements into their list of features.

It seems like one of the current trends I’m seeing is a move away from the traditional Intranet. I’ve not yet pinpointed why this is. We might need to break out some CSI skills here. Not that I think it’s a crime. I suspect we gravitate toward what we are comfortable using.

What I’ve seen is less and less reliance on the traditional Intranet. In many cases, a lack of interest in even opening and navigating around an Intranet, regardless of how well or poorly the Intranet is designed. Content often becomes stale over time, and users gravitate toward other methods of collaborating or interacting with content. Often the administrators of the Intranet must come up with ways to entice the users to make use of it. Of course, there are always exceptions. Many organizations have built a strong culture around the use of their Intranet, where the users find a great deal of value. But a product like Microsoft Teams can make it easy for users to ignore the Intranet because much of the same content can be accessed directly in the app.

Features You Find on an Intranet and in Teams

Many features within Teams are similar to those you might find in a traditional Intranet. File sharing and collaboration, social feeds for collaborating on various topics, common links to applications (apps) or websites, access to calendars, and more.

Does this mean that Teams should function as or replace an organization’s Intranet? I would have to say, as you might expect, it depends. Something to keep in mind with Teams is the capability to add features that extend what can be achieved with the tool. You can surface content and functionality that might come from your existing Intranet. There’s no one right answer.

So, What About SharePoint?

The chances are high; you may have used one of Microsoft’s most successful products at some point. That platform is SharePoint. The core capability of SharePoint is websites. It also has some of the best collaborative features around, which have greatly improved throughout its lifetime. When I think of an Intranet in an organization most often that Intranet has been built using SharePoint. It’s easy to set up a basic Intranet by creating one or more SharePoint sites and then connecting them via navigation or making them part of the newer hub feature.

Fun fact: when creating a team in Teams, this also creates, wait for it…, SharePoint Team site. Many of the features of your team in Teams are underlying elements of the SharePoint site. When you click on the Files tab in Teams, that is an integrated connection to a SharePoint document library in the SharePoint Team site.

One approach I’ve recommended in the past is to take advantage of the best of both worlds. A team created using Teams can be surfaced as one of the available sites of your SharePoint Intranet. What do I mean by this? You might have a series of modern SharePoint site collections that make up your Intranet. This might be a combination of communication sites, project sites, and team sites. One or more of those site collections could be that modern SharePoint Team site that was first created from Teams. You can also surface any of the SharePoint sites or content from your Intranet or your SharePoint environment in general inside of Teams.

In Summary…

If you were to ask me right now, “Is Microsoft Teams the new Intranet?” or simply, “Can I use Microsoft Teams in place of an Intranet?” I would most likely say probably not if you are a mid to large size organization. If you are a relatively small entity, you may be able to get away with it. You will probably find more value in having a traditional Intranet but also integrating, surfacing and collaborating on content with Teams as a companion.

It will be interesting to see where the trends go. Microsoft has had great success with the rapid adoption of Teams, and I don’t see that adoption rate slowing any time soon.

While this is not a deep dive into addressing the questions of which is the best tool for your Intranet, hopefully, it provides a small amount of insight on how you might want to move forward.

If you are looking for additional guidance, assistance, or training around setting up your Intranet or with these technologies in general, get in touch with us and one of our experienced advisors will be happy to speak with you more.