On-Prem Intranet Development And Migration On SharePoint For A Leading American University

Expertise: Web & Enterprise Portals Content & Document Management School/College Management System
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Home > Portfolio > On-Prem Intranet Development And Migration On SharePoint For A Leading American University
Client Overview
A leading American university wanted to modernize its intranet used by its more than 50,000 students, faculty, and staff to share information and improve collaboration and communication. As its technology partner, we helped the client upgrade its intranet, which should come with content management system (CMS) features. As the client used a legacy intranet built on SharePoint 2010, data migration and business automation were two of the SLAs. We migrated the existing forms, which were created on InfoPath Forms Services, to the SharePoint 2019 environment and created fresh forms using Power Apps. Once deployed, the new intranet became a no-code solution for the university's in-house editors and helped the client integrate 14 disparate departments to drive collaboration.
Business Needs
As a large university, the client's communication was multi-layered and was accessed by different audiences. In addition to students, the targeted audiences included faculty, administrative personnel, IT staff, and other stakeholders. To cater to the growing demands of every constituency, the client's existing intranet needed to be upgraded, and the need to streamline university-wide communication became more prominent with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the needs the client wanted to fulfill with the help of a development partner.

  • Upgrading to a smoother, more intuitive, and more interactive communication platform
  • Improving the search capability of the platform by updating keywords, documents, and metadata
  • Transforming paper-based forms from 14 departments and automating data collection
  • Streamlining university-wide approvals via an admin dashboard that could produce actionable insights
  • Simplifying content creation with the help of drag-and-drop features available in pre-built SharePoint templates
  • Ensuring that the platform is mobile-responsive so that the audiences can consume content on the device of their choice
Strategy & Solution
The client partnered with us, as we have deep expertise in SharePoint development. We have extensive experience in developing intranet systems for a variety of global customers across several industries. Because of our know-how, we helped the client build its feature-rich intranet using SharePoint 2019. Additionally, we helped the client safely and successfully move mission-critical datasets from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2019.

We became the number one choice for the client's intranet development on SharePoint 2019. Moreover, we also showed excellent knowledge of migrating data from legacy intranets to SharePoint 2019. For that reason alone, we spearheaded the client's data migration project too. Because of these factors, we emerged as a reliable technology partner for the client.

STEP 1: Planning and preparing
Our team followed SharePoint intranet development best practices throughout this project. We thoroughly planned before building the client's communication ecosystem. We worked with the stakeholders to understand and define their key goals and objectives for their intranet before beginning the development phase. This process involved interviewing different business unit leaders at the university as well as other key stakeholders to assess and document their needs and desires. During this phase, we:

  • Determined the scope of the intranet, examining its features and functionalities
  • Assessed the existing intranet - SharePoint 2010 - and other components of the client's technology infrastructure
  • Analyzed whether the client had the required resources - hardware and software - to support intranet development
  • Built a governance plan outlining key roles, responsibilities, and guidelines for the CMS
  • Identified user needs while considering their tasks, requirements, and roles
STEP 2: Installing and configuring
With the planning and preparation complete, we installed and configured the latest intranet system on SharePoint 2019. Here are the steps we followed.

  • Installed SharePoint 2019 on the university server by following the installation wizard from end to end
  • Configured the client's server farm, including setting up its database server, web application server, and other key components
  • Created a detailed portal of sites - it is a chief site for the client's intranet where the stakeholders could manage all the site settings and content assets
STEP 3: Designing and customizing
Once we installed and configured the intranet, we designed and customized the solution to remain in sync with the client's brand guidelines. We followed the following steps to design and tailor the intranet.

  • Even though SharePoint 2019 comes with many built-in themes, we decided to take some initiative and create a fresh theme that captured the client's brand essence perfectly
  • We created a master page that defined the overall look and feel of the client's communication platform
  • Further, we customized page layouts using SharePoint's drag-and-drop interface. That enabled us to build specific page layouts that suited the client's requirements to a tee.
  • Last, we added web parts to the newly installed intranet, which augmented its functionalities. We used web parts to create news feeds and add the university's YouTube and Vimeo feeds to the intranet.
STEP 4: Creating and managing content
With the university's intranet customized to meet its brand guidelines, we headed next to creating and managing content. Here are the steps we followed during this process.

  • Created content assets using SharePoint's built-in tools
  • Effectively managed content on the intranet using SharePoint's versioning and other features, such as check-in/check-out
  • Developed a road map for understanding which of the stakeholders can and cannot access the content
  • Migrated existing metadata from the previous intranet, which was based on SharePoint 2010, and tweaked it to organize content assets properly and make them more searchable
  • Leveraged SharePoint's metadata features to categorize and tag content assets so that they are easier and faster to work with
STEP 5: Testing and deploying
Before deploying the SharePoint 2019 intranet, we ensured that it was tested thoroughly. Here are the key steps we followed to test the client's newly configured intranet.
  • We tested the intranet on multiple browsers - Chrome, Safari, Brave, Edge, etc. - and desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones to ensure it worked as planned
  • We provided extensive user training and supported the users and stakeholders so that they can use the intranet optimally
  • Once the users knew how to work with the upgraded intranet, we went ahead with deploying it
Our initial training focus was on the business unit editors. Upon completing their training, these editors helped in training other subordinate editors in the university's communications department. Additionally, we provided the business unit editors with key troubleshooting tips to resolve errors quickly.

With the pandemic ravaging the world and lockdowns getting imposed, this newly formed communications intranet helped a great deal. This intranet enabled the university to disseminate reliable information on health care and operations to students and parents.

Prior to conducting full-scale training sessions for all project stakeholders, we first conducted a detailed beta-test of the upgraded intranet. This included giving real-time demos to section editors of every business unit in tasks such as loading content, creating new processing and events, canceling them, and modifying the content on the CMS rapidly.

The client's legacy intranet was built on SharePoint 2010. The next step was to migrate the legacy data into the newly developed SharePoint 2019 system. Here are the steps we followed to move the data from the client's SharePoint 2010 intranet system to SharePoint 2019 ecosystem.

STEP 1: Preparing And Planning
Before pushing the data migration button, we comprehensively reviewed the university's current SharePoint 2010 environment. We then contrasted the legacy dataset standards and structures with the standards and structures we created in the newly developed SharePoint 2019 environment that we created for the university. Here are some of the things we considered while we planned migrating data.

  • Determined the migration scope, which included finalizing different content assets and datasets that we wanted to migrate
  • Verified that all data needed to be migrated to various third-party applications would not encounter any problems
  • Carried out a detailed data analysis for reviewing the assets that needed to be migrated
  • Followed different SharePoint data migration best practices to ensure the process was clean and quick
  • Came up with a detailed migration plan that outlined different steps we had to take for data migration and the challenges we were likely to face in the process
  • Initially we migrated only a sample dataset to test the effectiveness of the migration process and identified key issues that arose
STEP 2: Pre-migration planning
Before beginning the actual migration, we prepared a heat map for SharePoint 2010 environment. This heat map helped us streamline data migration. Here are some of the steps that were part of this phase.

  • Cleaned up the client's existing SharePoint 2010 environment and removed unwanted folders, files, and content assets
  • Reviewed the SharePoint 2010 environment to ensure that customizations, workflows, and features that have to be migrated were well-documented
  • Upgraded the intranet to SharePoint 2016 first, as direct migration from the 2010 version to the 2019 version is not possible
STEP 3: Executing the migration plan
Once we completed the preparation work, we started with the actual data migration to SharePoint 2019. We followed the following steps to execute the migration plan.

  • Created a backup of the client's SharePoint 2010 environment, which could be used as a restore point when the migration did not go as planned
  • Prepared the targeted SharePoint 2019 environment by building a fresh site collection in SharePoint 2019 and establishing the necessary configurations and features
  • Used a tested third-party tool - Sharegate - to handle different lists, documents, web parts, libraries, workflows, and customizations
  • Tested the migrated datasets to verify whether they were moved correctly and workflows and whether customizations were working as intended
STEP 4: Migrating InfoPath Forms From SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2019
As the client had many InfoPath forms in its legacy intranet solution, it asked us to create a migration trajectory for moving them to the SharePoint 2019 environment. We used the following migration strategy to transition the forms successfully.

  • Assed the InfoPath forms required to be migrated first while even helping the client identify obsolete forms to save migration cost and time
  • Discovered dependencies that the InfoPath forms had with different SharePoint components - custom code, data connections, or workflows - and ensured that every dependency was migrated correctly, too
  • Built a fresh form library within the SharePoint 2019 environment where every newly migrated InfoPath form could be stored
  • Used InfoPath Designer's built-in Export feature to export forms successfully from SharePoint 2010 environment
  • Used InfoPath Designer's Import feature to import all the forms exported to the SharePoint 2019 environment
  • Updated data connections in the migrated InfoPath forms and ensured that they pointed to accurate data sources in the new SharePoint environment
  • Tested every migrated form and made sure they functioned as intended in the new SharePoint 2019 environment
  • Published migrated InfoPath forms to a brand-new library available in the SharePoint 2019 environment
STEP 5: Providing post-migration support
Once we finished the migration process, our SharePoint developers extended post-migration support to the client. Some of the tasks we executed in this phase are as follows.
  • Cleaned up and optimized the SharePoint 2019 environment after the migration was completed and removed many unwanted files, folders, and content assets
  • Performed final data validation to ensure that everything - datasets, workflows, and customizations - were working as expected
We created an admin dashboard using Power BI. This admin dashboard was not only easy to use but also produced actionable insights from dissimilar datasets from different departments. That way, decision-making became more accurate than ever. We also used Microsoft Approvals and created a custom approval process that helped streamline workflows across different departments at the university.

Our Power BI dashboard for the admin helped in tracking approval statuses in real time. This way, we helped the university admin identify delays and bottlenecks happening in the approval process and take necessary action.

We also standardized approval workflows using Approvals. Doing this standardization helped us make sure executives, faculty, and students in all the university departments found it easier to report workflow-related issues whenever they arose.

Business Outcomes
With the newly formed intranet on the SharePoint 2019 environment, the university experienced improved efficiency across its 14 departments. The client now has only one consolidated and intuitive intranet that can be easily accessed by thousands of staff members and students to stay updated with the latest information. Moreover, once modernized and implemented, the intranet also improved collaboration between different business units/departments across the university. Now that the new intranet was built on SharePoint 2019, the users have a modern user interface that they find easier to use with streamlined access to exhaustive amounts of information. By automating paper-based processes and reducing manual labor, this project offered cost savings and increased efficiency, accuracy, and productivity.

Power Apps and InfoPath forms improved the user experience and streamlined data collection. The admin dashboard provided valuable insights into the performance of the automated processes. Further, the security features of SharePoint ensured the privacy and protection of sensitive information. Here are some of the key benefits the client realized once the newly built intranet was implemented.

  • Creating a news feature where the latest stories were promoted to the intranet's hero element
  • Integrating 14 departments across the university to facilitate smoother, faster, and more efficient communication and collaboration
  • Adding, modifying, and deleting events became faster and simpler since we used the Events web part
  • Ensuring the system scalability remained on point by using SharePoint automation
  • Automating business processes to improve compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards
  • Facilitating real-time tracking and monitoring of tasks and approvals to provide greater visibility and control over the workflow, reduce errors, and improve data accuracy
  • Simplifying data accessibility, auditing, and reporting to increase transparency and improve productivity
  • Embedding elements from the client's YouTube and Vimeo accounts so that the site had video content ready to consume without going anywhere
  • Improving the functionality of the intranet and giving it a fresh look and feel
  • Creating and managing content was simplified because of SharePoint 2019's drag-and-drop features
Client's Speak
From upgrading the intranet SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2019 to adding new features to the portal, Flexsin's SharePoint developers did an excellent job. Highly recommended!

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