If you are planning your SharePoint 2010 upgrade and looking at redesigning the hundreds of intranet sites --- stop right there! Don't redesign, rethink your corporate intranet.
I spend a fair amount of time with clients discussing the redesign of their sites and in most cases I continue to hear the word "portal" mentioned. When I think of portals, I jump into my time machine and go back a decade or so. Portals are plain and generally have static web content with outdated information that is seldom accessed by employees. Look at your intranet today and it's likely you'll see a SharePoint site with all kinds of links that's not very interactive or relevant to individuals. Maybe you have top-down executive blog that is posted to once a quarter or once a month if you’re lucky. If the corporate intranet page wasn't set as the employee home page in the browser, I wonder how many people would actually visit it? . Sound like your intranet? So what's the point of upgrading to SharePoint 2010 if you're just going to migrate those plain boring sites you have today?
It’s time to break away from the traditional thinking of intranet "portals" and design a collaborative infrastructure around a complete “community model”. What do I mean exactly? If you compare a community to the traditional portal, you may think it’s just a matter of semantics. However, the concept of a portal is a push relationship as someone is pushing content to you. Communities are social, interactive, dynamic, and provide a context for individuals to subscribe, collaborate and contribute to. Communities source information from the bottom up as well as the top down. Communities have a pull relationship -- meaning the community pulls on users to contribute and users pull on the community to consume. The fact is that every piece of content and every person in your organization is part of some community whether you realize it or not. The largest and most open community is everyone in your organization and there are likely hundreds or thousands of sub-communities. Communities also provide a degree of openness in your organization. So if the information you wish to share has more defined security requirements, that’s when you manage it in a secure team site as opposed to a community.
Now I know what you're thinking -- "we have to have a hierarchical intranet portal". Really do you? Do you need it to be hierarchical? Sure you might need a directory for people or sites for easier navigation. You also need enhanced search capabilities as most people would rather search than browse. Just think about it -- is the public internet hierarchical? Does Google or Facebook or LinkedIn have any hierarchy? In comparison, you could look at Yahoo as a traditional portal -- static, boring, and a site people rarely view anymore. And that’s why Yahoo has lost market share and relevance today.
Let's face it -- for many of us Facebook is our "portal" on the public internet and something we visit 1 or more times a day because it's social and relevant to us personally. LinkedIn may be your “portal” into your professional life and network. Do you really need a traditional hierarchy of intranet sites and portals? Or is it more important to capture, share, and collaborate on information within the context of a community?