Architecting News in Office 365

With weather in Connecticut hovering in the 80’s why wouldn’t I bust out a quick second post about SharePoint?

So in-between running a few errands, doing some yard work, and enjoying a Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew I managed to insert myself into a conversation about news and the new SharePoint Communications Sites.

Twitter-News

It’s amazing that folks like Jeff Teper & Andy Haon respond to folks with inquiries, let alone on a Saturday but that’s reflective of how Jeff runs the SharePoint Team and his passion for collaboration.

Working for a consulting firm, I spend a lot of time working with clients on building out their Intranets, redesigning, building taxonomies, and helping them to personalize content for their diverse user populations. In addition, I started my career many years ago as a Co-Op on a Corporate Communications Team responsible for managing our 30,000 person company’s Intranet. Over my career I’ve seen, worked on, upgraded, deployed, and redesigned so many Intranets.

The new SharePoint Communications Sites are a first step into providing organization’s with a way to build a landing page without the need for custom development skills. I’m going to pause and agree that they certainly are not a 1-size fits all, there are definitely some gaps when it comes to branding and applying themes. However, I absolutely have a few clients where I would consider recommending that they look at standing up a Communications Site as a landing page given their requirements and also knowing that Microsoft will continue to add functionality over time.

With that said – the theme of this Twitter thread was around News and what the roll-up options are for the Communications Sites. For those of you who are in Office 365 and are leveraging Team News, you might be aware that there’s a concept of news roll-up on SharePoint home. One of the points that I made in the thread is – from an enterprise perspective I’m not seeing organizations adoption SharePoint home as a starting point for their O365/Intranet experience. As it has been for many years, most corporations set a default homepage which is a splashy “Intranet” site serving up company news, links to common systems, and other widgets which are reflective of that organization’s brand.

Now to get to the Seb De Ron’s question and my response I definitely can see the challenge of architecting news in the new Communications Sites. There’s a News Webpart which is fantastic which allows you to quickly author responsive articles using the new modern publishing experience. Those articles are then surfaced up on via the webpart wherever you put it on your page. The one caveat is that the articles all live within that site, and there isn’t an option to add a second news webpart and point it at a different source.

Example of what we’ve built for other organizations:

News Roll-up

The way that we’ve built this experience for many of our clients is to leverage Content Search Webparts with custom display templates to serve up those additional news articles from wherever they exist within the tenant or farm. Therein lies a second problem that there isn’t a native Content Search Webpart yet for Modern Pages.

What I think adds to a bit of the dilemma is that “Team News” is rolled up in the SharePoint home. So you’ve got personalized news from the various Team Sites that you participate in, but it’s a bit of a disjointed experience. To get your corporate news it’s on the Intranet, but to get personalized news you have to leave the Intranet page and consume it from within the SharePoint Home.

To Jeff’s point – Communications Sites right now reflect the base functionality to get them working. It would appear that there is definitely additional features & functions that will be forthcoming. But for the time being (7/8/17) – O365/SharePoint Architects need to be aware of how the different technologies work when designing how News will work for their organization. And I’m hoping this post helps illustrate to any Product Team folks one of the scenarios I see quite frequently in organizations where there’s a mix of news types on an Intranet homepage.

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