If you work with SharePoint or you are about to bring a SharePoint based intranet site into your company, you will be forced to wrestle with a question most SharePoint folks simply overlook. What do you call your SharePoint site? While it may seem like a small detail when faced with all the technical challenges and options that SharePoint presents, it can end up being a huge barrier to adoption if done incorrectly. Here are my 5 tips for naming your SharePoint based intranet site.

1) Don’t call it “SharePoint”

Inevitably in every SharePoint project someone gets the idea that we should just call it SharePoint and not even try to come up with our own name or our own branding. There are many reasons not to call your intranet “SharePoint” or sharepoint.companyname.com I will cover 3:

By the time you are done, your intranet landing page will probably not look “like SharePoint” in fact if it still looks “like SharePoint” you probably did something wrong. Your users shouldn’t know or care if it’s SharePoint, Drupal, JBoss, or anything else for that matter. (I will admit that if you are also using SharePoint for collaboration, that the user will probably know that it’s SharePoint, but for the Intranet they shouldn’t care)

If your company's current intranet is built on Oracle, do people call it "Oracle”? What about before that when it was built on .Net, did they call it the ".Net”? So why would you call it SharePoint?

In many organizations, SharePoint has been attempted in the past and it was a seen as a failure. This is usually because IT found a disc labeled “SharePoint” and decided, “what the heck let’s give this a shot” without any actual planning or preparation. But of course if you are reading this blog you probably have a dedicated team in place and are going to do it right this time. So why let previous bad experiences spoil the image of your new product that you are working so hard on.

2) K.I.S. – Keep it Simple

The Intranet name should be simple and preferably short. It should not be easily confused with another similar word (i.e. don’t call it “Workplace” if your organization also uses the term “Workspace” or no one will ever keep them straight). It should be short and easy to spell, avoid words that are unfamiliar or come from another language…if a user can’t spell it, they won’t go there.

-a side note- I like using simply “Portal” or portal.companyname.com I have seen several organization use it for their SharePoint based intranet sites successfully, but as Kevin Keogh points out (http://blogs.captechconsulting.com/blog/kevin-keogh/portal-any-other-name) the word “portal” can have different meaning for different people.

3) Try this exercise

If your efforts are successful it will become widely adopted and used in casual conversation. One consideration that you may want to keep in mind is how it will sound when coworkers are taking about it. Example conversation:

You: Where can I find that HR Form?

Your Colleague: “It’s on The Wire” or “Look for it on iConnect

If you have a couple names in mind try them out in casual conversation, if they don’t make sense look for a new name.

4) Get input from people outside your project team

You may have come up with the greatest name in the history of intranets, it could be perfect-short, catchy, sounds great in conversation- but if you haven’t gotten buy in from your stakeholders it’s useless. That perfect name that you are so proud of may also be the name of a huge multiyear initiative that happens to be the CEO’s pet project. If you haven’t gotten at least a tacit approval from the top brass you may be forced to change the name 6 months into the project costing you valuable time.

One suggestion is to have a contest where users submit names and the winning entry gets a prize. Another suggestion is to provide four or five options and having users (or at least your governance committee) vote on their favorite. Crowdsourcing the naming of the site can help users feel more ownership and gets them involved earlier in the process.

5) Consider you culture

Is your organization an innovative, progressive company? Then get creative and call it something abstract like the “The Buzz” (perhaps a coffee company). If you are a more conservative, financial institution then you may be safer going with something a little more generic, like portal.companyname.com or companynameNet (this can work for short or abbreviated company names).

Whatever you choose to name your site, keep it consistent in all your communications to users and you should have one less adoption challenge to deal with.