In the past, the main goal of intranets was to provide information and documents from the management and HR to the employees. They usually worked one way, so employees could get the information they needed, but communication in the other direction was not possible. They were mainly boring static internal websites.
Things have changed, technology evolved, and companies started using intranets in many different ways. These days, intranets are much more important to gain competitive advantage and help companies to achieve various goals, for example:
To achieve these goals, you will need one crucial thing: up-to-date, engaging, and inspiring content available to all employees, wherever they are. And for providing the content as well as interactivity, utilizing a modern Content Management System is essential.
Modern intranets need to work both ways. There are no questions about it. Employees should be enabled not only to search for and retrieve information but also to share it and get things done. Intranets have to support business processes.
The most straightforward example is creating tickets or issues, for IT matters and also for any other purpose like requesting a graphic design, updating a web page, or helping with legal documents, translations, etc.
All those options need interactive forms with validation, and a means to assign people or teams to it, set a priority, status, and support further communication in case of questions.
Often, file-sharing is also needed to make it possible to get things done in one place without using separate shared drives (“I have no access to that drive”) or sending files via email (“the file is too big”).
Many companies also provide a feedback form to measure the quality of the work results provided by a given team. Collecting such feedback also needs to be appropriately designed and generate meaningful reports.
Another excellent example of a modern facility many companies implement in their intranets is “360 Degree Feedback” where employees receive valuable anonymous feedback from the people they work with - their managers, peers, and direct reports.
Often, intranets need to be integrated with the company’s other systems to make sure employees can achieve what they need to in one place, without switching from one system to the other, opening tens of windows, and manually copying and merging information from here to there.
Connecting different systems is the most challenging and time-consuming part of almost every web project, so make sure that the CMS you choose offers rich APIs for integration purposes. In the end, this will save you time, money, and nerves.
Intranet users, just like internet users, want information quickly. Typically, they are impatient and get irritated easily. That’s why your intranet must not be slow. If you ignore this point, people will use it only if they have no other choice, and not because this is their preferred way to get involved. If pages on your intranet load longer than 2 or 3 seconds, you should definitely improve the delivery speed.
From what we saw in the past, the number-one reason why intranets are outdated and neglected is that the content editing interface is hard to learn and complicated to use. There are many forms to fill out, options to change, and publishers never know whether their final work will look right when a page goes live. So, with time, intranet pages are updated less and less often and then forgotten.
Quite often, companies have specialized teams of web publishers who go through extensive training, lasting days, to learn how to use a CMS. In our opinion this is not the optimal set-up. The content editing tools should be so easy and intuitive to use that everyone can get familiar with them quickly and use them with pleasure. This way, content can be published by employees feeling responsible for the content they created.
Another feature that is usually hugely underestimated is the search engine. Assuming a search engine is even integrated and available, the search results produced by most legacy intranets are next to useless when it comes to finding people and resources due to the ancient technology behind them.
Because of that, employees end up going through dozens of pages returned by the search engine, which results in growing frustration and a vast amount of time wasted. That, in turn, results in people abandoning intranets and trying to get at the information in other ways, usually by calling their colleagues and wasting their time, too.
Nowadays, almost all companies have mobile employees who travel a lot, to meet their peers or clients in other locations. Opening a laptop each time they need to do something on an intranet is not very convenient.
There are over 3.9 billion unique mobile internet users worldwide, representing around 51 percent of the global population (Statista, 2019). Over half of the population consumes content on their mobile phones, so when you serve your internal content, make sure you remember the trend. Make sure your intranet is available and optimized for mobile use, too.