Harvard modernizes its intranet to optimize information & improve user experience



  • Centralized information
  • Agile methodology
  • Self-sufficient content creators
  • User experience optimization
  • Easy and secure file sharing with SharePoint
  • Seamless integration


Harvard is one of the oldest private universities in the United States, founded in 1636 in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is one of the most influential colleges in the world, and it is in the first position of the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

As part of an initiative to improve communication and collaboration among members of the Alumni Affairs & Development (AA&D) department, the University decided to redesign its Intranet. Definity First achieved a solution that made it possible to share updated information in a simple and secure way, promote the most relevant events, as well as having an availability of resources that enhanced efficiency in the process of collaboration and communication among the team.

Regaining trust: An optimized Intranet for communication and collaboration

The main challenge for the AA&D department was that users did not perceive their Intranet as a useful tool for finding or sharing information. Despite having the technological resources offered by an Intranet created on an O365/SharePoint platform, they were not managing to use them efficiently.

In addition to the technical challenge, a solution was required that would motivate users to regain confidence in the tool. With this purpose in mind, a "discovery" process was initiated to identify the causes as well as users' real needs. This information was key for designing a new Intranet that would become a reliable space to find valuable information and share resources for collaboration.

The strategy consisted of two stages with specific activities to deliver a tool that met the needs of the AA&D department and its users.

Stage 1: Discovery

To perform a detailed analysis of the situation, face-to-face interviews were conducted with key people in the department. The users' lack of knowledge and the lack of structure in the information made the users perceive the platform as obsolete and unreliable.

One of the main needs identified was having a platform to consult the most relevant upcoming events. The department is focused on alumni and donations, and its operation is fundamentally based on events. Hence the importance of having access to this information in an easy, fast, and clear manner.

There was also a need to share content of general interest such as news, press releases, access to applications for daily use, as well as to publish acknowledgments that would motivate people to continue contributing.

Main requirements

  • Facilitate navigation for users.
  • Updated and reliable information.
  • Show the most important events.
  • Share information of general interest in a quick and easy way.
  • Information security when sharing documents.
  • Efficient search process with access to internal content and contacts.

A graphic prototype was generated prioritizing components according to the importance that was transmitted by the users. For example, those related to information search and events were the highest priority, and they were highlighted within the prototype.

We received feedback from users on review sessions and decided that the best functional solution was to keep on working with O365/SharePoint as the platform for the creation of the new Intranet.

Additionally, a communication strategy was presented to recommend the Intranet as a means of collaboration along with other Microsoft platforms within its O365 suite:


OneDrive | Outlook | Teams | Planner

Stage 2: Implementation

In this second stage, the definition of the work plan began, using an agile methodology in which continuous releases were scheduled for the users.

Training is a fundamental part of an implementation process since users must be familiar with the operation and administration of the new tool in order to be able to use it correctly.

The client must be the main promoter of the tool and invite and motivate users to get to know it and drive adoption.

Other important features considered in the implementation were the accessibility of the site, including people with disabilities, and that it should be responsive. This means that all pages should be adapted to the available space so the visibility and reading should be optimal from any device.

The use of an agile methodology allows users to have functional deliverables throughout the duration of the project. This helped us identify improvement opportunities early and make adjustments that would give more value to users.

Harvard Intranet

The Source Intranet Benefits

  • A renewed and modernized Intranet that offers a better use and navigation experience for users.

  • A space for sharing relevant and interesting information, which centralizes all the data on the Intranet, reducing the use of e-mails and other inappropriate means of communication.
  • Predefined templates for content generation. This facilitates content creator's tasks. They only need to choose the type of content and tag it, helping to segment the information in the search process.
  • Information search that produces segmented results by different types of content. This facilitates finding what users are looking for, faster.
  • Self-sufficient content creators. They can create a page of content without requesting support from the IT team.
  • Up-to-date information, which avoids the problem of multiple versions that they previously had. Besides, users can be confident that they are always viewing the last published version.
  • Files and documents shared securely. Managing them from the Intranet makes it possible to define the user groups to which sensitive documents are addressed, as well as those for general use.
  • Integration with third-party applications to concentrate information on the Intranet without having to consult additional sites (Workfront and Harvard Gazette RSS).

The past year brought important changes to the education sector, as it accelerated the importance of establishing communication and connectivity plans based on digitalization.

In the specific case of Harvard University's Alumni Affairs & Development department, updating and optimizing its Intranet now allows this section to have a platform developed with collaborative technology that enhances all its services.

Do you have a problem that we can solve, or a project that we should chat about?

Contact Us