A Modern Intranet and the Magic Portion

A Modern Intranet and the Magic Potion Header

The magic portion? More like, the magic potion, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ How important is user adoption? Well, many say, that it is the most important part of a project and I agree 100% on that, but too often, even if people are aware of that, the amount of time and love that went into a training center is not enough. With this article I will show you, that you don’t need to spend as much time as you might think to achieve something cool. If you are just here to see my answer for “what is the magic potion?” you are already finished. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you want to know how you can achieve that, read on…

We are going to build the Hogwarts Training Center with a few services from Microsoft. Which ones? Well, we need SharePoint, a little bit of Stream, you can use Planner, some Microsoft Forms and to spice it up you can use Microsoft Teams.

Let’s cook our Training Center with some yummy Office 365 services

Why building a training center?

Well, you should build your modern intranet FOR your users and NOT AROUND the user. What do your users need? That’s right… guidelines, videos, appealing intros into new technology and a smile. Change is something scary and that’s okay, but as my blog name implies: Don’t be afraid

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!

Side note: afraIT is a mixture between the word “afraid” and “IT” and means metaphorically or loosely: Don’t be afraid of IT

As you hopefully know, you get an Office 365 Group if you start at a specific point in Office 365. For this scenario, I recommend starting in Microsoft SharePoint. Why? Simply because I want our Hub Site in SharePoint become a Communication site rather than a Team Site. If you are okay with having a Team Site you can start in Microsoft Teams. You can create your team (mine is called Hogwarts Training Center) and you get the first important part for our training center. How? Read on or jump to the specific section you want to see.

Create the Group

Open Microsoft Teams (I did open it in the browser) and click on the bottom left Join or create a team. Next, click on Create Team and follow the wizard. I built mine from scratch, set it to an public team, added the name and description and skipped the dialog for adding new users. You can do that if it is finished. You can use this Microsoft Teams team in many ways, but I keep it simple for this scenario. This team is out “chat-based” workspace regarding the training center.

Create your Team to get all the necessary services to start building you training center

To access you SharePoint Site Collection after a creation from Teams, I always take the route in Teams, General, Files, Open in SharePoint and then click on Home. This is the SharePoint Site Collection which will become our “Hub” for the Training Center.

Open your SharePoint Site where your new Hub will be built

SharePoint and UX

As mentioned on Twitter and in my last article about the animated Office 365 concepts, I am a tech guy, but I love design, UX and communication. I know, kind of a different trajectory than most UX and communication people. Anyways, I just like the look and feel of a communication site way more for this use case, rather than a modern team site. To me, it seems also a little easier for users to adopt to this design, without the navigation on the the left hand side etc. Below you find the Hogwarts Training Center Communication Site, registered as Hub Site out of the box:

Hogwarts Training Center Communication Site as Hub Site out of the box

If you never experienced a Hub Site before, you can check my other two articles about that (available in German and English). #ShamelessPlug. Be aware, that those articles are not 100% accurate, as Microsoft is quite fast these days ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, let the fun begin!

What you want to train and show your users is of course totally up to you. As my “company” is Hogwarts, it makes sense to show the students guidelines for “Learn to fly“, “Defence Against the Dark Arts“, “History of Magic”, a nice “Welcome” article, quick links to their houses communication sites, bundled news from the underlying communication sites, a top navigation, some upcoming events and of course a cool icon for the site. I know, that’s a lot, but also super easy to implement. No need for an SharePoint expert. All this is possible for the “normal” user with a little passion for UX and of course the topic overall ๐Ÿ™‚ After that my site looks like this:

Hub Site

Hogwarts Training Center custom start page

Not too shabby, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚

How you are going to build your starting site is again up to you! My tip: I always try to think what my audience wants to see at their first look. Just think sometimes about the user adoption. This will guide you into the right direction. Build the site for your audience. Not around your audience. Let’s check out some of the topics like the “Learn to fly” site.

This site is also it’s own communication site. The reason behind that is simple. Most of the time (if you are not working at Hogwarts) ๐Ÿ™‚ You have categories like SharePoint, Teams, Stream etc. and often not the same person or department is responsible for that. Also, you could potentially have some “guest authors” (for me it’s Harry Potter, Severus Snape and some others) who are helping out on a topic. In that case, it is just way easier to manage access on those specific sites (sitecollections), so they only have access to the content they are contributing and the assignment of permission is not only up to you. The people behind that category are responsible. Easy implemented governance, security and shift of responsibilities. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Communication Sites (Topics)

Communication Sites connected to the Hogwarts Training Center Hub Site

Also the Quick links from the Hub Site are linked to dedicated Communication Sites from the respective house and the news are via the easy aggregation from the Hub Site directly there.

Communication Sites (“House of” sites)

As you see in the animation below, the header has a different color. This is a good indicator, that those sites are not connected to the Training Center Hub Site. You also see that on the bold written text on the top left below SharePoint. Those sites are connected to another hub site, but still has a similar look and feel.

Insisghts into the Houses of Hogwarts

Aggregated News

Select news from your connected sites

You can arrange the news from the connected sites simply via drag and drop to make some important news “sticky” like in the GIF below.

Select and order news from your sources

Microsoft Stream Webpart

Now, let’s check out the articles and how I simply integrated Microsoft Stream. I did that on the article called “Step by Step” in the Learn to Fly segment an written by Harry Potter:

Step by Step srticle, written by Guest Author Harry Potter + Integration of Microsoft Stream Channel

It is such an seamless user experience. Yes, it took some time, but the outcome is worth it. Even if your users currently not using Microsoft Stream, this is a great way to introduce this video portal to your users without even feeling switching applications.

To add you Stream Webpart just edit the article or page, click on the + (1) and search or scroll until you find the Stream Webpart (2).

Add the Stream Webpart to a page

After you added the webpart, it is quite easy to configure it. You see in the panel on the right, that the source is set to All of Stream, we are going to change that, due to the fact, that we created a channel for specific flying videos. Next, you have to enter the channel address. This is where I see still some potential. It would be more user friendly, if I get a drop-down with existing channels, I have access to. But maybe that’s something for the future…

After you entered the URL, the Webpart shows you instantly the videos in the channel. Kind of a “bug-checker” for you, if the URL you pasted or copied is working. You can also sort your videos in the channel by “Trending, Publish date, Views and Likes”. I didn’t change that for this demo. After that, simply click Publish and you’re done! If you want to learn more about Stream, you can check out my dedicated article for that.

Configuration of Stream Webpart

Welcome Article and Events

Every new site, especially a new training center needs a good welcome article, right? At Hogwarts, no other than the Headmaster himself, wrote the article. Also good for your training to get executive sponsors involved, it doesn’t need to be Albus Dumbledore :). Just someone who can help you boost your (User Adoption Program).

This article has three parts. You find at the new article some words from Albus Dumbledore, the quick links to the Houses of Hogwarts and the upcoming events. This is of course also on the start page, but to spread some news at multiple points isn’t a bad idea. Just don’t do it too often…

To share upcoming news no matter if they are training relevant or not is a great idea to get people involved and if you have some guest hosts for the events, it might drive your user adoption even more. Just like Newt or Detective Pikachu ๐Ÿ™‚

Use events to drive adoption and try to get some cool guest hosts!

Did you know, that Pikachu is such an influencer and gives talks about that? I was stunned as well, but you know… ๐Ÿ™‚

Haters gonna hate – Don’t give a *** – Do what you love!

Alright, we’ve covered now SharePoint and the integration with Microsoft Stream. You can use Microsoft Teams for structuring your content and use Planner as your editorial calendar. Just create the channels in your team you need. In my demo, I would need a channel for “Learn to fly“, “Defence Against the Dark Arts“, “History of Magic”. Your scenario looks different and there is no right or wrong in my opinion.

Planner is a great tool to build your calendar for upcoming articles and videos, so everybody from the different teams is included and up-to-date. You can also add Microsoft Forms to create a survey for your users to get some feedback about the Training Center. Just think a little out of the box and try to let your users experience the integration between different applications. Most of the are now that great integrated, that you not even feel a difference and you think, it is all SharePoint.

Microsoft Forms

In my demo, I created… sorry, Professor McGonagall created an article and liked that to a Microsoft Forms survey to improve herself and get feedback. This is a great way to include a service your users may not know yet and get an easy start with the tool. I also have a dedicated article about Microsoft Forms if you want to check that out.

Article by Minerva McGonagall

Microsoft Forms survey by Prof. McGonagall

Create the Hype

You have seen Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and many others how to make you “wanting” something you probably didn’t know before. This is something you can use for your training center and user adoption.

Before the official “go-live” use the already built training center and share impressions from that with your audience. Tease them. For example one week before the official go-live, show some pictures as a slideshow in your meeting rooms as screensaver. Really do this if you can. There is one chance to do something like this and to use this momentum to “show-off” as IT or other department could really help you!

Teaser in Meetingrooms

Next, a few days before the official launch, create a GPO for all your clients and show the impressions e.g. as their screensaver or on the lock-screen:

Teaser on Desktop

You can use the really capable mobile app and take that to light the fire for your users as well. It is often underrated and many don’t really care about the app. That’s alright, but if you show your users how it could look like, you might get some users on your side, you didn’t expect.

Mobile-Use of the SharePoint App

Last but not least on the official go live date create a flyer (print & digital). After that, the only thing is to lean back and check the site activity ๐Ÿ™‚ The flyer I created for this article can be found below.

Launchflyer digital

Obviously, you shouldn’t use this flyer as your print version. To click a button in a handout is slightly difficult unless you have some fancy, special, next-level paper ๐Ÿ™‚ If you are interested in “How to create such a flyer”, let me know on my social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and I will create an step-by-step guide, how I build my designs with Figma. Love the tool!

Yes, Figma IS fancy!


If you came this far, nice job. You flew over around 2000 words which hopefully helped a little about putting the user into the center and I made you smile at least once! With just a few tools, you can create a quite nice looking training center. Obviously, you can add way more, but I wanted to show you, that you don’t need as much time as you might think. You can find way more articles about tools you can integrate on my dedicated series article page. It all comes together as part of your User Adoption Program. At least it should play a major role in your endeavor to make your users happy! They are going to decide the success of your Office 365 platform.

As this is the third article of the series “A Modern Intranet“, you can check the other articles on my dedicated “Series” page! All are focused on user adoption and what in my opinion is important if you start with Office 365 in your company.

Until the next time, don’t be afraIT

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