Oliver Chan from Cloud2

Author: Oliver Chan

Guest article: James Dellow, Digital strategist, collaboration consultant and human-centred designer from Digital Workplace Company

Hadron digital workplace review, by James Dellow

These days intranet solutions for SharePoint come in all sorts of flavours, however many of them are intended only to solve internal communication needs or, in other cases, have been intentionally designed to hide the complexity of SharePoint behind a custom interface.

Cloud2, on the other hand, is committed to solving a range of content, collaboration, and business process needs and is genuinely excited about using SharePoint as a platform for their flagship intranet solution, Hadron.

To learn more about Cloud2’s approach I recently connected with Simon Hudson in a Skype for Business call to talk about what makes Hadron different and to see their latest version 8 release in action.

I’ve worked with a lot of different workplace productivity technologies over the years, and I wanted to understand from Simon, not just the functionality offered by Hadron, but how these capabilities deliver value and solve business problems. In setting the scene for the demo, Simon was quick to highlight that Cloud2 treat the implementation of a new intranet using Hadron as a journey with their customers. In the beginning, Cloud2 want to implement an intranet quickly enough that the requirements are still valid by the time they launch. But once that first step is completed, SharePoint combined with Hadron can then be transformed into a platform for addressing other business challenges.

Cloud2 can achieve this using Hadron because they provide a solution that they have designed and continue to develop to meet 80% of typical business needs out of the box.

Hadron does this by adding five pillars of essential capabilities across content, communication, collaboration, people, and business process to a vanilla SharePoint site. These capabilities are intended to help make it easier to get work done when managing content, connecting with the right people, and supporting information flows.

The 5 pillars
The 5 pillars

While internal communications might not be the only use case for an intranet, it is often a core requirement. I like that Hadron provides a digital workplace “hub” as a home page for users, which combines featured news with access to relevant documents, tools and apps. Putting news together with the things that people want to use on a daily basis can help make an intranet “sticky”, and I’m an advocate for making intranets vital not just exciting.

Hadron screenshot
Hadron screenshot

Hadron also supports site-wide alerts and news can be targeted at different audience groups. And it offers social features, so users can comment on, like, and share news and documents.

However, I think the real power in Hadron is the way it is designed to help an organisation manage information in SharePoint. From a user’s perspective, Hadron’s information architecture is built around a set of easy to understand places where documents can be stored and shared with others - a corporate document centre, a team centre, a project centre (an optional add-on), and staff and communications centre and a knowledge centre. Any other personal or work in progress documents are store in OneDrive.

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of using metadata in SharePoint, Hadron’s model does away with the need for users to understand complicated SharePoint site and folder structures by instead assigning keywords to categorise pieces of information. This approach to organising information underpins Hadron’s ability to pull data to where it is needed.

The benefit for users is that it makes it easier to store and find information later. From a findability perspective, Hadron uses this meta-data to surface content in the right places and improve the out of the box search functionality in SharePoint. In the advanced search interface, users can narrow down search results based on business content types and tags. I also like the clever use of colour coding to help users quickly identify different types of documents in search results.

This focus on information management provides a foundation for a layer of different content features, such as site templates, workflow, and forms. Hadron also provides enhanced library formats, layouts, and views and navigation tiles that all make extensive use of the same metadata. The lifecycle of controlled documents, like policies and procedures, can also be managed efficiently.

Clinical processes
Clinical processes

Simon explained that Cloud2’s perspective is that while organisations might have similar functions, such as HR, they organise their activities and business processes differently. Hadron provides them with a flexible framework for solving the information management challenges that are common to all (the 80%) but delivered in a way that is unique to each of their customers (the remaining 20%). This approach is also why Hadron includes a starter taxonomy, which can then be tailored and extended further.

Similarly, they avoid developing in SharePoint, and instead, they configure or use modern web frameworks to create lightweight solutions. If a customer has a need that might be used by others they can incorporate it into Hadron, or if there are third-party tools available that are easy to integrate, they are happy to utilise them as well.

Cloud2 also realise that people are a critical component of business processes. The optional Connect module extends a weak area of SharePoint and provides a tool that enables you to find other people based on skills, knowledge, locations, and teams. I thought the concept of location profiles in Hadron is also fascinating, as this reflects the importance of place in organisational structures and how people access the resources connected to a specific location.

Hadron Connect
Hadron Connect
Hadron Connect: Locations
Hadron Connect: Locations

While I’ve focused a lot what I think is Hadron’s core strength, there are a few other things worth mentioning about Cloud 2 and Hadron that caught my attention:

Hadron has introduced a new “Chatbot” tool, which provides a conversational interface to connect users with the right content and can be extended with additional questions and answers.

Hadron includes a nifty slide-in content area feature, called the “Content Blade”, that helps to reduce page clutter by providing a secondary place to store supporting content or access to related tools.

Cloud 2 can also provide tools to help migrate documents from traditional file shares to Hadron’s metadata driven storage in SharePoint.

And finally, I like that Cloud 2 provide their customers with access to a resource centre, where they share practical knowledge to help them get more out of Hadron and keep up with changes in Office 365 and SharePoint Online.

Chatbot in the Hadron Blade
Chatbot in the Hadron Blade

I’m glad I took the time to learn more about Hadron from Simon and get beyond the surface features (although I do like the “Content Blade” and use of “Chatbots”). Cloud2 want to help their customers solve business problems with SharePoint using Hadron, by empowering users to improve the flow of information through their organisations.

I think Hadron would particularly suit medium-sized and large organisations that recognise the value of managing information well. It is less likely to satisfy those looking for a solution to solve primarily for internal communication requirements through SharePoint but has enough functionality to meet essential needs for branding, mobile access, news feeds, and social interaction as part of a suite of capabilities.

About James Dellow

James is an independent human-centred designer and a technology strategist, specialising in technologies that help people connect, communicate and collaborate with each other. He has helped clients with vendor selection and has worked with SharePoint as a consultant advising on strategy, governance, information architecture and content management.

He is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in publications such as CMS Wire, maintains a directory of intranet solutions for SharePoint and Office 365, and was part of the review team for Clearbox Consulting’s 2017 and 2018 editions of their SharePoint intranets in-a-box report.

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