Digital Workplace Insights

Ten essential functions of any modern Intranet

When we’re at work, the chances are that for most of us we are unaware of what’s happening across the organization on daily, or even weekly basis. Our primary communication will come through the people we directly speak with, and through emails or slack messages we send or receive with others. But how do you gain any context about what’s happening at an organizational level from these small interactions? 

Intranet software aims to serve individuals in a variety of ways, and as enterprise software quickly moves to adapt some of the successes of more widely used social media applications, a modern Intranet can have a positive effect on a distributed and busy workforce. Concepts like social and mobile didn't exist ten short years ago, however these concepts have now permeated into every organization and are redefining how people want to work.

Ultimately a modern Intranet should aim to become a contextually relevant destination that manages and delivers trusted content to users, no matter what device they are using, and enable staff to complete tasks and allow them to discover, connect and collaborate within their community. Importantly, a modern Intranet should deliver an engaging user experience through a tailored user interface that is personalized for the end user. Our ten essential functions are defined through our experience in working with a myriad of customers to implement both small and very large Intranets.    

Staff tools

At the heart of any modern Intranet are tools for discovering and connecting staff with each other. As organizations increase in scale, the complexity of staff locating other staff to assist with a task, function or role also becomes more complex. A Staff Directory enables users to browse, search and discover people using attributes like name, department, expertise, location and more. Staff Directories can also work like LinkedIn profiles, allowing users to request to be connected to other users and be notified when new content by connected staff is posted to the Intranet. Other tools may include an interactive Organizational Chart enabling staff to browse the hierarchy and learn where individuals are located, whom they work with and their fields of expertise.

Intuitive Content Authoring

Intranets are living entities that are solely reliant on their capacity to support the content publishing tasks of many in order to survive and remain relevant. A modern Intranet should support both simple and complex content authoring interfaces. Without straightforward content authoring, the barrier to entry for what will mostly be non-technical business users within the organization will result in a static and irrelevant Intranet. Content authoring should be simple and intuitive, and support efficient work flow tasks like drag and drop document publishing, integration with productivity tools like Microsoft Office, just to name a few.

Out of the box deployment

Speed to market is critical for Intranet adoption and success. Many Intranet projects unfortunately flounder and then die off like injured animals. This isn’t through any fault of the people involved, who are most likely to have all the motivation and commitment in the world to seeing the project through, but largely stems from the encumbrance of getting the chosen Intranet software configured to deliver what the organization wants. A modern Intranet should provide an out of the box solution allowing organizations to start running in just a few days. The importance of this approach is the quick win of seeing a semi-complete Intranet tailored for the organization in a very short timeframe. The confidence this creates within the Intranet delivery team primes them to seeing it through to completion and launch.

Content & Data Management tools

Intranets are at the intersection of delivering content and data within an organization. They manage both web and document content, but are also increasingly employed to capture and deliver data from third party internal and external applications. A modern Intranet provides tools for integrating these layers of content and data into personalized ways that deliver truly unique user experiences for the staff using them.

Full Document Management

Intranets largely comprise of document content. A mixture of Microsoft documents, emails, PDF and rich media like video and audio. The categorization and management of these assets is fundamental to how useful staff will come to view the Intranet. A modern Intranet should provide an environment for managing the full document management lifecycle of capturing, versioning and archiving documents. Staff should be able to check out and check in documents, rollback and restore versions and in some cases be able to compare different versions of documents side by side. The application of metadata and security to documents should also be an intrinsic part of the Intranet solution as well.

Ultimately a modern Intranet should aim to become a contextually relevant destination that manages and delivers trusted content to users, no matter what device they are using, and enable staff to complete tasks and allow them to discover, connect and collaborate within their community.

Integrated Search

Find it and they will come. Searching an Intranet can become the number one method staff use to navigate and discover content if the search experience is true to the results. So many Intranets’ are hindered by a poor search experience that vast tracts of content are left undiscovered due to the limitations of the search indexing and the inability for the navigation to scale and accommodate the increasing hierarchy over time. Providing a simple but accurate search solution will win staff engagement as search trust is built over time.

Workflow Management

The automation of work is a key driver for Intranet adoption. The ability to transform off-line, paper driven business processes into on-line interactive experiences is an essential ingredient in helping to make the value proposition for an Intranet investment. Workflow management enables an organization to design and implement more efficient content and data distribution models that improve how communication is moved around an organization. A modern Intranet should also allow for the design and creation of bespoke forms which can be easily connected to single or multiple workflows, thus allowing complexity in the way information is published and shared with a few or with many.

Mobile first experience

When did you notice mainstream media moving from talking up the next laptop to lauding the next phone? We will continue to watch as the phone influences how we go about doing work as well, and for that reason we need to be able to access the Intranet from our phone. Modern Intranets are responsive in their design, meaning it doesn't matter what device you choose to use when accessing and viewing the Intranet, they will adjust the presentation accordingly. Additionally, a modern Intranet also provides a native app experience allowing features like real-time notifications and mobile content publishing.

Analytics

Understanding Intranet usage is essential in planning future releases of the solution. During the Intranet planning phase, the Intranet project team will make best guesses about a whole range of items including navigation, metadata taxonomy, security and content. Intranet analytics enable the project team to capture usage over time and then undertake a more effective post mortem on how the Intranet is doing and what might need changing. Knowing and understanding your data is fundamental in releasing iterations of the Intranet that deliver more value over time.

Hosting options

Where your Intranet lives depends on who you are. The upward trend is definitely a cloud-based solution, allowing ease of access for staff who work remotely from a single location, and the ability to rent infrastructure rather than invest in hardware. But what if you're dealing with sensitive content? Medical records, financial data or police related information. Hosting on-premise is still a valid argument, and a modern Intranet should provide for both scenarios.  

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