Are SharePoint Hub Sites Here To Replace The Traditional Intranet?

With the rollout of the new Hub Site feature for SharePoint online, we can see different use-cases getting explained, from grouping sites to replacing the traditional intranet to challenging the ready-made intranet products in the market.

In this article, we will look at whether great features are delivered by Hub Sites provide out of the box, whether it, being a traditional Intranet replacement, can really stand out as a challenge for the in-a-box products.  

What are Hub Sites & what you get?

Hub Site is highlighted as a site that can be used to pull multiple team & communication sites together. This brings all these sites together to roll up news and activity. Earlier in SharePoint, when we needed to aggregate the content from different sites, we had options of using web parts like content search or content query web part. They used to lie as a small section of your page. Hub Sites offer much here like a consistent navigation structure, look & feel, and a common search across all the sites. In a way, hub site offers a great way of bringing together & organizing the concepts, teams, divisions, or business units.

The SharePoint mobile app would also get an update to natively render hub sites & their pages, all features that a hub site offers & smooth navigation between the related sites.

The Workflow

The administrator creates a new Hub Site from SharePoint Admin Centre or using PowerShell. Site admins of Team sites & Communication sites can attach their site to the hub site. Multiple hub sites can be created on one tenant. You can attach your team site or communication site to only one hub site.

The other half of the story

Though hub sites offer great features, there are a few voids or a caution that we need to know before rolling this out within our organization for better usability.

  • Communication sites still lack the flexibility of publishing sites when it comes to content publishing & governance part is considered
  • The same set of data is shown on the hub site & in the individual team or communication site which makes the information redundant for the users
  • With multiple hub sites, and not able to attach one team/communication site to more than one hub site, you may need to really look how well the hierarchy hols good in your organization
  • If you are using a classic team site (I’m sure a lot of your sites are in classic mode), the navigation will appear only on the modern pages
  • If you have a SharePoint multi-geo setup, then only sites in same geolocation can be attached to a hub site (really an issue for large organizations)
  • The governance of the hub sites is something you need to really look in to. When users associate their sites, it doesn't impact the permissions of either the hub site or the associated sites. It's important to make sure all users you allow to associate sites to the hub site have permission to the hub site.
  • We are yet to know when hub sites will be available for on-premise. How hybrid scenarios would be is also a question. So if you are on-premise you are on a long wait.

So, coming back to the questions we had when we started,

Hub sites are really a great leap for small teams to bring together their multiple sites segregated in their workplace. Consider a sales unit spread across locations having one team site per location. Hub sites would be great for them consolidating the sales sites, seeing news across locations, search for content and able to navigate to different sites with ease.

Are hub sites a replacement for the traditional Intranets?

It’s going to be a big no; at-least for now. As Microsoft claims hub sites as, "a new building block of the intranet”, they are going to be a component of your intranet & not replace them for now. But hub sites are really going to fill a void that was there in SharePoint for a long time. We need to wait and watch for future releases to see how hub sites shape up and help improve our digital workplaces.