Why you should upgrade your SharePoint intranet

With the recent release of SharePoint 2016, there’s a lot of chatter about whether it makes sense to upgrade to this latest version of the platform, to SharePoint Online, or whether to upgrade at all.

If you have SharePoint in your organization as a collaboration tool for projects, teams, and groups or as an enterprise-wide platform for employee communication, engagement, and enterprise social, making the decision to upgrade is one that can be influenced by a number of factors.

We’ve had quite a bit of experience working through the upgrade process with our enterprise clients and have navigated the various considerations for organizations to invest in a newer version of SharePoint and what benefits they can expect in the short and long-term (see my colleague Chris Radcliffe's recent post on lessons learned from a SharePoint upgrade).

Here are some of the top reasons we hear from our clients who may be considering upgrading, whether to SharePoint 2016 or SharePoint Online.

Your current intranet has poor adoption

There are likely a number of factors that contribute to poor adoption of your intranet, but you may not be sure exactly what they are. Is it content? Features? Governance? An upgrade is a perfect opportunity to explore the reason behind the challenges your organization faces with adoption.

Rather than merely upgrade the technology and inherit the same problems onto a newer version of the platform, an upgrade is the time to seek out improvements that could be of highest value for your business.

Consulting with end users, field workers, and business owners can provide your organization with the opportunity to align the stakeholders around a vision for the portal and implement that vision during the upgrade (see my colleague Meghan Armstrong's posts on creating a design vision and developing a roadmap for your portal). These pre-implementation activities are great ways to improve adoption of a new or upgraded intranet, and help to restore trust in your solution.

Takeaway: A roadmap that addresses user needs and aligns with business objectives can a be a key driver of increased user adoption during an upgrade initiative.

Your organization wants to increase online collaboration and social connection

Enterprise software has come a long way in the past few years. Many of the social features that we see in our personal lives have the potential to help us connect and collaborate with our colleagues professionally. There's a whole new generation of workers who expect an organization's collaborative experience to be similar to how they connect outside the firewall.

If your organization hasn’t introduced social and collaborative tools to the workforce officially, you can bet that employees are using unsanctioned software and online tools to fill the gaps until you do. Not only is it risky and non-compliant to house enterprise data outside approved repositories, it diffuses the benefit of social connection and collaboration by spreading knowledge across disparate channels.

Our work with clients consistently shows employees at all levels inside enterprises crave basic social tools that help them to discover colleagues, work collaboratively on projects, and comment and respond to content. If you are using an older version of SharePoint—such as SharePoint 2007 or 2010—those features don't exist at all, let alone more advanced social scenarios like sharing kudos, best practices, and experience. Tools integrated into the Office 365 suite such as Yammer, Delve, and OneDrive can quickly open up sanctioned social collaboration and be deployed as part of an upgrade.

Takeaway: An upgrade provides organizations with the opportunity to introduce modern systems of communication and collaboration and provide official channels for thriving internal networks.

You want to offer self-serve and targeted tools to employees

One of the key business drivers for an intranet is providing employees with access to the tools they need to do their jobs. The latest versions of SharePoint (either online or on-premises), provide the opportunity to easily create content targeting that tailors resources for employees by role, geographic location, or other parameters that work for your organization.

Combining metadata with information such as Active Directory roles provides employees with easy access to features like toolkits that provide access to policies, procedures, checklists, and resources most relevant to their jobs.

Takeaway: Taking the time during an upgrade to map your content and functionality by role or location can result in more efficient, effective employees.

Your platform is no longer supported

If you are using a SharePoint platform that is no longer supported by Microsoft, not only are you likely falling behind the latest features and functionality that could positively contribute to improved collaboration and productivity in your organization, you could also be putting your organization at risk.

Once a platform is no longer supported, serious issues like security updates and patches stop being released, exposing potential flaws or vulnerabilities as technologies change. You may also find that its difficult to find staff or partners who can and will support the platform, putting the maintenance and evolution of mission-critical tools at risk.

Takeaway: Upgrading to the latest version of SharePoint will ensure your organization is protected by the latest security updates.

You are faced with cuts to your IT budget

Upgrading older versions of SharePoint to the cloud can often be justified by IT cost savings in the areas of licensing optimization, physical infrastructure, and support resources. In an upgrade to Office 365 or Azure, significant IT costs can be either removed from the equation or significantly reduced.

An additional benefit is often cited in the realm of scalability, where the cloud-based subscription model allows organizations to scale up or down quickly when needed and only pay for the users they have.

Takeaway: Organizations can realize significant IT savings when upgrading by taking advantage of licensing and IAAS options.

Your organization needs a better mobile experience

If you are on an older version of SharePoint, it's unlikely that your employee portal has a great mobile experience. Or frankly, any mobile experience at all. The investment in mobile experiences inside enterprise organizations lags behind adoption in the consumer world, but is starting to catch up.

There are great scenarios for investing in the mobile experience, especially for those employees who work without regular access to a desktop experience. Investing in targeted apps or fully responsive mobile portals allows for instant delivery of essential communications, access to key safety information or procedures in context while in the field, or product information for retail workers on any supported mobile device.

Takeaway: An upgrade is an excellent opportunity to understand the mobile scenarios that you need to support to help your employees do their jobs.

Any or all of these factors may be on your mind as you consider a SharePoint upgrade for your organization. It's important to understand which ones are most important to you and your stakeholders and how that might influence your upgrade strategy and decisions.

We can help you with your upgrade strategy by sharing our experience with other organizations like yours and making the best recommendations just for you.

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