January 29, 2020
Re-imagining the Intranet in the Digital Workplace
How to Build the Best Intranet

How many of you have started your workday by going to your company Intranet to check out the latest news or get into one of your applications? Maybe you have a great Intranet and you’re happy with what it provides, but for many employees, their Intranet is a waste of time and something they rarely, if ever, visit. And that’s because traditional Intranets don’t work any longer. There is a better approach to delivering a useful Intranet; let’s take a look.

Even Gartner Agrees Traditional Intranets Are Dead

Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst, Gene Phifer, wrote a report on the evolution of Intranets saying that a modern intranet is a key ingredient in the digital workplace. The keyword here is “modern.” Traditional Intranets, he wrote, offer limited functionality related to basic content management and are built on old technology. For some companies, this might be an old version of SharePoint or an older Web CMS.

“90% of Intranets fail to achieve their goals.”

Phifer said you have to reimagine your intranet and its place in the digital workplace. Some of the key capabilities a modern Intranet should provide include:

  • Content Management (of course), but not just basic content management. Think advanced workflow features, headless APIs, and the ability to integrate and aggregate content from other systems
  • Shared file updating
  • Team collaboration and ad hoc messaging
  • Employee Communications
  • Search and Insights
  • Integration with business applications, including office productivity tools like MS Office, or Google G Suite
  • Knowledge management

Those are just some of the capabilities you need to build an effective Intranet if you want to ensure adoption. Now you aren’t likely to find an out of the box Intranet solution that provides everything Gartner says you need and they agree. What you do need is a foundational technology that serves as the platform for the Intranet you will build. This platform must be agile and flexible so that you can integrate other tools and technology that either supplement or complement that platform’s capabilities. One example of a foundational technology is an agile content management system or a digital experience platform.

Why is an agile content management system a good platform for your Intranet? In this report, Gartner states that a modern Intranet both consumes and produces services. That is, your Intranet is not just a website; it provides services that can be shared with other places, like a business application, or a mobile app – all the places your employees might need to access information from the Intranet.

An agile CMS enables this sharing of content and other information via a headless API, while also enabling many of the built-in features needed on the Intranet itself, including those Gartner recommends as the most important functionality to look for in the foundational technology:

  • Content management
  • Search and insights
  • Integration
  • Personalization
  • Site design/UX tools
  • Security

Focusing on Employee Experience

Most of the time companies talk about the customer experience, but the employee experience is equally important. A bad employee experience lowers the ability for employees to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, and that, in turn, affects the customer.

Gartner suggests that companies create employee personas and create employee journeys to help understand how to best build an Intranet employees will adopt and love.

In the Nielson Norman Group’s 10 Best Intranets of 2020: What Makes Them Great:

“The greatest theme this year was to build a platform that included all teams, individuals, and tools. Intranet teams and the organizations they support realize the value of inclusiveness, collaboration, and consolidation.”

The idea is that departments don’t operate in a bubble and it’s important to see what other departments and groups are doing, what tools they use, what they are working on, in addition to corporate news, leadership, communications and rich employee profiles. Providing this view of all departments helps build strong relationships across the company – which in turn should help build better customer experiences.

One of the top Intranets was from the Angelini Group who developed a unique and inclusive group identity to “overcome organizational divisions and integrate the faraway countries, increase sharing and collaboration on projects and cross-functional processes, and stimulate innovation and digital culture within employees.”

Other winning Intranets did things like:

  • Organized tools and microsites on a single platform
  • Improved collaboration and productivity across the company
  • Built a “sense of community”
  • Mobile-enabled all information

There is one more thing that makes an Intranet great, and that’s content governance. In the Gartner report, Phifer talks about the need to clean your content out before you implement your modern intranet. The last thing you need is to kick off a new Intranet with a lot of outdated information or connections to applications no longer used. With a goal to bring together disconnected department or group Intranets from across a company, it’s the perfect time to clean your content and put in place content processes that ensure information is always fresh.

You might also like: From Business Case to Project: Implementing Your Intranet.

The Evolution of Intranet Software

As companies begin the process of re-imagining their company Intranet, they will need to re-evaluate their existing Intranet software. Traditional Intranet software cannot provide all the capabilities needed to build an Intranet that employees will look to as their go-to resource for communication, collaboration, and access to business systems.

If you decide to develop personas and create employee journeys, make sure you use them to define the requirements for your Intranet. Take all department needs into consideration as well, including how employees work and the tools they use. Think about how employees need to work together across departments and ensure you design an Intranet that enables and streamlines that collaboration.

Once you have all this done, then it’s time to look at Intranet software, including the foundational technology Gartner refers to. To help, take a look at our Intranet Buyer’s Guide, which includes suggestions for how to buy an Intranet technology.

Posted by David Hillis