'Complicated' SharePoint loses out to Igloo for Children's Hospital Foundation intranet

Social business intranets enable collaboration, knowledge sharing and the breaking down of organisational siloes. But are they sometimes too complicated for users to bother with?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

An Enterprise solution like Microsoft’s SharePoint is easy to install. Easy that is, if you prepare your infrastructure appropriately. You need to prepare your administrative, domain and service accounts, set the SQL Server agent service account and configure the setup user account.

You then need to configure the SQL Server instances to listen on the correct port, configure the firewall and performance tune your Windows Server.

Finally you start the installation itself. You need to decide whether you want to install SharePoint in a stand alone server configuration or a server farm. You need to consider whether you want to set up application pools of web application collaboration sites, community or team sites.

You need to add apps for extra functionality. You can build apps for SharePoint itself, or if you prefer, go to the App Catalog or online store to install apps on the system.

Your IT team needs to have developer knowledge, infrastructure knowledge and web developer knowledge for a really effective deployment.

They also need to have time to go through over 600 pages of the SharePoint 2013 Deployment guide before they start to proceed.

Credit: Igloo

There is a lot to do.

The problem is, most small and medium sized businesses do not have access to these types of resources.

The Children's Hospital Foundation in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area is one such business.

It wanted something that went beyond e-mail and a difficult to manage shared drive to enable its users to collaborate with each other.

Children’s Hospital Foundation (the fundraising division of Children's National Medical Center CNMC) has served the nation’s children as a provider of paediatric care for over 140 years.

It has an ‘aggressive philanthropy goal’ to double philanthropy from $45 to $90 million in the next five years. Currently its 127 employees, interns and consultants relied heavily on e-mail, meetings, and pen and paper.

Management had a vision for the intranet to not just be a place to store files, but to facilitate collaboration, foster innovation, and breakdown silos. Another critical factor for the foundation was ease of use, including the capacity for single sign-on.

Applications used included Wufoo's online form builder, Logi Analytics as a dashboard client, Google Apps, Google Analytics, TeamGantt and MerlinOne.

Whilst the CNMC intranet was based on SharePoint, the foundation found that it did not meet the foundation’s requirements.

“We would never have the devoted, specialized team that a SharePoint installation requires, nor would we get buy-in from staff with such a complicated tool”.

~ Ken Fonzi, Children’s Hospital Foundation

Although SharePoint was considered as an option, the foundation also evaluated Igloo, Yammer, Box and Noodle.

Microsoft Sharepoint is a platform but it is often deployed by companies that expect an application. It is also considered complex to manage effectively without specialised skills.

Ken Fonzi, Associate Director of online Information systems said that the “complicated giant” would require a “devoted, specialized team” if they were to install it.

‘One of the key requirements was that the intranet needed to have a strong brand identity, in look, feel and functionality’ said Fonzi.

Yammer, Box and Noodle were discounted early on in the evaluation and planning process. The foundation felt that the layout was too ‘templated’ with little opportunity to customise with CSS,HTML or Javascript.

The foundation chose Igloo software citing that Igloo gave the foundation an information portal where employees can access all of the different applications used at the foundation. Igloo integrated with the online tools the foundation used - serving as a hub to collaborate.

“I think it is important to define the "what's in it for me?" for each user. You need to find and articulate the practical business reasons for using the new platform - workers won't use it just to be social”. said Fonzi.

Intranet deployments need to be carefully considered as we move towards the social business, but with many companies sometimes the all-singing, all-dancing solution does not give them everything they want. 

Learning how the users actually will use the proposed system is something that often matters the most.

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