The complete intranet guide of 2019:
An insight into the future digital workplace 

The digital age. The time when almost every business interaction is happening over a screen, making it even more crucial for workplace tools to be connected, efficient and user-friendly.

Introduction

Sharing photos, stories, snapshots, blurbs, updates, conversations, announcements—this is now how we communicate with the world. As these forms of communication proliferate the way we interact, what does that mean for the workplace?

It means managers and business leaders need to utilize and incorporate these services to streamline our companies and create efficiency in the workplace.

It also means that the intranet and the digital workplace is becoming critical to the modern business.

Keep reading to find out:

  • How does an intranet work?
  • Why is it important to implement an intranet?
  • What advantages will implementing an intranet bring to my company?
  • What are the challenges to using an intranet?
  • How can my company take steps to proactively alleviate these challenges?
  • What is the difference between intranet vs. extranet vs. internet?
  • What facilitates a successful intranet adoption?
  • What features are trending in intranet software?
  • How are intranets used by different companies and organizations?
  • What should you look for when implementing an intranet?
  • What does the daily intranet use look like?
  • What are examples of successful intranets?
  • How do you measure intranet performance?
  • What intranet KPI examples will successfully measure intranet performance?

Basics: Intranet software

Intranet definition - the differences between an intranet and the internet

The internet we all know and love is the “World Wide Web”, meaning that it is global and accessible to anyone, while an intranet “is a private computer network operating within a company. Instead of everyone having access, it is private.”

Think of an intranet as a digital workspace, where “you and your colleagues can meet, exchange ideas/documents, and collaborate on projects... With a quality intranet platform, you can streamline your business processes to a dramatic extent.”

Implementing an intranet allows for your company to come together in an efficient and organized way, no matter where your workforce is located. Employees can share thoughts across departments, managers and leads can disperse important information, and all technology utilized by a company can be found in one place-- all within a secure network.

Intranets provide a variety of services within the network. The barebones of an intranet should include email, chat, publishing, e-forms, directories, and charts features.

Now, these are the intranets we are used to seeing. The first intranets were implemented around 1994 and provided these basic services in a secure, private arena for different companies.

But almost 25 years later, we are seeing a complete overhaul in intranets. These updated intranets match the modernization of the digital age and utilize the technologies already in place to create the most efficient structure and communication systems for the workplace. As a current employee or business owner, this new intranet adoption should be something you are looking into.

The old vs. the new:
How the intranet works

As you now know, the basic definition of an intranet is a private, digital workspace which is only accessible to an organization's staff. But how does that work, exactly?

In traditional intranets, Beaming notes, a web server is used to host the intranet and the machine itself will depend on the content and the amount of users”. This means an external machine is brought in to support this network. Intranets use what is called a “Local Area Network”, or LAN, which is a group of computers and devices that are interconnected through a specific, shared communication system. This can be a particular line or link to a wireless server.

Usually, a LAN is also restricted by a certain geographical area (think school, university, residential building, or office building). So, what this involves is figuring out what kind of a server you will need (based on the number of users and what the intranet will be used for), and then installing and maintaining said server across the physical area in which you work.

But now, times have changed. With modern technology, such servers are not necessary. Everything can be done digitally, all on “the cloud.”

Cloud-based intranets are still very secure because they are located remote servers, but they are also very efficient and user-friendly because users can connect with nothing more than an internet-enabled device and log in details.

The same way your current social media or email server works, with pre-existing intranet software your company can purchase an account and then any employee can login and use the platform. There is no longer a need for a central, physically connected machine, which makes installation and implementation extremely easy. Now you can cut the cords and sign in anywhere you have a device and internet access!

In a recent press release, the co-founder of Happeo stated:

"Traditional employee intranets are dead, because they host static and often outdated information in isolation, offering no value to the employee."
~ Perttu Ojansuu, Co-Founder and CEO of Happeo

Modern intranets: What an updated intranet looks like

Intranet software is now incorporating search engines, user profiles, blogs, mobile apps with notifications, and events planning within their infrastructure. The best examples of intranet software are compatible with already existing applications that provide a needed service, or they create their own version of this service that works within the larger intranet structure.

We are no longer looking at using outdated intranets that are frequently overlooked by employees, but instead we are looking at interactive, social, efficient, and familiar ways of working and sharing ideas to excite the new age of employees.

Successful intranets keep employees coming back on a daily basis to check up on tasks and stay on top of their jobs. This high employee activity allows for a smooth, company-wide intranet adoption.

On a base-level, intranet adoption provides a secure, digital network for your business to run and for your employees to interact. But, there are many more advantages of adopting a modern intranet system that are indispensable for your growing company.

The difference: Intranet vs. extranet vs. internet

We have explained the difference between an intranet and the internet (private arena vs. public), but you might be wondering: what is an extranet and where does it come into play here?

An extranet is a private network that allows controlled access to vendors and suppliers or an authorized set of customers or partners. An extranet is a subset of an intranet, which allows a specific group access to a part of a company’s intranet network, without granting access to the whole.

Think of your business. While an intranet can provide amazing communication between your company’s employees, the point of a business is to do business with outside companies. If your internal communication is streamlined, digital, and efficient, adding an extranet is a way to extend that network to your trusted business partners.

It’s like different kinds of parties. An intranet is an exclusive party, in which only your employees are invited and allowed to socialize, and they are allowed access to every part of the party. An extranet is invited to the party as well, but those employees are only allowed to enter certain areas of the party and talk to certain people. While the internet is the overarching, global party that everyone is invited to and everyone has full access to all areas and content.

Essential elements of an intranet

The first intranets built in the early 90s were solely used as a private, secure form of company-wide communication. This meant that the basic element was one page of sweeping, general information which interested no one in particular. An example of this type of intranet is a very basic, digital, memo from the top down.

Overtime, this structure developed with technology. Intranets started evolving and incorporating digital company bulletin boards, directories, simple applications, and some self-service mediums.

Fast forward. We understand how and why intranets started, and that they have been moving with the trend of technology. So what example elements does a top-of-the-line, all-encompassing, user-friendly, modern day intranet software entail? When comparing intranet software, you should look for these specific features. CMS Wire and Tech Republic both agree on these features as crucial parts to your intranet adoption.

 

Here are 6 essential features that you need to look for in an intranet:

  1. Deliver relevant content

    An example intranet team should monitor their content and put thought into what they are sending out on their intranet. There should be an organized space for content that is regularly updated. Content should be accurate and relevant. It should inspire employees to respond to this standard of content as well.
  2. Be a key communication tool

    Communication is evolving from traditional one-way emails into conversations that are organized by appropriate groups. Look to implement an intranet software that is user-friendly, organized by groups or importance, and allows for a back-and-forth dialogue to drive the adoption process.
  3. Integration with existing applications

    Adopting an intranet that is compatible with applications that are already widely used by your company will allow for a fluid transition, for an organization and collaboration of these once separate entities, and for an optimization of the technology that is in place.
  4. Enable collaboration and socialization

    Implementing social networks to your intranet will cultivate a sense of community, facilitate the intranet adoption process, and bring employees together across a wide-spectrum. Collaborative social intranets can also connect your employees with colleagues they previously did not know that could help them in their job, task, or project.
  5. Support the culture

    Through implementing intranet use, businesses can reinforce their culture and overall message they want their employees to receive. A professional and modern intranet example will build confidence and shows consideration for staff, which will boost morale and employee satisfaction.
  6. Be interactive

    One challenge you may encounter in adopting intranet use is that the system can be forgotten, especially a system in which information is simply delivered and read. The best intranet software positions itself as a core business tool for automating key tasks and processes, and supporting the simplification and automation of internal processes and work practices.

Intranet adoption: Trends to look for

Why intranets will soon be necessary, not optional

The first intranets were complicated, clunky, and not very efficient. They required a separate server, maintenance, constant upkeep, and content was ignored by many. The original goal of implementing an intranet system was to provide a secure network that would increase employee productivity by providing easier access to documents and more effective communication throughout the company.

But this quickly spiraled out of control with a lack of content control or management, leading to what seemed to be a death to intranets and their efficiency in the workplace. Intranet adoption was not an important goal, because the system could only do so much, and without a successful adoption, intranets had very little performance value in the workplace.

This is an example of a 1990s intranet system. But in the 2000s, around the time of the invention of search engines in the internet, we saw a rise in content management, self-service, and productivity apps within intranet systems.

These old systems are all an example of “intranet 1.0” (what we have described as the traditional, server based intranet). Frank Hamm, a consultant for communication and collaboration who supports companies in their digital transformation, describes intranet 1.0 as “Publication and provision of official information by the organization or organizational units.”

Many businesses are still stuck in this era of intranet 1.0, which lacks relevant content and user-friendly applications for employees.

CMS Wire reports that “according to the latest results from our 2010 Intranet 2.0 Global Survey only 15% of organizations have a full portal solution.” A “full portal solution” refers to authorization, authentication, application and database integration within an intranet system. This is an example of “intranet 1.5”, which is still short of what the modern day digital workplace looks like.

Intranet 2.0 - or “social intranet”

The key to intranet 2.0 is the involvement of social media within the intranet software.

Social tools on the intranet have made the leap from the “nice-to-have” list to mainstream technology:

  • 52% have intranet discussion forums; 10% have no plans or interest.
  • 51% have intranet blogs; 9% have no plans or interest.
  • 50% have intranet instant messaging; 19% have no plans or interest.
  • 47% have intranet wikis; 10% have no plans or interest.
  • 43% have intranet RSS; 15% have no plans or interest.
  • 27% have intranet social networking; 20% have no plans or interest.

These type of social networking and interaction tools are rapidly increasing throughout the world of intranets, and it is what we refer to “the digital workplace.”

So why is the digital workplace important, and why is it crucial to adopt intranet 2.0?

Analytics Insight reports that:

“Organizations are looking at leveraging intranets at the core of their Digital Workspace initiative and are expecting intranets to yield a slew of employee engagement benefits.”

Intranet 2.0 implementation is important because it will:

  • Increase productivity
    In 2002 Nielsen Norman Group consultants estimated that the productivity difference between employees using the best intranet software and the worst corporate network is about 43%. Implementing an intranet that includes modern technology solutions will solidify the adoption process and increase productivity.
  • Allow for company expansion and globalization
    As society becomes more digital and global with the rise of the internet, the workplace must follow. With secure intranet implementation, employees will be connected and businesses will be able to run productively and efficiently across borders.
  • Utilize relevant, familiar technology
    Social media and app developers have already created the technology that businesses need to run in order to keep with the times. Intranet software allows businesses to consolidate these applications and social media outlets in a way that is user friendly for employees. Familiar technology also ensures a smooth intranet adoption process.
  • Launch businesses into the future
    A complete, digital workplace will put a company on the map in the technological world. This intranet implementation will open up communication with other businesses who are running in this matter.

The advantages of switching to a social intranet platform

The advantages of adopting a modern intranet include:

  • Improve internal communication.
  • Connect your company across locations and time zones.
  • Help employees find information.
  • Boost employee recognition and reward.
  • Provide organizational clarity.
  • Streamline relevant information.
  • Reinforce company culture.
  • Reduce emails, meetings, and outdated documents.
  • Improve employee engagement.

An example of intranet excellence combines everything your employees are looking for in communication. It also creates a community in the workplace and brings it to life in a way that is also efficient and productive for your company.

The future of the intranet and the workplace

Michael Grothus hypothesizes that intranets will become so integral to our society, that in the future we will be looking at national intranets in place of the global internet that we are currently using.

In his article on FastCompany, he states that the future is:

“A world in which the norm is a series of national intranets; walled gardens with different standards and built on different technologies that governments say provide greater national security. It is a world in which some nations are completely cut off from other nations online–making something as simple as sending an email to a friend in another country impossible unless those two countries have digital access pacts with each other. And it is a world in which granting access to a country’s online users is wielded like an economic–and even geopolitical–weapon.”

In this scenario, intranet implementation will no longer be an option, but a vital part of everyday life. If this is the direction society is heading, then it is important to learn and adopt intranet systems now so companies will be on top of their game if and when this time does come.

While this is a hypothesis that is still far off in the future, it’s important to think about the future of intranets and where they are heading.

In choosing to adopt an intranet, a business wants to look forward to the trends to ensure that they will already be ahead of the curve. This way you will not have to continually update or revamp your software to stay relevant.

Trends of successful intranet performance

What trends should you look for to be ahead of the game when adopting an intranet? And what are examples of good intranets using and what features will they continue to be developing for the future?

These are the features that will boost your intranet performance, so when you are comparing intranet software, be sure to look for these key elements.

Total access
The most successful intranets use a mobile app to make information access available anytime, anywhere, from any device.

As Sam Marshall of Clearbox Consulting explains on CMS Wire, in the modern day there are many users who only have access to a smartphone, which means “the mobile use case is pretty simple in that it has to cover everything staff might need.” This is the way in which most employees are comfortable working, and a well-constructed mobile app will allow for an easier intranet adoption, as well as more productivity, especially when traveling.

Social engagement for employees
A social engagement portal is what intranet 2.0 is all about. A way for employees to have quick, concise, 2-way or group conversations allowing for collaboration and creativity in the workplace. Alison Davis, who takes special interest in asking for employee feedback on communications, claims that, “Even if you don't have the budget or IT support to add new technology, you can make changes today that will make communication fresher, more lively and more interesting.”

Features such as reviews, comments, likes, shares, etc. give more feedback and allow employees to have a voice within the company. With more employee engagement, the intranet adoption process will drive itself seamlessly. Intranet software will continue to trend toward developing their social engagement in order to enhance this culture of community engagement.

Collaboration across departments
Intranets are continuing to digitize, moving away from paper and making all projects primarily cloud-based, which allows for easier collaboration. As Bryan Adams writes at Inc., “Regular and constructive feedback between peers promotes collaboration and this kind of communication among your employees can be influential on the work produced company-wide.”

While many companies will take time to shift from paper-based collaboration, the trend will be continuing toward an all-cloud movement. This will allow for a more effective, all-encompassing collaboration between employees across the entire company.

An individualized approach
This includes Personal dashboards, user directories having photographs, customizable profiles, personalized news feed, etc. to provide personalized experiences.

Artificial Intelligence
AI is the new, up-and-coming feature of the technological world, and it is beginning to shape the workplace in a new way. A good intranet will be looking forward to this trend by providing AI solutions that will be like personal assistants for employees.

Application integrations
Many businesses have already implemented applications in order to run their daily operations, but in most cases these are all separate apps. Intranets can combine and consolidate these apps into one digital space, which will increase productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Look to adopt an intranet that is compatible with the apps your business is already using.

Relevant and innovative UI
Modern design concepts are very important for user adoption and engagement. Look for something user-friendly and relevant for modern-day employees.

Intranet uses and implementations

Implementing an Intranet

Now we have the basics of the intranet down-- what it does, how it works, features to look for-- but what does this actually look like when implemented?

We’ve looked into specific case studies from companies using this new type of new intranet 2.0. to compare intranet software and give examples of how intranet implementation works. Take a look into their implementation and adoption process.

Yle is Finland's national public broadcasting company, founded in 1926. The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle operates four national television channels, 9 radio channels and services, and 25 regional radio stations. They have roughly 3000 employees in 25 locations.

A few years back, Yle decided it was time to adopt a new intranet software, because their old software was severely outdated. After a lengthy process of collecting data to define their new system and meet employees’ needs, they approached Happeo about creating an intranet software specific to meeting their requirements.

Their requirements were:
Access from anywhere— Yle had already implemented some cloud-based software, so their intranet strategy was to find something compatible with that. They needed mobile apps and access to the intranet outside of the company network in order for this overhaul to be beneficial.

Find and share information easily— Original information was getting lost in their intranet system because there was no proper organization of information. Files had to be named very specifically, because the search engine was out of date and could not find files effectively.

Support daily work— Employees saw the old intranet system as complicated and unreliable, so they did not use it in their work. Yle wanted to implement a new solution that would be relevant and user-friendly for employees to make it relevant for their daily tasks.

Be a social network— Yle’s old intranet system had some social features, but it was not truly a social network. It was still very static in its communication features, and Yle wanted to implement a more dynamic, social and engaging intranet.

Intranet solution:
Since Yle is a majority state-owned organization, they were required to implement an open public tendering process to select their replacement for their old IBM and Microsoft based collaboration tools.

Yle was able to compare intranet software by looking through a variety of options to build their best intranet software. They decided to implement Google for Work for email, calendar and document handling, and Happeo for communications, internal website, and collaboration.

The implementation process was split into 3 phases, which also consisted of a “super group” who were the first to test out the systems. This group then also helped decide how this software should be implemented company-wide.

Benefits and results:

“Happeo’s workspaces support day-to-day work really well and they also help employees use the Google for Work tools more easily and effectively.”

 

After implementing Happeo’s intranet software:

  • Yle was working with more external partners and collaborating in a greater variety of ways than ever before
  • Yle was able to achieve cost benefits through the move to Google-based solutions
  • With fully integrated Google apps, Yle employees could discuss work and projects, share files, find information and schedule events through the same interface.
  • Different departments and individuals were able to publish and share information through an effective, user-friendly interface.
  • Information searching was made easy through Happeo’s Search feature, which looks across all Google apps for content and not just the file title.
  • Yle wanted to reduce their physical office space by 40% by 2016 in order to reduce costs and move with the flow of their work as an organization. Yle’s headquarters will be dispersed, as well as its employees. This new intranet system implementation will assist in this move and make it easier to keep in touch with colleagues and work together across locations.
  • With the implementation of the Google Tips Channel, employees have been able to self-solve any software issues. This tip channel has supported the adoption and broad use of Google Apps with less need for more formal support, even among less tech-savvy users.

Music Retail Holding is Scandinavia’s leading music appliances chain with 34 stores and around 400 employees spread across Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

With such a vast reach, Music Retail was struggling with real time communication between the headquarters and various stores. Their old model was for the sales department to visit various stores, but as Music Retail became more efficient, they moved to the digital option of emails and phone calls versus visits. But they quickly realized this was not the best move for them.

Store staff did not feel supported because they often did not have easy access to a computer or have the time to take a phone call. Headquarters decided that a mobile app could help them with this communication confusion, so they began their search for a solution.

Peter Felldin, the Marketing Manager at 4Sound explains the difficulty of the situation:

“The store managers felt frustrated because they didn’t know who to turn to when their staff needed support with marketing campaigns or when they couldn’t find sales information relevant to them. The sales and marketing departments at the headquarters also felt frustrated because they used a lot of time and effort in communicating with the stores, but no one saw it.”

Their requirements were:

  • Extremely intuitive and easy for employees–with so many employees, all with different backgrounds, they needed to implement something that could reach everyone and that anyone could understand.
  • Open conversational communication and clear confusion–Music Retail had previously been a classic example of “top-down” communication. In order to change this, they needed to adopt intranet communication tools that allowed for frequent, easily accessible communication across the board.
  • Create a collective culture–Music Retail headquarters was having a difficult time relaying messages throughout the company to communicate who they are as a company, and not just daily tasks or updates. They needed a way to connect management to stores and an outlet to convey a clear message to cultivate their work culture.

Intranet solution:
Music Retail looked into different options, but eventually chose to implement Happeo’s intranet solution based mainly on its easy-to-use, intuitive interface paired with its compatibility with Google G Suite. The Music Retail team started a trial with Happeo, starting with some light communications, sharing short news pieces and pictures.

“There’s an increased demand for better intranet solutions. Customers that have moved to G Suite often find that the next step is to look at replacing their legacy intranets, which are difficult to use and cost a lot. We recommended Happeo for them because of its intuitive user interface and advanced features.”
~ Ronald Haagensen, Business Development Director at Avalon Solutions

Benefits and results:
Despite Music Retail’s concern that employees would not understand this new way of communicating, communication between the headquarters and the stores is seamless now that the intranet software has been fully adopted.

Information is more easily distributed and is more readily available to store employees.

Communication also opened up across departments, so it is no longer a top-down system, but a collective share of information and collaboration between employees. On the “Inspiration” Channel they are able to share best practices and successful ideas.

“As a Marketing Manager, my biggest concern is our campaigns. Only 20% of the stores used to have a good idea about the marketing campaigns. With Happeo the situation has completely turned around, and 80% of the stores are well-informed of what is going on. It’s quite a remarkable change!”
Peter Felldin, Marketing Manager at 4Sound

DORMA is a global company that provides premium access solutions for buildings. It is headquartered in Germany, but employs 7,000 people and works with 50 different companies across the world. DORMA has over 100 years of experience in building exceptional door systems to meet various needs.

DORMA prides itself on its innovation, which keeps it ahead of its competition, and it needed an intranet solution to help sustain and support this model. The leadership decided to implement a brand new intranet system to take DORMA to the next level in its innovative and technological market domination.

Their requirements were:

  • Easy access for all employees- DORMA wanted to implement their vision of “Access to Innovation” for all of their employees, which provided them with the latest technology to complete their tasks.
  • Improved communication and connection- DORMA needed a way to connect employees across the globe in order to capitalize on internal knowledge and support collaboration throughout their company.
  • Quick implementation- DORMA wanted to implement the new system quickly in order to showcase it at the upcoming conference and trade fair.
  • Engagement and support to drive content management- DORMA needed a way to gather and inspire all of its employees to contribute to the content of the new intranet system that would be accessible and user-friendly.

 

Intranet solution:
DORMA adopted Unily - cloud intranet for its intranet solution, which brought their productivity to a new level.

Unily was able to implement the system quickly, and they also developed software specific to the needs of DORMA, which is what pushed the company to choose Unily.

Unily provided DORMA with a news center homepage, a custom Content Management System (CMS), a social media platform and directory, document management, and a mobile app to fulfill their intranet solution needs.

Benefits and results:

  • Employees are informed and connected through the news center and the corporate messaging system.
  • Content creation and management has been simplified allowing employees to focus on the content they are creating rather than the process of building it.
  • More effective and higher quality communication between employees through the integration of Yammer and creation of a directory and personal profiles.
  • Employees are supported and equipped through anytime access with the mobile app.

 

Through adopting Unily’s cloud-based intranet solution, DORMA was able to launch its “Access to Innovation” successfully. This innovative intranet solution allowed DORMA to expand this core company value to all of its employees across the globe.

Intranet advantages and challenges

Most common advantages and challenges

Although intranets have been very successful for many organizations, they still come with their challenges. How do you prepare yourself for these challenges, and how do you know what is right for your business? First, we will compare side-by-side how some advantages in adopting an intranet software can also come with a downside.

Most common advantages and challenges

Advantage 1: Security
The difference between the internet and an intranet is the privacy piece. Intranets are used to limit information and access to only your employees, as well as catering your network to what your company needs.

Challenge 1: Potential security breach
Although intranets limit access, it is important to install a security system due to the sensitive nature of the intranet’s content for your company. Without this security measure, there could be a breach in security which could put your company at risk.

Advantage 2: Increase productivity and save money
Placing everything at the fingertips of your employees increases productivity and saves company money by cutting down on time. Complete intranet adoption means that employees are able to work smarter and faster, which allows for company money to work better.

Challenge 2: Time commitment and hidden costs
While the actual set-up of an intranet might be fairly simple and cost-effective, after implementing the software teams must be assigned tasks to set up and configure the intranet for your organization. This may mean adding staff or giving current staff members raises. It is also crucial to train staff on how to use the intranet or else its effectiveness will be lost.

This includes initial and ongoing training hours dedicated to the intranet system. In order for the intranet adoption to stick, your company must put in the time it takes to make that happen. Along with training, specific staff members must be appointed to upkeep and maintain the content, which takes away hours from other projects.

Advantage 3: Access to data and employee communication
Your company’s intranet should be a one-stop platform to access all the information necessary for employee’s to do their jobs well. They can access data across departments instantaneously, which also allows for more informed projects and decision-making in half the time.

In addition to data access, employees also have access to communicate with any other employee in the company in a direct, efficient way. The intranet adoption process can cultivate productive working relationships and increased creativity due to collaboration between employees.

Challenge 3: Abundant Information becoming ineffective
The whole idea of an intranet is to make information accessible to employees no matter their status or department, but this can potentially lead to information overload.

A large quantity of information can become excessive and confusing,which leads to poor communication and collaboration between employees. Also, it will take employees longer to search if information is unorganized, which will negatively impact productivity.

Advantage 4: Easy UI that is engaging for employees
When your intranet has a UI that is easy to navigate and makes sense for employees, they will be more likely to engage and invest in the company.

This will result in a seamless adoption of the intranet system, and in turn will maximize overall efficiency.

Challenge 4: Getting employees on board with intranet adoption
Despite putting in your best effort, there still may be push-back from employees in the adoption of the intranet. First, people are resistant to change, and some employees may just not wish to break their old habits.

Second, if the interface is confusing to employees, they will likely be turned off from adopting it. And finally, if the intranet is not the go-to place for information, or if information is not relevant, or too cluttered, employees are likely to ignore it.

This comparison shows how there can be hidden disadvantages that come along side the advantages of implementing an intranet. What is important here is to be aware of both sides, and to predict which way your organization will lean, and then take that into consideration when you look for to implement an intranet solution.

Other advantages of using an intranet

While the above comparison shows the advantages with their potential downsides, here are some unmentioned advantages:

Global access and communications:
Implementing intranets with features like mobile apps can make communication and keeping up on tasks easy. It can also connect employees digitally for higher collaboration and a speedier intranet adoption process.

Technologically relevant and up-to-date:
There is no denying or fighting with the fact that as a society, we are moving forward into the digital era. With paper and hard copies of software virtually non-existent, it can be beneficial to get ahead of the game and join the digital workplace so your business can remain relevant in the larger scope of the business world.

How to avoid potential challenges in intranet adoption:
When looking at these comparisons and potential pros and cons, it is hard to know what side of the spectrum your company will fall on. In this case, the most important thing to do when implementing an intranet is be aware of the potential challenges and take proactive measures to combat them.

Here are some steps your company can take to ensure successful intranet implementation and adoption:

  1. Budget realistically: According to socPub “Research reports indicate that more than two-thirds of company intranet projects face issues with cost overruns”. Make sure your company budgets for all aspects of implementing an intranet including initial set-up costs as well as long-term upkeep.
  2. Get your leaders involved: Employees are going to follow what their leaders are doing. If the high-ups are still sending emails instead of using intranet features, it will make the intranet adoption that much harder. Get your leaders on board with the adoption process and the rest will follow.
  3. Provide ongoing training and promotion of your intranet: Even the most user-friendly intranets can be hard to navigate and understand for some. Before implementing the new intranet, make sure everyone understands the functions and features of the software. This can be achieved by providing employee training on how to use the tool, which will facilitate adoption. You can provide workshops or create a team specifically to offer support to those employees struggling with the change. And you can simultaneously promote the specific features to use on the intranet.
  4. Appoint people for content maintenance and support: While it is great to have everyone connected and contributing, that inevitably means there will be an overload of information, and a lot of it will be or become irrelevant. To prevent this, appoint staff members for intranet content upkeep and management. That way everything stays relevant, fresh, and helpful.
  5. Find a way to make it easy for your employees to contribute: It is important to have specific people maintaining the upkeep of the intranet content, but you do not want the responsibility of all of the content to fall on those few people. In order to keep the contribution load off of the content managers, make it easy for all employees to contribute content. This will give everyone a better understanding for the other departments and help employees across the board adopt this new intranet software.
  6. Create an outlet for employee feedback: Employees are going to have expectations for their intranet software, and if their expectations are not matched they will not want to adopt this system. Make sure to ask employees for their perspective before implementing an intranet, and try to match those expectations. Keep a feedback option available after the implementation as well so concerns can be addressed.

The take-away: Assess what is best for your company

These lists are all speculations of the “what-if” scenarios of implementing an intranet system in your workplace.

But the reality is, you will never know how this will play out for your specific business until you try it. You can take precautionary measures, but there still could be unforeseen challenges that arise.

The best thing to do is look at these lists through the lens of your business. Sit down with your leadership team and ask yourselves these kinds of questions before considering intranet implementation:

  • What kind of budget do we have for adopting an intranet?
  • Is it sufficient for what we want our intranet to accomplish?
  • Do we have the necessary human resources to support and sustain this implementation?
  • How can we make sure we have a successful adoption process?
  • What is our employee demographic? What will they need in an intranet? How will they respond?

When it comes to an intranet system, one size does not fit all. Take a minute to assess your company, its needs, its capacity - and then you will be able to make an informed decision on your intranet implementation.

There are many intranet softwares available with different feature options that can be tailor-made to fit your company’s needs. After you have asked these questions, you can take your answers to professionals that can ensure every one of your needs will be met.

Successful intranets:

Measuring and performance

As you are discussing these questions as an organization and weighing out the pros and cons of implementing an intranet, you will probably start looking ahead to measuring its performance and success.

But how are you going to do that? What does measuring intranet performance look like? While there can be concrete statistics and data, success is also heavily measured by functional features, usability, and employee interaction with the intranet software.

Examples of “award-winning” intranets

Every year, the Nielson Norman Group holds a competition for the best intranet softwares in the world. In the 2018 Intranet Awards, they found that the most successful intranet examples “came from smaller organizations, had smaller intranet teams who relied on internal resources and external help to create the best intranets.” If you’re a large enterprise, you can use small dedicated teams to replicate this positive effect.

But overall, the group affirmed the already trending notion that organizations should make their intranets a place where people can connect, communicate and collaborate in order to be successful.

CMS Wire reported that “this year’s top intranets all made it incredibly simple for their teams to create brand-compliant, design-consistent pages without needing any technical skills or web expertise.”

Here are some specific examples of award-winning intranets from the intranet awards and how they optimized their intranet performance:

  • The American Medical Association reduced, rewrote, and updated some of the 27,000 pages of intranet content, and then proceeded to cut the amount of content to 120 pages of up to date information. They implemented an intranet that switched from centralized to decentralized publishing, creating content authors across the entire organization to help facilitate the adoption process.
  • Archer Malmo (an advertising agency) built an intranet that uses straightforward language and relatable tools that make sharing information easy. It also enabled constant user feedback on the content and state of the intranet.
  • Capital Power (a power producer) designed their intranet to focus on the large number of workers who are working on devices outside the office on a regular basis, as well as outlast technology upgrades so that it will not become outdated. As with the AMA, they also reduced irrelevant content to streamline information.
  • Delta Airlines was forced into updating their intranet after a crash in their system that left them without intranet for 48 hours. Their redesign focused on community and accessibility anywhere, from any device, at any time due to their large number of intranet users.
  • eBay also made it on the award-winners list after they revamped their intranet to improve performance. Their previous intranet was built on SharePoint and it was buried under a mountain of content and more than 30,000 team sites. They decided to build a new intranet from scratch in order to implement open source technology to create a site to focus on news, search, profiles and notifications. The benefit of this is the builders had free range over the content and features of their intranet software. They also added a connection to an analytics platform to make it easy for intranet managers to track what is being used or not.
  • GSK (a global pharmaceutical company) had an intranet that was simply too big based on the number of users. Their solution was to take a minimalist approach to their new intranet that personalized important content for each user.
  • Maple Leaf Foods (a consumer protein company) was looking to find an intranet that could be an example of their concept of finding “New Ways to Work.” They left their old, centralized content creation model and upgraded to a more open system that allowed employees to be the authors, which created a communication flow between employees and provide relevant data that allowed workers to efficiently do their jobs.
  • PKP (an energy company in Poland) has about 7,000 intranet users that work with a lot of complex systems within their intranet on a daily basis. They wanted to implement a new intranet that promoted employee engagement through a beautiful, user-friendly platform. The company developed the site in stages, using user feedback to start the next stage. It also simplified and streamlined content.
  • Travelers Insurance is a company that is already very digital, and uses many different types of devices daily. They wanted to create an intranet to support their employees by making sure they had the information they needed to get the job done. What they built was an intranet completely compatible with mobile devices along with customizable, personal profiles for users. They implemented tools that are easy to use and could help employees easily search for who or what they need.
  • UN World Food Program works in 80 countries around the world, and all of its staff use the intranet. Their intranet includes a global navigation page with user-friendly menus that provide easy access to applications. Despite the complex structure, the intranet implementation simplified connections across departments in this organization.

These intranet examples are highlighted to provide a context of what constitutes a “successful” intranet in the eyes of the business world and how your company can also achieve this success through intranet adoption.

It is worth noting that intranet success was different in each case depending on the specific company and what functions they needed from their intranet solution. This is largely due to the fact that a good chunk of measurable success from your intranet implementation will come from employee usage, satisfaction, collaboration, and communication.

In order to create a successful intranet, you need to assess the needs of your company and cater to your employee demographic.

Measuring intranet performance and success

Creating a plan to measure the success outcomes of your intranet can be challenging, because most of the time you are looking to improve things like employee engagement, collaboration, and effective communication, which cannot be easily quantifiable.

Here are some things to consider for planning to measure intranet performance and quantify intranet success.

  1. Determine your intranet strategies and objectives. In figuring out what you want and need from your intranet software, you can then figure out how to measure your intranet performance and success. The objectives of your intranet should align with the goals of your business, and therefore the intranet system implementation should have a measurable, direct impact in reaching these goals.
  2. Define your intranet KPIs. Sit down with your leadership team and talk about where you want to see improvement and how you can map that out. Think of the evidence from implementing an intranet that will prove success. Good intranet KPIs should be specific, measurable, achievable (for targets), relevant, and time-limited.
  3. Start implementing your intranet KPIs before launching the new software, and make sure to gather as much data as possible from your old system in order to make intranet software comparisons. Test out the KPIs before you fully implement your new intranet system.
  4. Figure out what you will use as your baseline for intranet performance measurement. You can use a baseline from launch, in which you can collect data from the last month of your old intranet or the first month of your new intranet to make comparisons. You can look back at 12 weeks of rolling data and take an average to use a average baseline. Or, you can use a baseline against the same period last year, which is the most desirable, but requires the most data.

Quantifiable KPI examples

These intranet KPI examples from ThoughtFarmer show how to concretely measure your intranet KPIs and what success will look like from improving intranet performance:

  • Financial: Example KPIs included reduced travel expenses (since meetings are over the intranet) and printing costs. Intranet performance results can been seen on quarterly travel expense report
  • Behavioral: Example KPIs included number of instances where employees stored documents efficiently on the intranet and there were fewer routine errors. Intranet performance results can be seen through a decreased number of rejected requests by employees or a similar process.
  • Attitude: Example KPIs included a rise in employee satisfaction and easier internal communications with the new intranet strategies. Intranet performance results can be seen through employee surveys.
  • Technical: Example KPIs included a reduction in IT needs and documents loading quicker. Intranet performance results can be seen in lower IT requests and time spent on the system.
  • Experiential: Example KPIs included customers receive more relevant, accurate information and the amount of time to submit documents is reduced. Intranet performance results can be seen through a reduced number of complaints and/or a customer satisfaction survey.

Example statistics to quantify intranet performance success include:

  • Employee feedback: “70% of staff now say they now easily find new information they’re looking for, up from just 14%”.
  • Login and user information: “93% of employees are logging in every day”.
  • Collect and record financial information: “we saved over $11,000 this year alone using the intranet and that factors in the initial purchase investment of the software.”

Using the intranet in day-to-day operations:

What it looks like in practice

With all of these intranet system examples and information, we need to know what it actually looks like when you open up your new intranet system. What are the specific applications and features included in an intranet? How do they work? How will employees use them?

Features of a successful digital workplace

Channels–Different channels allow for employee communication and collaboration. Here are examples of what channels offer:

  • Post messages, share files, comment and like, tag users, and discuss features.
  • Announcements where you can see who has read the post, and give one-click reminders.
  • A personalized timeline that displays only relevant news to each individual user.
  • File collaboration with editing and sharing features.

Pages–A pages feature combines all the relevant content for users in one space. Here are examples of what pages offers:

  • Share up-to-date Google Drive files, add your team calendar, and use dynamic widgets.
  • Easy editing features that build and maintain your intranet pages without the help of IT.
  • Personalized homepage for each employee.
  • Content widgets that pull from your social channels and Google Drive files or folders.
  • Clear navigation within the page layouts.

Directory/employee profiles–Personalized employee information is key in connecting your staff across the intranet platform. Here are example directory features:

  • Organizational chart which uses already existing employee data.
  • Personal profile with contact data, skills and bio of each employee.
  • Search engines to find employees based on profile information in order to find who you need to get the job done.

Mobile App–Wherever your employees are, they can stay up-to-date on information and remain engaged in the content at all times. Here is what a mobile app can do:

  • Provide an intuitive interface that users are comfortable and familiar with on their mobile device which facilitates a smooth intranet adoption process because it mirrors those interfaces which they already use.
  • Send push notifications to alert employees at any time.

Integration–If your company is already using applications that you are pleased with and want to integrate them into your intranet, you can do that. Intranets are compatible with existing applications and bringing them together in the same digital space can streamline your efficiency and adoption process. Some examples of apps that can be integrated are:

  • Google Analytics
  • Twitter and other social media feeds
  • Google calendar
  • Slack
  • API
  • Google Drive
  • Gmail

Analytics–With an analytics feature implemented into your intranet, you can easily turn your data into informative dashboards and reports that are easy to read, share, and customize. Here are some examples of what this feature can do:

  • Integrate Google Analytics to monitor how your people are using the platform.
  • Connect up Google Data Studio to create beautiful reports to show employee efficiency and accomplishments.

Search–A streamlined search engine can help users find what they need quickly, which maximizes efficiency. Here is what a good search engine does:

  • After you type something in, you can see an aggregated list of results.
  • Search across platforms, apps, and every working part of your intranet.
  • Weed out irrelevant information and show results for the most updated, relevant content.

 

Intranet user reviews

While all of these features sound great, what matters most is how the employees interact with the intranet software. Capterra gathered examples of different intranet solutions and allowed real intranet users to review their intranet adoption experience with these systems. This is what the users had to say:

Janine W., a user of Unily

Likes:

“Flexibility of functionality to build sites and integrate with SharePoint to support communities of practice. Supports expertise location through the people directory, profiles and Insights feature. So easy to use through drag and drop widgets and an intuitive CMS. Straightforward to administer via permission control. The user experience is seamless; navigate through metadata, dedicated areas for different features such as links, news, documents, social channels, and search is powerful. User support is fantastic, Brightstarr support their customers every step of the way. Overall, my aim was to implement a technology that would be a mechanism to support knowledge sharing, collaboration, communication and ultimately be the foundation of our digital workplace through integration with Office 365. Unily does all of that!”

Dislikes:

“I rely heavily on metadata to drive the search, navigation and tagging in Unily. Unily metadata is driven from the SharePoint term store, which is excellent because I only need to manage one term store and it synchronises overnight to Unily. It would be good if the synchronisation was more frequent; instead we just plan for the overnight synchronisation. The Unily metadata feature is superb however at times, it has been tricky to get the balance right when building the term store to suit both the Unily and SharePoint environments.”

Jamie B., a user of Happeo

Likes:

“Happeo enables us to make the most of our existing G Suite systems. This has meant that user adoption has been relatively simple given that colleagues are already used to Drive, Calendar, Gmail and G+. The team at Happeo have been great to work with while building our first internal comms system. There was a lot of unknowns for us having never done this before but the team walked us through each step to ensure we were asking the right questions at the right time.”

Dislikes:

“There are too many options with regards the structure of the platform and pages. It would be easier if there was a few page templates to use rather than everything bespoke.”

Tom R., a user of SharePoint

Likes:

“SharePoint is relatively simple to use to configure sites, user groups, and the like. Like most CMS's, it can have a default "look and feel" across just about all aspects of a site or group of sites. It's integration with Office 365 is thorough. If you have basic needs for hosting an internal site, with not particular need for complicated integrations or workflows, SharePoint Online is a viable option.”

Dislikes:

“Unlike the on-premise version of SharePoint, you do have a number of restrictions with SharePoint Online. There is no access to certain logs for troubleshooting. There is no direct access to the database driving the site. Certain automated processes are limited in scope and frequency.”

The take-away:

The new brand of intranet has many different uses, portals, platforms, features, menus, links, etc. But the point of implementing this new software is to engage, connect, and collaborate with employees across the company.

If all of these features are organized and user-friendly, then your intranet implementation experience should be very positive for employees, which will in turn benefit your company as a whole and drive the adoption process. The possibilities of an intranet’s function are vast. What is important is to keep your company, it’s intranet goals, and your user profile in mind to find the right number and type of features and integrations that will work for you.

Selecting an intranet software

Weighing up if an intranet solution right for you

Whether your company has an outdated intranet system, or you have never implemented an intranet before, the precursors and transition time are crucial. Here are some preliminary, big-picture steps in ensuring successful intranet adoption.

Step 1: Take a look at how your business is currently running. What applications are you using? How often is the intranet used if you do have one?

Step 2: Look at the current intranet communication challenges your company is facing that you believe could be solved by an upgraded intranet. What intranet strategies can you implement to improve performance? Do you have the traditional “top-down” flow? Are you equipping your employees with the necessary tools and information to do their jobs well?

Step 3: Once you have identified those specific intranet challenges, create a strategy and a list of intranet requirements that you know will be a solution to these problems. This will help you determine whether an intranet solution implementation really will be beneficial to your company.

Step 4: Talk to your staff. Take surveys, and get the users involved so you can best serve their needs in an intranet software. Make sure to ask specific questions for specific results. Employ data collection techniques, and then analyze the data collected from the findings.

Step 5: Compare intranet software. Look into examples of successful intranets (what they are implementing, how are they measuring performance) to determine what product will provide the best intranet software for your company.

Step 6: Take these findings to a consultant. No matter if you want to build your intranet from scratch or work with a pre-existing provider, you could consult an expert about your specific needs and how an intranet system could meet them.

Set up for success: How do I know my company has the bandwidth to adopt an intranet system?

As outlined in the “intranet advantages and challenges section”, you already know what steps you can take to try to prevent potential challenges when implementing a new intranet. This is a list based off of those suggestions on the measures your company should take to make sure you are ready to implement your new intranet.

  1. Budget correctly
    After weighing out your goals for an intranet system and comparing different intranet softwares, you should have a good idea of what type of features your company wants. Compare pricing from different vendors that custom-make intranets (such as Happeo) to get a good idea of what kind of budget is required for this intranet adoption. Also make sure to budget for any additional staffing you will need to support the system implementation.

  2. Know your employees
    Before deciding on an intranet solution, you need to know if this will be the best intranet software option for your employees. Does your company fit the profile of those you have seen with successful intranet adoptions? You need to know your employee demographic, because if the intranet is not accepted and adopted by your employees, then no matter how advanced it is, it will not succeed. Figure out what are employees struggling with currently, and where you foresee struggles occuring in the intranet adoption process.

  3. Assess your staffing options
    Do you have people on-board that you know could aid in this intranet implementation, or will you need to find a new team to champion this project? Decide if your enterprise has staff members that could take on the intranet implementation and see it through in order to ensure a successful system adoption.

  4. Get people on board
    If you are serious about your intranet implementation, you need to begin talking to your employees about what is to come–especially those in leadership positions. Prepare people for the change, and get them excited to be involved in the process. Start putting the word out there that this is a possibility and see what kind of feedback you receive. From that feedback, you can respond to any fears or doubts that employees may have in the intranet adoption process.

  5. Determine your intranet KPIs
    Make sure to ask yourself the intranet needs analysis questions to determine your KPIs to measure your intranet performance success. Even before you are settled on implementing an intranet solution, you should start looking into your current intranet performance and identifying areas of improvement so you can map out your success when the intranet is adopted.

Intranet needs analysis questions

Aside from asking broad questions or getting an initial feel for how your employees would react to an intranet switch or implementation, there are specific intranet needs analysis techniques you can use to assess your company and its optimal intranet strategy. Some examples of these techniques include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Staff and stakeholder interviews
  • Workplace observation
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Task analysis

Surveys

Surveys are best used for assessing the opinions of staff, rather than needs. This means surveys work well to assess satisfaction with the current intranet, but are not as helpful on how to improve the site.

There also needs to be great care taken in the construction of survey questions. The questions should be specific, focusing on the recent experiences of the survey respondent, rather than on collecting broader opinions or perceptions about the site. Surveys should always be used alongside other data-collecting techniques.

Focus groups

Focus groups can be a good way to get a more in-depth sample of employees’ opinions on the intranet, but the groups must be monitored closely to make sure that certain individuals are not dominating the entire group.

The staff pulled should all be on the same level in the company, and the group should focus on current happenings instead of future wishes.

Staff and stakeholder interviews

One-on-one interviews are a very effective way of gathering information on staff needs and issues. Coupled with stakeholder interviews including intranet authors, senior managers, and executives, these interviews can give a holistic view of company functions at all levels.

These interviews should focus on what the current day-to-day intranet use (or any information/communication portal) looks like, which will give you an idea of overall activities and working environments. Unlike surveys, interview questions can be more open-ended and broad in order to explore topics that may come up naturally.

Workplace observation

This involves going “out into the field” to observe the activities of staff, and the environment in which they work. This intranet analysis technique is less applicable to working environments where not much can be seen or heard by an observer (i.e. an office-based position where most of the work is taking place on Word or over email).

Beside that, observation does allow for an objective understanding of the work environment and developed work patterns that could not be gathered through other techniques. Observation will also show you exactly what information employees rely on daily and how they obtain it, rather than having an employee tell you that information through a different technique.

Contextual inquiry

This is a combination of staff interviews and workplace observation that involves discussing issues with a staff member, while they are within their normal working environment. By doing the interview “in context”, you can see and hear from the employee what resources they are using while they work.

You can also ask the employee to show you specific examples of how they complete tasks in real time. In contextual inquiry, the staff member should take on the role of a “teacher” while the researcher is the “student” who is learning exactly what the job entails. This technique can be a great way to gain more specific detail of daily employee functions.

Task analysis

This technique involves identifying key business tasks and investigating them to gain an understanding of the steps involved and the information required at each step. Then, this information is used to determine how the intranet can be used to support staff in their day-to-day activities. This can have a direct impact on business outcomes, and it is often the clearest way of showing a return on investment (ROI) for intranet development.

Intranet needs analysis tips

When performing intranet analysis techniques, it is important to use multiple approaches in order to gain the best understanding of your business operations. Relying solely on one technique will end in bias, and unclear results. Use a wide-range of staff, and select them carefully. You should continue your research until no new information is found and you have clear results.

Analyze the results

Generally, analyzing the results involves taking all the data collected and looking for patterns. Specifically for intranet development, the research team should look for:

  • Main information sources and key information needs.
  • Major issues or problems impacting on staff’s ability to do their jobs.
  • Cultural or organizational issues impacting on the success of the intranet adoption.
  • Key business processes requiring information support.
  • Opportunities for improving information management or delivery.
  • Frustrating business tasks or processes.

In terms of intranet implementation, the results of the intranet needs analysis should be used to “paint a picture” of the current problems, the urgency of change, and how the issues can be resolved.

This is a more personal approach, so the results should also be personal, involving direct quotes or examples from staff members. A concrete plan for an intranet solution strategy should be offered based on these findings, and it should address the specific business benefits that it will deliver.

Tips for getting started with selecting an intranet tool

  • Ask yourself the big, important questions.
  • Gather as much data as possible and analyze for actionable results.
  • Figure out your goals, both abstract and concrete.
  • Consult your leadership team and an intranet expert.
  • Start talking to get your staff on-board with the change.
  • Set up training (preliminary and ongoing).
  • Continue to promote your intranet solution for a smooth adoption process.

With this information, you should have a fully-formed picture of the intranet as a whole, how it has developed, how it functions in the workplace, and how to go about implementing it for your own business.

Use this as a guide to find your perfect intranet solution, but know that in order to find something that will stick, the bottom line is you need to know what is best for your workplace. Look into reviews of other companies through your own specific lens to know what features will benefit your business and help you reach your goals.

Many of the communication challenges your company is currently facing could be solved with a modern intranet solution. But the technology will not work unless the company culture supports it and the employees embrace it. Find something that everyone can get behind, and you will have a successful intranet implementation.

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