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Posted: 7/10/2013
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Universität Graz (University of Graz) University Enhances Collaboration, Idea Exchange with Social Media-Enriched Intranet

The University of Graz recently launched a new intranet to enable better research collaboration and administrative efficiencies. Employees use the social media features built into Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 to share expertise more easily and the powerful search engine to find information quickly. The new intranet is far less expensive to maintain than the previous mix of systems and helps the school attract social media–savvy workers.

The University of Graz, founded in 1585, is Austria’s second oldest university and one of the largest in the country, with 31,500 students and 3,900 employees. Many renowned scientists, including six Nobel laureates, have taught and researched there. The university is known nationally and internationally for its cutting-edge research, most of which is interdisciplinary in nature. Experts in various disciplines, faculties, and universities in the Graz area and beyond join their expertise and research to come up with insights and advances that a single department or university cannot produce alone.

* Thanks to SharePoint 2013, our employees can get to information within minutes…. This relieves researchers of the drudgery of locating information and gives them more time for research.” *

Stephan Leiter
Chief Information Officer,
University of Graz

However, researchers were sharing cutting-edge research using anachronistic methods. The university had no single intranet; rather, information was scattered across the university’s public website, on research team sites, and in file cabinets. Once employees had located needed information, they shared it by uploading files to FTP sites and by sending documents as email attachments. There was no ability to search the many information silos, and the IT staff had difficulty managing documents in so many different places. “We wanted our faculty to spend their time creating valuable new information, not looking for information, recreating work that others had already done, or figuring out how to share information,” says Stephan Leiter, Chief Information Officer of the University of Graz.

All employees struggled with paper-based business processes and communication tools to accomplish their jobs, which further hindered productivity. “We needed to think long term about the employees who would be knocking on our door in the future,” says Peter Obersteiner, IT Department Lead for Microsoft SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange at the University of Graz. “All employees will expect modern technology tools with social media capabilities.”

The University of Graz envisioned a powerful intranet where researchers could share information with colleagues, not only by posting documents but also by using modern social media tools. The intranet would also be a place where employees could handle routine business processes (such as ordering a computer) in an automated fashion.

Some departments and workgroups had used Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, so knew of its power as a collaboration platform. The university decided to deploy the latest version, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013, as its new intranet and social media platform. It worked with local IT provider and Microsoft Partner Network member icomedias and with Microsoft Services to create the architecture, design the site, and migrate content. The work began in December 2012 and completed in just 2.5 months.

Image of Peter Obersteiner, IT Department Lead for Microsoft SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange
Peter Obersteiner, IT Department Lead
for Microsoft SharePoint, Lync,
and Exchange, University of Graz
“Because we did not have SharePoint 2013 expertise on staff, nor staff to spare for this project, icomedias and Microsoft Services were invaluable in helping us meet our functional goals and timeline,” says Obersteiner. “Launching a site of this magnitude and breadth in a little more than two months was quite an accomplishment.”

The new University of Graz intranet provides one place where academic and administrative staff can manage documents centrally, share information, learn about university happenings, and take care of routine business processes. There is a news section that is fed from the university’s press department and “crowd pullers” such as cafeteria menus, public transportation timetables, and an events calendar. The intranet includes a technical information section for scheduling maintenance and service appointments, quick links to critical university applications, and an electronic bulletin board.

Image of Stephan Leiter, Chief Information Officer, University of Graz
Stephan Leiter,
Chief Information Officer,
University of Graz
However, the most exciting aspect of the intranet is its social media capabilities—newsfeeds, tagging, wikis, blogs, and presence—all standard features of SharePoint 2013. Every employee has a personal profile page where he or she uploads personal information and shares documents (all stored in SkyDrive Pro). Employees can search these pages to locate internal expertise on everything from research topics to software tips.

The university is taking advantage of the powerful search capabilities in SharePoint 2013 to deliver more targeted information discovery. “We have turned the whole search system on its head, away from expert searches for which you need some knowledge in the area you are investigating, and toward a practical search,” says Obersteiner. “Employees can begin to search very generally and across different areas. Then they can continue to refine the results list more intuitively, while tightening the filter even more by restricting the formats, attributions, and categorization. The possibility that you will find something usable multiplies.”

To further enhance information sharing, the university uses Microsoft Lync Server 2013 for instant messaging and videoconferencing, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for employee and student email messaging, and Microsoft Office 365 cloud productivity services for alumni email messaging. All these products and services work seamlessly with SharePoint Server.

SharePoint 2013 runs on the Windows Server 2012 Datacenter operating system, using that software’s Hyper-V technology for server virtualization, and uses Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise database software.

With their new intranet, University of Graz employees now have one central place to share documents and expertise. “Thanks to SharePoint 2013, our employees can get to information within minutes, whereas before they might search for days,” Leiter says. “This relieves researchers of the drudgery of locating information and gives them more time for research.”

Additionally, social media is forcing new forms of cooperation and collective learning. “With our new intranet, you can follow not only people but also themes or areas, and with that keep producing new aggregations of knowledge,” Leiter says. By using the Like option, employees can give colleagues a virtual “pat on the back,” which not only contributes to the reputation of active users but also helps establish new connections.

Because SharePoint 2013 connects smoothly with the university’s Microsoft Office productivity tools and other business applications, administrative employees can get to everything that they need from one place using one familiar interface. This helps them deliver prompt service to students and colleagues.

Reduced support costs are another benefit of the new centralized intranet. By having a single standardized collaboration environment, the university is able to reduce its collaboration system support costs by redirecting the efforts of one full-time staff person to higher value activities such as supporting users.

For the long term, the new powerful intranet improves the university’s ability to attract and retain top talent. With a modern information-sharing environment that is rich with social media savvy, the University of Graz can better attract modern workers who use these tools in their everyday lives and expect them at work.

Image of the University of Graz intranet
The University of Graz intranet provides one place for all employees to find university news, access applications, and search for and share documents and expertise.

Image of the University of Graz intranet. Employees can take care of routine business tasks.
Using the intranet, employees can take care of routine business processes, such as ordering a new computer, in an online, automated fashion.

SharePoint is the new way to work together. A simplified user experience helps you organize, sync, and share all your content. New social capabilities make it easy to share ideas, keep track of what your colleagues are working on, and discover experts you never knew existed.

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For More Information
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For more information about University of Graz products and services, visit the website at:

Solution Overview

Organization Profile

The University of Graz is a teaching and research university in Graz, Austria, that serves 31,500 students. Many excellent scientists, amongst them six Nobel laureates, have taught and researched there.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Business Productivity - Collaboration
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • SkyDrive Pro

Vertical Industries
Higher Education


Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Social Intranet

IT Issue
Document and Records Management


icomedias GmbH Microsoft Services