Where Omnia overlaps with SharePoint and 365

Where does Omnia Intranet end and SharePoint Online begin?

January 13, 2021
Omnia Intranet
SharePoint

The product category that Omnia Intranet falls into is often called “intranet in a box.” Including Omnia Intranet, Valo Intranet and Powell 365, these products are installed on top of, or alongside, Microsoft SharePoint Online, to expand or enhance its capabilities.

Although they add on to SharePoint, these products don't reinvent the wheel. Where SharePoint does something well, Omnia and its competitors piggyback on the capability instead of recreating it. Good examples of where SharePoint is strong (because Microsoft has invested so many millions of dollars over many years) include document management, teamwork and enterprise search.

This raises a question that we hear from all of our Omnia Intranet customers: if we’ve got an Omnia Intranet backed by our SharePoint Online tenant, where does Omnia end and SharePoint begin? We’ve answered this question below by breaking down your Digital Workplace into its constituent parts and zooming in on the product underneath.

Web CMS (content management system)

This is the core functionality of an all-company intranet—functionality that did not make the jump from Classic SharePoint to the Modern experience. Some people call this set of features “CMS” (Content Management System) or “Web CMS”; Microsoft called it “Publishing,” and it is still available, but only in Classic Sites.

In Modern Sites (Communication Sites and Team Sites), there is of course still a webpage engine for displaying content, web parts, images and so on; but the features listed below are no longer available.

In Omnia, these features are front and centre, and very strong (and user friendly). They include:

  1. Page Type (layout/template) system
  2. Separate Author and Designer roles
  3. Page approvals and scheduling
  4. Ability to lock down Page zones
  5. Important alert banners at top of page
  6. Shared and personal links

Interestingly, for every page in Omnia, a twin is created in the Pages Library in a Modern SharePoint Site. However this is basically just a stub, and is kept up to date by Omnia mostly so that SharePoint Search can find the page (see Search below for more information).

Team collaboration, including live chat

These capabilities (chat, telephony, group meetings and whiteboarding, task sharing), targeted at smaller groups within an organization, are where Microsoft has been making its heaviest investments in recent years (Teams, Office 365 Groups, Modern Team Sites, etc.). So Omnia and the other intranet-in-a-box vendors do not rewrite this functionality, but rather enhance it with things like

  1. Better organization and classification of Teams
  2. A layer of governance, with controlled creation, templating, and more
  3. Bringing pertinent Team content closer to the surface (directly in the intranet) to make Team content easier to find (for example, documents, events and conversations)

Document management

A second area where Omnia adds enhancements to SharePoint Online. All document storage and securing is handled by familiar SharePoint Document Libraries. Omnia seamlessly integrates the documents into its cleaner interface, and adds:

  1. A layer of governance, including a “Controlled Documents” feature and document templating
  2. Cleaner, more attractive views of documents, including tiles
  3. Search-powered “Document Rollups” to bring together documents from different Libraries in flexible ways

People profiles, directories and search

Once again, the actual storage and management of People Profiles and Properties is done in the back end using the powerful SharePoint User Profile system (which in turn is fed by your corporate Active Directory). But Omnia enhances this with features like the People Rollup, a souped-up “cards” view of your people which is highly configurable. Omnia also adds a bit of gamification to profile completion, with a highly configurable “completion scoring” system similar to that of LinkedIn.

Search

Search in Omnia is SharePoint Search, but the results are styled for the Omnia world. Users see UI for Quick Search and Advanced Search, either from the top Office 365 search bar or the Omnia flyout side panel. Intranet owners can configure any number of search result categories in addition to the default ones of Pages, Documents and People.

Navigation

Omnia has its own, style-able megamenu bar that is dynamically driven based on the structure of your main Page Collection. It is much more attractive than the standard navbars in SharePoint Sites.

But what happens when users leave the Omnia intranet to, say, enter a SharePoint Team Site for the project they’re currently working on? The good news is that the experience should be quite seamless, because

  1. The Office 365 suite bar at the top of all Microsoft 365 properties is recreated within Omnia – the experience looks the same to users.
  2. The Omnia megamenu can be carried over to replace the default navbar in your SharePoint Sites, so it all looks like one website.
  3. The Omnia megamenu can also be injected in the Microsoft Teams client, so that wherever they happen to be, users are grounded with the same navigation options.

Metadata (tags, content types)

To classify and identify content to make it easer to find, Omnia has its own built-in Properties database. And although Omnia integrates into the SharePoint metadata system to share tags back and forth, Omnia’s solution is far simpler to manage. Page authors can create infinitely filtered, grouped and sorted lists of Pages, images, events, files or people using Rollups that are driven by this metadata.

Events

Omnia does not rewrite the calendaring features of SharePoint and Exchange Online. Instead, as with Teams, it surfaces events into the Omnia interface, and adds enhancements like a company-event registration system, with:

  1. Event search and self-registration/signup
  2. Attendee management
  3. Waitlists

Media (images and video)

As a Content Management System, Omnia has its own media manager for handling images and video. These can be displayed on-page in the Media block, or embedded in a Text block or Banner. There are multiple methods to store the media, one of which could be a SharePoint image library (this is the one overlap between the products in this case). Other potential sources of the media include the page author’s desktop, the web, free stock image site Pexels.com, and Stream or YouTube for videos.

There are other areas of overlap between Omnia Intranet and the Microsoft Cloud, but this post should have given you a good high-level overview of where the line is drawn between the two products.

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