For anyone relying on SharePoint for their Intranet or modern workplace, integrating different tools and applications with it is a must. Integrations add value to your SharePoint Intranet in many ways:
- Making your SharePoint Intranet a one-stop shop for your users to interact with many LOB (Line of Business) applications across your organizations
- Empowering your users complete tasks in different applications without switching application context
- Helping your users find information which is stored outside of your SharePoint Intranet
- Drive process improvement and productivity gains by saving time and multiple credentials for multiple apps.
Historically, integrating a solution into your Intranet could take months to build and roll out. Once deployed, it can take weeks to implement every minor change. We no longer have that luxury called time.
Business strategies and needs change rapidly, so organizations need to adapt an agile model to meet those needs. By responsibly enabling citizens developers (Power Users) as part of the organization development strategy, organizations can benefit from quicker innovation and lower development costs.
Over the last 2 years, the demand for SharePoint integrations has increased exponentially. This is partly because many digital workplace teams are realizing the value of integration as a key part of digital employee experience, particularly with the increase in remote and hybrid working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The best suite of digital tools are those that play together.
It‘s also because Microsoft has made integrating applications within SharePoint much easier, faster and cheaper thanks to:
- The out-of-the-box seamless integration with all apps from the Microsoft 365 suite: like the collaboration features in the Microsoft 365 apps, Microsoft Viva, integrations between SharePoint and Teams like the Home Site, etc.
- Added an extensive library of out-of-the-box connectors for popular enterprise applications such as Salesforce and ServiceNow.
- Enhanced APIs and support for Single Sign-On via Azure AD
- Some integrations are now achievable through configuration rather than customization
This has effectively flipped the notion of SharePoint integrations from being a tedious and expensive process prone to errors in which highly specialized developers had to do all the heavy lifting, to one in which highly effective integrations are now achievable with little help of a pro developer.
Views have shifted from SharePoint integrations being complicated and difficult, to being far more accessible.
Here’s how the process looked not so long ago. While this can still be a valid solution for something overly complex, things can be a lot easier, too.
Nevertheless, it is still particularly important to plan, but also involve experienced people for an enterprise-wide integration.
We recommend you outlining and plan your SharePoint Integration Process and go through these steps regardless of company size or complexity.
Take these steps and your SharePoint and Intranet integration will go smoothly:
- Strategy and Planning
Understand what business need you are trying to meet. Identify the stakeholders, meet them and collect the requirements. Explore the SharePoint capabilities and features that you could use to meet the business needs. Understand the content classification levels that will be needed: e.g. Public, Confidential. Plan for governance, security and permissions. After all that, you can define the KPIs of a successful integration. Plan resources for development, implementation and testing.
Quick tip: always account for 15%-20% contingency in your planning estimates. Why? Because the requirements or even the business needs often change during the lifecycle of your project and you want to avoid from running out of resources.
- Data Architecture & Structure
Identify what storage containers you will need. Are you going to use lists, libraries, pages or a mix of everything to present the content and data to the end users? How end users will access the content, what will be the data structure, metadata etc.? The most important ability for end users is to find what they need quickly and intuitively.
- UI/UX Design
Create early and frequent mock-ups of your solutions, demo them to the stakeholders to get their buy-in and approval. Don’t forget that requirements and business needs change over time so make sure your design is taking that factor into the solution.
This is where the real solution is crafted. Have a product backlog, clear roles and responsibilities within the dev team and make sure you follow the Microsoft recommendations when developing specifically for SharePoint.
Quick tip: Use agile practices where you can and try to stay away from the waterfall model. That will help you pivot if needed and stay on track with time and resources if needs or requirements change.
- Quality Assurance
This is the step that is overlooked in many occasions but, it’s very important. Define tooling, testing processes and test all possible scenarios.
- Deployment & Support
Time for final preparations and Go-Live. Every solution needs to have support, so make sure you plan sufficient resources for that. Have detailed documentation that will enable the support teams to deliver what’s expected from them.
The Microsoft Power Platform (PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI and Power Virtual Agents) is already driving the creation of powerful business apps, workflows and data visualizations that solve plenty of common business needs and improve simple to medium-complex business processes. Integrations between SharePoint and the Power Platform is of huge value for storing, visualizing and moving information across various locations.
There are two ways to integrate your SharePoint Online Intranet with Power Apps:
- Creating an empty Canvas app from Power Apps studio (https://make.powerapps.com/). Then you have an option to add SharePoint as a data source
There are two types of connections to:
- SharePoint Online (cloud service) – for SharePoint Online sites
- Connect using on-premises data gateway – for SharePoint 2013 and 2016 sites
- The second way to establish a connection between SharePoint and PowerApps is from SharePoint itself. There is the option to create Power App, Power Automate (flow) or a Power BI dashboard right from within a SharePoint Online list or a document library.
A simple but common need in all Intranets is for users to be able to customize their forms. Custom forms ensure that the metadata for list items and documents will be entered by the user according to the company requirements. We will highlight how easy it is to create a custom form in your SharePoint list with PowerApps. From the SharePoint list navigation menu, all you need to do is choose Integrate -> Power Apps -> Customize forms
This action will redirect you to Power Apps Studio where you will be able to modify the new item form (add/remove fields, change the colour of the form and many other customizations).
When you are done with all customizations all you need to do is to save and publish the new item form to SharePoint Online.
After a couple of seconds, the new item form is available in SharePoint Online and end users will be able to see it when adding a new item:
As you saw with a couple of steps and modifications and with no code skills, we were able to modify the New Item form for our Demo List. You don’t to involve pro developers for simple tasks like this. With SharePoint and Power Platform you can make a lot of changes by yourself. What you need is just a bit of practice.
Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow), helps you automate tasks and processes and make them error prone. It is a great tool as it increases business productivity right away. Imagine all the repetitive and tedious tasks your users must do every single day. That’s where Power Automate comes handy. It allows you to easily integrate with other applications or services with a large inventory of out-of-the-box connectors provided by Microsoft. A connector helps you get data between apps without any code! And if a connector is not readily available, you can create a custom one.
The number one need we face in every project is a process tied to documents stored in SharePoint, starting from simple approvals to multi-stage complex document lifecycle processes. Let’s see how we can achieve this now thanks to the built-in Power Automate integration within SharePoint.
Go to your SharePoint list, and on the navigation, bar choose Integrate -> Power Automate -> Create a flow (if you want to create a new flow), See your flow (to all flows created by you or shared with you) or Configure flows (to set flow options).
Creating a flow will open a window on the right side and give you the option to choose from a couple of Microsoft flow templates:
If you don’t see the right template for your case, select See your flows that will redirect you to Manage your flows page (https://flow.microsoft.com/).
From here you can manage all your flows or create a new one. Selecting +New flow on top will give you an option to create a flow from template or create a flow from scratch (blank).
As an advice go check the flow templates, that could save you lots of time by figuring it out on your own. On the templates page you have the option to search, order the flows by popularity, name and publish date. Flow templates have all triggers and actions set, you just need to fill in your specific details like SharePoint site URL, list or document library names etc.
Let’s create a flow that will send you an email when a new item is added to SharePoint. In the search field type SharePoint and select Send an email when a new item is created in SharePoint
On this page you can see what kind of connectors this templated flow is using. Click Continue to see the structure of the flow with all triggers and actions.
Here you need to enter the required details like Site Address, List Name, e-mail recipient, etc. You can also enhance this flow by adding new steps (+ New step button) to meet your business needs. Microsoft flow is very flexible and offers a myriad of automation capabilities. Spend a bit of time starting simple and find out how powerful it is.
SharePoint Online integrations with Power Platform enable you to work with variety of data sources and other tools on the market. In addition to the Microsoft 365 apps connectors, Power Platform provides more than 600 pre-built connectors to other applications. Go out there and explore!
We have been integrating SharePoint Intranets with LOB applications for many years. Reach out to us if you are on the junction to take a decision on your integration scenario – whether you go the Power Platform way or the custom development way, we at Impactory can be by your side on that journey.
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