Gearing up for a SharePoint Intranet in 2020

There have been some fantastic releases for SharePoint Online throughout the year which are really gearing us up to a fantastic intranet in 2020. We have lots of web parts which provide mobile responsiveness to our content, and the ability to link our sites together in a Hub Site to provide brand consistency and a global navigation between then.

These are a few of the key steps which I am taking to get ready for a world class intranet using SharePoint Online.

Replacing the Classic Root Site

It was always a bit of a joke that we could create amazing modern pages with SharePoint Online but we were always a hostage to the classic site that sat at the very root of the tenancy, mocking us with its Master Pages and Web Part Zones.
In September, Microsoft released the Site Swap capability, which finally allowed me to replace my classic root site with a modern Communication Site which means that from the very first entry into SharePoint, my intranet is now completely modern.

At Ignite in 2019, Microsoft announced that this feature was going to be available as a function in the SharePoint Admin Center, but unfortunately at the time of writing this has not rolled through to UK tenancies. Therefore I'll just recap the PowerShell method for performing this action for now and will update again when I get my hands on the UI version.

Whilst the Site Swap action can be used to change any sites, I'm going to use it to replace my classic root site with a Communication Site.

First thing I need to do is fire up a PowerShell environment, for this I am using VSCode. Once that's done, I need to connect to the admin site for my SharePoint Online tenancy using the Connect-SPOService commandlet.

Once connected to my tenancy, I can use the Invoke-SPOSiteSwap commandlet to effectively move a new site to the root, and then move the old site to an archive location. Therefore I need to give it three pieces of information:

  • Source Url - The URL of the site that you want to place at the root of your tenancy
  • Target Url - The URL of the site that you want to replace
  • Archive Url - The URL where the replaced site will be moved to

The amount of time this takes will vary depending on the amount of data being moved around, and I have heard of some people waiting an hour or so for this to complete. My experience of this is that I've waiting a couple of minutes. As long as you're not seeing errors coming back in your PowerShell then it's chugging away doing what it needs to do.

When the commandlet finally completes, I will now see my Communication Site available on my root URL.
Now that I have replaced my root site with something modern, I can start to look at the new exciting addition to SharePoint Online, the Home Site.

Setting the Home Site

The Home Site is designed to take a SharePoint Communication site and make it the true home for your SharePoint Intranet. This site now becomes much more integrated with the SharePoint start page, allowing branding theming, header, footer and navigation elements to be shown on the start page. You can find the full documentation on the Microsoft Site: Set up a home site for your organization.

Again, to set up a Home Site I need to jump back to my PowerShell environment to run the Set-SPOHomeSite commandlet. The only parameter that I need to provide to it is the URL of the site that I want to be declared as my Home Site.
This may take a small amount of time, but when it completes then there will be a couple of changes which I will now notice.

First of all, on the communication site which I used as my Home Site, I have an additional link in the navigation titled "My SharePoint" which will navigate me to the traditional SharePoint start page.

On the SharePoint start page, the branding, navigation and footer which I had created on my communication site are also now displayed on the Home Site.
Now my intranet and the wider functionality provided by the SharePoint start page are starting to become intertwined, which means that no matter which way my users enter SharePoint, they will be able to get to my home page.

The main gotcha that I've come across so far is that even though my Home Site may also be a Hub Site, the hub navigation does not permeate through to the start page.

But despite this drawback, I'm really happy to see that the content which I own is now being combined with the advanced functionality which Microsoft provide, and will look forward to seeing how this improves in the next year.


SharePoint Online provides a mobile responsive platform on which I can create my intranet, however in the past these have always been located on a site collection which sits "below" the classic root site. 

Earlier in the year, Microsoft released the PowerShell commandlet to swap two sites, which will allow me to create a new modern site, and then replace the old classic site. The way that the site swap works is that it will take the old site and archive it on another address before reassigning the new site to the target URL.

Microsoft have also included the ability to define a site as being a Home Site, a site which will become integrated with the SharePoint start screen and therefore starts to pull together my content with the pages which Microsoft provide. It will allow my header, navigation and footer content to be displayed on the home page making my intranet much more accessible from all areas of SharePoint,

I'm really looking forward to seeing how the intranet tools continue to improve in the coming year.

As always, I hope this blog has been found useful, and I welcome any feedback.