Silversands guides Optivo to build a better SharePoint intranet

Organisation Background

Optivo is one of the largest affordable housing providers in the UK, with over 45,000 homes and 90,000 tenants across London. Optivo invests heavily in neighbourhood community programmes, helping its residents with training, careers advice, financial and digital inclusion so they can develop their potential and live their best lives.





  • Existing ‘Connect’ intranet was inflexible, difficult to update, and presented a poor user experience.
  • Optivo team did not have the experience to design and build the new intranet.
  • Silversands  ‘SharePoint Intranet Envisioning Accelerator’ was seen as the ideal way forward.
  • Silversands knowledge and experience was passed to Optivo through several interactive workshops and follow-up sessions.
  • The Optivo comms team developed the new OptiNet intranet, using the knowledge gained from the workshops.
  • The resulting ‘Optinet’ intranet is easier to navigate, better to search and more attractive to the users.
  • The content admins find the site easier to manage and update.
  • Optivo is very happy with the end result and found the Silversands input invaluable. 

The Challenge

Like most organisations, Optivo uses an intranet to communicate with its staff. Known as Connect, the original Optivo intranet was built on SharePoint 2013.

In 2017, following an organisational merger, SharePoint Online services began to be integrated into the intranet.  This hybrid SharePoint on-premises/online intranet continued to be used for many years but there were several issues, including:

  • Various sites and information were not joined up
  • Searching for content was very difficult
  • Navigation and usability were poor
  • Updating the site was difficult, time-consuming and inflexible
  • It was not possible to make full use of the power of SharePoint Online and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

Essentially, the intranet was not suited to Optivo’s requirements, so in 2020, and as part of a wider strategic vision for collaboration and comms across the organisation, the comms team decided to re-think the entire solution.  They looked at several options, including some non-Microsoft solutions, but ultimately decided that SharePoint Online would be the most appropriate path.

Since the comms team did not have a wide experience in intranet design, they determined that external assistance would be desirable. Optivo already had a relationship with Silversands and so we were asked for our advice.

The Solution

To support Optivo’s requirement and based on their existing skills and knowledge, we suggested our Modern SharePoint Intranet Envisioning accelerator would be the best option. This is a self-contained offering, designed to provide organisations like Optivo with knowledge, advice and guidance, which can feed into a solution development using internal resources. It is an archetypal example of the ‘teach them to fish’ principle.

The accelerator process primarily encompasses several workshops, covering the various topics that are relevant to an intranet design.

Delivered over a few weeks, the workshops covered:

  • Design and navigation
  • Search
  • Personalisation
  • Site architecture
  • Summary/wrap-up and Q&A.

In each workshop, the Silversands consultant helped to uncover the key requirements, provided advice based on their years of SharePoint experience, and demonstrated configuration and solution development practices to illustrate and reinforce the topics.

After each workshop, the Optivo team would go away to develop their new intranet, based on the discussions and information provided by the Silversands consultant. If they needed further help with the development, they would make use of a support contract to speak to a consultant or developer.

At the end of the process, the team had gained enough knowledge to successfully develop and deliver the new Optivo intranet, OptiNet.

The Result

Before the project started, the Optivo comms team had limited knowledge and experience of intranet design and the envisioning process was invaluable in helping them to understand how to design and build an effective intranet on SharePoint Online.

The resulting intranet, OptiNet, is a significant improvement over the previous version and offers many benefits:

  • It is much easier and more flexible to update content
  • Search is improved and is available across the whole site
  • Navigation is improved
  • The look & feel of the site is more attractive to the users
  • The intranet is more intuitive for both users and content admins.

The comms team surveyed the users both before and after the project, and the results clearly show a significant improvement has been achieved.

Since the most important aspect of any intranet is how the users engage with it, the OptiNet project can clearly be counted as a success.  Furthermore, the comms team has gained valuable knowledge and experience to support ongoing development and improvements.

You can learn more about this project in this Optivo video.

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