TMCnet Feature
July 01, 2021

8 essential things your intranet should do

What does an intranet do? Or more specifically, what should your intranet do?

As consumers, we’re accustomed to the rapid developments of technology – the flurry of new developments, updates, features. With constant anticipation around the ‘next Big Thing’, it’s easy to overlook the original purpose of what your software should do.

Bells and whistles are great, but if your tech doesn’t fulfill its core role, it’s doomed. An intranet can come with an impressive feature list, but without adhering to your original strategy of what you want to achieve, these add-ons are irrelevant.

With this in mind, we explore eight things a company intranet must do in order to provide value to a business — and the features and functionality that support those goals.

  1. Helps get work done NOW

An organization relies on people performing their roles and getting work done. Intranet software should serve as a tool to make this process more efficient and help users complete their tasks.

At its most basic level an intranet is there to solve problems. Whatever the challenge — the need to get expenses paid, to deal with a certain customer, to understand return-to-work benefits or find somebody that speaks Spanish — users should be able to go to the intranet, and resolve the issue.

Take away: Does your intranet make it easier for your users to do their jobs? Consider their core needs, roles, and requirements, and whether your intranet helps — or hinders — these.

2. Focus on user needs and different communities

Organizations are, by nature, diverse and made up of individuals — each with unique roles, requirements, skillsets and objectives to achieve. So, when it comes to your intranet strategy, it is critical to focus on user needs, rather than business needs alone.

Within this framework, we need to be conscious of the range of different communities within any organization. What one user requires isn’t what another user needs: each employee is looking to get something different from their intranet experience. Identifying the key stakeholders for your intranet, and their needs, is fundamental to its success.

Take away: Have you considered the unique, individual needs of your users and the communities they form? Do you offer the right features, functionality and capacity to tailor their intranet experience?

3. Align with your business objectives

While a focus on the end users of your intranet is vital, it is also equally important to ensure your intranet serves a strategic purpose within your organization.

So often, we talk to business leaders in a company and discover that the objectives of their intranet aren’t aligned to the objectives of the business. Without this direction and alignment to your goals, your intranet won’t deliver value.

Ask yourself these simple questions. If you can’t answer them, it’s likely your intranet won’t benefit your company:

  • What are your long-term, strategic objectives as a business, and what role could — or does — your intranet play in achieving those?
  • Is your intranet aligned to the objectives of each individual business unit?
  • How do you measure the success of your intranet? Do you have benchmarks in place to gauge ongoing performance?
  • Do you have the buy-in of senior management for your intranet?
  • Do you regularly review your objectives?
  • For example, if your strategic goal is for international expansion, does your intranet support a globalized workforce? Does it enable remote access, facilitate collaboration across different time zones, and offer the correct features and tools for different offices?

Take away: Your intranet is a business tool. Ensure it has defined objectives that align to your overall business goals and direction.

4. Cater to mobile and remote workforces

With more employees than ever outside the office, people need to be able to work on whatever device they are on, wherever they are. Think about the needs of your company. What will people want to do on their mobile? How can we support them with completing work and tasks on-the-go? Will they be able to access vital information or applications without restriction, regardless of their location, device or form of connection?

Then consider the tools they will need and provide those tools in a ‘mobile-first’ platform that works for them.

Take away: Workforces are mobile. Ensure you are able to meet their needs and provide access to the essential tools and information they require to do their roles effectively.

5. Deliver a great user experience

Your intranet is there to provide value to your employees, after all they are the end-users. As such, they will expect the same level of performance from their intranet as any other consumer-grade technologies they use, to the point that the user experience (UX) should be almost taken for granted.

To this end your user experience must be seamless, intuitive and visually appealing. For example, does your home page navigation allow users to quickly identify where they need to go? Is the taxonomy of content areas unwieldy, are there too many unnecessary clicks or is it difficult to get to the information they need?

How easy is it for even non-technical users to create content? Is the interface intuitive and simple to use? Does it allow for different file formats — for example, enabling authors to upload Word, Excel, PDF files, and add images, videos or links to their content?

Take away: Place user experience at the top of your priority list and invest in intranet strategy services to ensure you deliver.

6. Embrace enterprise social networking — according to your business needs and culture

Enterprise social tools are here to stay and offer many advantages for most companies. However, they aren’t appropriate in all cases. Don’t push social features onto your company — at least, not until you are ready and it aligns with your culture.

In our experience, the most successful enterprise social networks have a clear purpose within the company, engage people over different disciplines, and are embraced as part of the overall business culture. If you’ve not had a social collaboration platform before, launching all social features from day one, without addressing cultural barriers, will probably fail.

Take away: Understand that not everyone in your company will contribute. People have different roles in a social intranet, and you need to find ways to encourage these people.

7. Allow people to self-serve

Ultimately, enabling your people to self-serve is essential for intranet success. So, allowing your users to build their own areas to collaborate, create forms, add events and more gives you a greater chance of adoption. The important thing to remember is that ‘teams’ in the modern-day workplace are agile and diverse.

This calls for a range of different spaces where groups can connect, communicate and complete business tasks — and can’t be defined by traditional role-specific teams. For example, you may have a team space linked to a particular project, or around a common interest or area of expertise.

Take away: Encourage your users to take ownership of your intranet. Make sure your platform is easy to use and allows employees to create their own collaborative spaces — whether for certain projects, team structures or even common interests.

8. Be proud to be an intranet

The development and investment in workplace tools and tech have seen a massive increase in recent years. In turn, intranets have been the focus of substantial innovation and growth. In an age of enterprise social networking, cloud storage and instant messaging, we’ve been asked whether intranets are still relevant and what role they can — or should — play in business communications.

Let’s consider what, at its most basic level, an intranet is.

An intranet is a powerful enabler to solve an employee’s need, offering timely and relevant information and support. It helps connect individuals, regardless of time zone, location, or device. It empowers employees with a voice and offers a means to tap into the knowledge of an organization. What’s more, in an increasingly challenging and dispersed workplace, it helps build and support a successful business culture.

Given the value placed on employee engagement, we would argue intranets are now more relevant than ever. Is the intranet here to stay? Should we call it something different? We believe there is no better way to describe a collection of tools that allow communication, business processes and collaboration than an intranet. So be proud of it — call it an intranet.

Take away: There are a huge variety of tools and applications available to facilitate communication and collaboration. The intranet is a collective, a facilitator, a portal that brings together all these different tools, features and applications. In today’s marketplace, it is more relevant and valuable than ever before.

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