Calendar-Based Information is a key foundation for Intranets
Businesses need to share multiple types of date-based (calendar) information with their employees. Most of us have at least three categories of dates we publish to our staff.
- Official Company Events, such as all-employee meetings, important HR paperwork deadlines, and social events.
- Notices and Alerts, to let people know about operational activities, such as IT's maintenance windows, facility issues like out-of-order services, and important on-site visitors.
- Employee Announcements, such as new hire start-dates, employment anniversary dates, assignment transitions, promotions, and employee birthdays.
An important part of an intranet’s job is to get this information out of eMail, and deliver it in a relevant and easily consumable way--Consolidating it down to a What’s Happening This Week or Today’s Events area on the Home Page.
While we need this information front & center, we also need to keep some lines of demarcation between the category buckets. People think about each of these buckets differently, and each has its own levels of urgency. Notices & Alerts are likely to change regularly throughout the day. Company Events aren’t changing as frequently; but when they do, it is important everyone knows about them. And for most of us, the employee announcements only need to be checked once a week or so.
Each of the events have multiple related categories, tags or metadata. A lot of value can be extracted from this metadata. When embraced by the organization, it is an important and easily accessed record of activities eliminating the need for anyone to manage their own archive of this info--which we all know many people do.
SharePoint Doesn’t handle this in a Modern & fluid way yet
Unfortunately, SharePoint’s Modern functionality hasn’t yet delivered an easy way to manage this information natively. Today’s SharePoint Event Calendar is a Modern wrapper on legacy functionality. The Modern list, library and page functionality that many of us now rely on, hasn’t yet been introduced to Calendars. I have my fingers crossed that it will reach calendars at some point soon, but there isn’t confirmation from MS, other than “we’re thinking about it.”
Metadata and flexibility to reveal this information in different ways on a page, are where I see the biggest foundational gaps today. The updated Event web part looks nice, but if you open-up the hood, it is still the same old lawn-mower engine in there. If Modern SharePoint is a sportscar (which I think it is), Events are a Karmen Ghia, not a Porsche.
So how can we deliver this important functionality today?
I’ve gone through each of the approaches available, tested them, analyzed them, and come-up with the approach that I think is best. It is a native O365 solution, it keeps the data clean, and it should support an easy transition to whatever solution Microsoft delivers in the future to solve the calendar gaps.
During the process, I tracked my exploration using a MindMap flowchart, which I’m sharing here in case you're interested in seeing the pros & cons of the various approaches..
There’s really two parts to this issue:
- Data entry
- Revealing the right information in an easily consumable format on a SharePoint page
In my idealized scenario, I've segregated major categories of events with separate communication sites for each. This allows you to maintain News articles and calendars that are separate and still retain the single native “Category” calendar field for “sub-categories" (shown here).