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Intranet 3.0: What it is and How to Get There

Intranet 3.0: What it is and How to Get There

Cara Heimbaugh

4 mins read

Thu, Dec 28, '23  

Organizations across the globe are transitioning into a more hybrid or remote model. And while this shift has many benefits, it can also cause some negative internal issues, including organizational misalignment, information chaos, and unstructured knowledge management. 

Employees need to connect–especially in a remote model–and they need a place to do it. This is where intranets come in. Depending on past experiences, the word “intranet” may bring different ideas to mind in terms of what they are, their purpose, what they look like, and if they are valuable. Some may hear the word “intranet” and assume they are irrelevant relics from the past, simply static content repositories. But that’s not true. 

Intranets continue to evolve. From those static repositories, to news feeds, posts, and internal social hubs, intranets can look very different across industries and companies. They have also changed over time, working to keep pace with the needs of the modern knowledge worker. Yet as organizations grow and change, the core purpose of an intranet remains the same–to share knowledge in the most efficient way possible in order to support users' day-to-day lives and create organizational alignment for the entire business. 

The Evolutions of the Intranet

Generation over generation, new features and elevated sophistication continue to reign supreme when it comes to intranets. And as our workforce leans into remote work, field work, and necessitates mobile-friendliness, workers need a place to collaborate more effectively and stay up-to-date on important information. So before discussing what today’s intranet should be, it’s important to understand the intranet journey. 

Intranet 1.0 - A Central Source of Information

While there are web portals that existed prior to the turn of the 21st century, what we think of as an intranet today began as collaboration hubs in the early 2000s. At this time, the workforce and technology were advancing, and companies recognized a need to increase productivity via easier access to information, and more effective communication across teams and locations.

Initial intranet designs were very static, finite sites that had rigid structures and limited customization. Their main goal was to house content for easier retrieval. Standing up a 1.0 intranet required deep IT-led work, and had a lengthy time-to-value, meaning by the time the project was finished, ample resources had already been allocated to it, and in order to see a return, high adoption was vital. 

Intranet 2.0 - A Place to Connect

The next iteration of intranet pushed past simple content repositories into a more communicative model to give employees not only a place to share information, but also to connect and communicate across teams more easily. These intranet projects were typically driven by HR and internal communications teams, but still required IT support for implementation.

Intranets were either wild successes or utter failures and there was not much in between. Unfortunately, many fell in the “utter failure” camp (90% of them, to be precise). But companies that committed to having a successful intranet experience and championed the platform well internally saw stronger adoption than companies that did not. 2.0 intranets  were also still complex to build and implement, and also had a long time-to-value. This is when intranets approached a crossroads–become obsolete, or be reinvented.

Intranet 3.0 - An Intranet Built for the User

Intranet 3.0 puts the user at the center of its purpose; it overcomes past intranet shortcomings and creates a space where users want to be because they find it to be a genuinely valuable place to start their day, to find important news and information, to share knowledge and to work across teams. 

There are a few key characteristics that differentiate an Intranet 3.0. One thing that other intranet iterations lacked is genuine usability. Many past  intranet sites only serve one to a few purposes. Modern intranets should be all those things and more. They are created with the user in mind, and aiming to meet those needs, with constant improvements and iterations based on user feedback. It is an organization’s single source of truth, a reliable hub that is easily and consistently updated where employees can find what they need quickly and know that they can trust the output. 

A modern intranet should seek to control information overload and chaos, meaning that it serves up relevant information for each user in an intelligent way and also houses the entirety of the company’s knowledge in a searchable manner, reducing disorganization, confusion, and frustration. 

Modern intranets should be easy to build, implement, customize, and maintain. No more months-long, code-heavy roll-outs that require internal resources and significant financial investment only to be met with crickets at adoption. With the use of low-maintenance templates and automatic branding with colors, fonts, and logos, organizations can have beautiful digital homes that look and feel like their company, a seamless extension of their own website. 

Modern intranets should leverage AI to continually improve the platform. AI has many benefits for intranets, including the potential for intelligent, native search in any language, customized content per user, writing assistance, and more. AI can turn a good intranet experience into a truly great one, with many features that feel as though you have a personal assistant, leading to less information overload, burnout. 

Combined, the attributes of a 3.0 intranet have the potential to change the trajectory of a business completely.  Providing employees with a reliable place to access the information they need with ease and to collaborate with colleagues across the room or across the globe, they feel supported and productive. And when they feel supported and productive, they are happier, knowing that their contributions are appreciated and impactful. That happiness leads to a deeper integration with the organization and continued positive outcomes, creating a growth loop of value. A modern, intelligent intranet experience brings everyone together as one team with one purpose, creating synergy and continued success.