7 secrets for a successful mobile intranet

A mobile intranet is a critical part of the digital communications ecosystem of any organisation. It is especially important for any company that has a significant deskless frontline workforce. For employees with no easy access to a computer during the working day, and sometimes no corporate digital identity, a mobile intranet app available on a personal device can become their major channel for digital communication, as well as the most efficient. The mobile intranet connects employees who work in factories, shops and out in the field, or who are on the go with their employers and each other.

Successfully delivering a mobile intranet is not always straightforward, and some organisations end up with low adoption and low value. Many of the necessary prerequisites for the success of a standard browser-based intranet, such as governance and the right operating model, also need to be in place for the mobile equivalent. However, there are specific approaches to consider for a mobile intranet too.

In this post, we’re going to explore seven secrets for a successful mobile intranet implementation and launch.

1 Focus on the right features for a frontline or mobile workforce

Intranets have multiple purposes and support a wide variety of organisational processes. Mature platforms and integrations mean there has been a blurring between intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration platforms and employee experience platforms. Generally, a mobile intranet may feature slimmed down versions of the capabilities of a desktop intranet, although it might include similar access to all the content included.

When you select what to include on your mobile intranet, always ensure tools and content are suited to the needs of your frontline workforce, and capabilities that are useful for work on-the-go are featured. Previously, we looked at eight must-have features of a mobile intranet, all of which are relevant to frontline staff, including:

  • Ability to remove barriers to access for all, including your frontline employees
  • Strong news delivery
  • Social collaboration and community tools
  • Content and reference pages
  • Employee directory
  • Event calendar and registration
  • Integrations that make sense for on-the-go employees or solve frontline use cases
  • Easy administration and robust analytics.

2 Go for a mobile app over responsive design

SharePoint Online and in-a-box intranet software such as LiveTiles are now responsive, ensuring they are optimised for viewing through a mobile device. While this is good news for mobile intranets, it is rarely a good standalone approach. To drive adoption and value, you need to have a mobile intranet app that will:

  • Deliver a controlled user experience for your intranet
  • Make it easier to take advantage of the native features of a mobile device
  • Allow for better governance, and meet security and compliance needs that won’t compromise your user experience.

Most intranet software will have its own dedicated mobile application, such as the SharePoint app. Intranets are increasingly being viewed through Microsoft Teams, and your Teams app could actually become your mobile intranet app too. A mobile intranet that is only delivered through responsive design is unlikely to get good adoption.

3 Make your mobile intranet available on personal devices to reach frontline staff

A major use case for a mobile intranet is to reach your frontline employees. In many companies, frontline employees do not have access to a desk, a corporate owned-device or even a digital identity. To make a mobile intranet work for this population, it must be available on personal devices, both Android and iOS. This is the only way to realistically achieve good adoption with this demographic; kiosks, shared terminals or home access will not work so well.

Some organisations get nervous about doing this due to security concerns, but also because they don’t want to intrude on employees time outside of work. In countries like the US where some sections of the workforce are on the clock employees, and Germany where workers councils are deeply involved in decision-making, there may need to be more careful consideration. However, there are many examples where a mobile intranet available on personal devices has proved valuable and popular with frontline employees, and has been highly successful in delivering organisational benefits.

4 Take advantage of native device features

Mobile devices have a range of native features that we are all accustomed to using when interacting with apps in our non-working lives. A mobile intranet app can take advantage of these features to boost effectivity, including push notifications, the ability to upload photos, voice detection and even GPS detection. In particular, push notifications can prove essential for important alerts, although they should be used sparingly. The ability to submit photos can also be useful for creating specific intranet apps focused either on engagement or transactional processes, such as reporting on-site issues that are best illustrated by a photo. Intranet chatbots also work well on a mobile device.

5 Focus on an easy onboarding and authentication experience

If you are launching a mobile intranet app, you must make it easy for users to load it onto their device and authenticate into it. If this process has numerous difficult steps to go through, it can be a barrier to adoption and a major headache for the intranet team.

For users of corporate mobile devices, this is usually in your control, and there will be a standard way to distribute apps. For employees adding an app to their personal device, it gets more complicated. Most intranet software providers will have convenient ways to do this – often through the Google Play or iOS app store – with a relatively straightforward way to authorise and authenticate the device and person. When launching your mobile app, make sure this process is as smooth and simple as possible.

6 Always get compliance and security teams involved early

Compliance and security constraints can scupper the success of a mobile intranet, negatively impacting the user experience. For example, if a mobile intranet requires VPN access, or a user has to type in a long password each time they enter the intranet, it is going to be difficult to drive adoption. Mobile intranets and apps can make compliance teams and senior executives nervous, particularly when they are accessible on a personal device.

Security, regulatory and compliance needs must be met, and can impact what is on your intranet. By engaging early with compliance and security teams, you can usually achieve the best possible experience for your mobile intranet.

There is actually a lot of middle ground that can allow you to deliver an excellent mobile intranet experience that meets all your regulatory and security requirements with very little compromise on the UX. This is often achieved by removing a small amount of content or a particular feature from your mobile intranet that is difficult from a compliance point of view, leaving the other 95% of your intranet still delivering value. Ensuring MDM approaches and app governance is in place and adding the right Terms & Conditions when employees sign-up can also make a big difference here, ticking the boxes for legal and compliance functions.

7 Consider content and links in the mobile experience

Even if you have a beautiful, responsive mobile app or an adaptive design, the success of your mobile intranet is dependent on having the right content. Most intranet content is not designed to be read on a mobile, resulting in long text and endless scrolling, or the use of imagery which is hard to view or read on a mobile. (There are lots of issues with posting images featuring text on your intranet don’t do it!)

It’s not always easy to achieve, but make sure to consider content from the mobile point of view. Generally, taking a mobile-first approach to content for example, with more concise text broken up into shorter areas with indicative subject headings is actually good for the desktop view too. If you have a policy, for example, a clear, short summary with the salient points will be welcomed both by your mobile intranet users and those with desktop access.

Most intranets now act as a convenient gateway to the wider digital workplace. Providing links to other systems is very useful, but you may need to provide a different view on the mobile intranet as you might need to link to different apps or not link to systems that are unavailable or not optimised for mobile devices.

Making your intranet mobile

Making your intranet mobile is essential, particularly if you have a frontline workforce. Use these tips for a successful implementation. If you want to discuss your mobile intranet, why not get in touch!

3 ways to deliver low code SharePoint intranet development

Low code development can be a great approach to deliver capabilities on a SharePoint intranet, helping to rapidly create a feature-rich environment at relatively low cost. When resources for your SharePoint intranet are tight or you are under pressure to deliver with ambitious deadlines, low code development can help overcome some of these challenges. In this post, we’re going to explore three of the main ways to deliver low code intranet development on your SharePoint intranet.

What is low code development?

Low code and no code solutions are platforms which empower IT developers and non-IT professionals alike to rapidly build apps, dashboards and sites that previously would have required a more traditional software approach. Using a combination of out-of-the-box templates and connectors, as well as intuitive authoring interfaces, these solutions enable development with minimal or no code needing to be written.

Note that there is a distinction between low code and no code in that the latter is designed for use by non-IT professionals, but in reality, this distinction can be a little fuzzy. For example, IT professionals might use a no code solution as part of their development. From here, we are going to refer to low code development to describe no code solutions too.

The attraction of low code solutions is compelling for both IT functions and business teams. By employing a decentralised, citizen-development approach to app design, they allow for the creation of more business-specific apps than would normally be possible with the constraints of current IT resources, and facilitate more rapid development at lower cost. All in all, low code development can play a part in digital transformation, and in enabling automation at scale throughout enterprises.

Microsoft 365 is an excellent platform for low code development, and many of the tools within the 365 suite are designed to be used via a low code approach. An intranet, with its enterprise reach and array of different features and content covering multiple uses, is also a good candidate for low code development. Carrying out low code development for an intranet based on SharePoint or SharePoint Online has real value.

You can carry this out in three main ways:

  1. Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box
  2. Leveraging the Power Platform
  3. Formatting SharePoint lists.

Let’s explore each of these areas in more detail.

1 Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box

SharePoint Online and modern SharePoint straight out of the box is revolutionising the intranet world by providing a viable platform on which to build an enterprise intranet, either straight out of the box or in conjunction with an in-a-box product like LiveTiles. Both approaches allow you to use low code development, leveraging the native features of SharePoint.

Using a communication site, it is very easy to add and rearrange different web parts to a site or individual page simply by selecting the web part of choice, and using drag and drop. These web parts cover both SharePoint features like document libraries, lists, news, calendars, images and content spotlights, and elements from other 365 tools such as Yammer feeds. The range of easy formatting and configuration options for each individual web part allows for huge flexibility. Organisations can also deploy their own custom web parts.

The ability to add and configure so many web parts with ease means central intranet teams, IT functions and decentralised intranet site owners can create and configure sophisticated SharePoint intranet sites and pages at speed, covering the vast majority of information needs without deploying any code.

2 Leveraging the Power Platform

The low code heart of Microsoft 365 is the Power Platform, a suite of four apps that support a low code and even citizen developer approach through libraries of connectors, an intuitive authoring canvas and the ability to reuse what has previously been created. Because of the seamless integration between different tools within the 365 suite, each of the four apps provide opportunities for low code development with a SharePoint intranet:

PowerApps

PowerApps allows you to create specific apps that can be available as mobile apps, or be integrated into your intranet, such as an employee onboarding app to display tasks for new hires that could be embedded into the new hires section of your intranet.

Power BI

Power BI enables powerful data visualisations, dashboards and reports that can integrate with your intranet to dynamically present organisational data, such as sales figures or health and safety reporting, and can also be used to manage and present intranet and engagement metrics.

Power Automate

Power Automate provides the ability to create automation and workflows between multiple systems that can power many capabilities across your intranet, including the ability to trigger any necessary workflows from forms that employees submit via the intranet, or present automatically updated information within pages, perhaps from another system.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents chatbots can be launched to integrate into the fabric of your SharePoint intranet, providing information to employees or delivering simple transactions.

3 Formatting SharePoint lists

Here at Content Formula, we’re long-term fans of SharePoint lists. Lists are one of the most powerful and flexible features of SharePoint, and are an excellent vehicle for storing and maintaining structured information that you might want to publish somewhere on your intranet, such as a directory of offices, an inventory of equipment or a list of relevant first aiders across each office.

Up to now, SharePoint lists have been quite basic in their look and feel, resembling online spreadsheets. But in the past few months, Microsoft have opened up options to format SharePoint lists, introducing attractive views for information presentation. Perhaps most excitingly, there is a growing library of pre-formatted SharePoint lists, some of which are offered out-of-the-box in SharePoint and include an asset tracker, an issue tracker and a travel request log.

Elsewhere, there is a substantial collection of list formats created by the developer community, which are available in GitHub with JSON code ready to copy and deploy. These cover use cases from budget trackers to London Underground train timetables, and are free and ready to use. Formats can also be tweaked right down to the column level to make any required changes.

We think list formats present an exciting and currently under-utilised opportunity for low code SharePoint intranet development. You can deploy these formats easily and quickly within SharePoint pages, saving hours of coding and creating a range of attractive and compelling information resources. When some of these lists are combined with flows from Power Automate, they are akin to intranet apps.

By creating and saving these list formats, you can start to create an organisation-specific marketplace of attractive, custom formatted list templates that your intranet publishing community can deploy directly onto pages. Alternatively, they might be saved as web parts and then deployed to different sites.

Go low code!

Low code intranet development is possible with SharePoint, with a variety of different options. It can help reduce costs, dramatically reduce the time to market and increase the business value of your intranet. It also engages owners of different parts of your intranet who can configure their sites to better serve user needs.

If you’d like to discuss low code intranet development, then get in touch!

10 main features of an HR intranet

HR intranets or similar people-related portals are excellent ways to support the strategic objectives of the HR function. Here at Content Formula, we’ve worked with numerous HR teams who have invested in an intranet which has gone on to make a tangible contribution in supporting their organisation’s HR or people strategy.

An HR intranet might be a completely dedicated intranet focused on HR and people-related content and features, or a similar HR hub within a wider intranet. In this post, we’re going to explore the main objectives of an HR intranet, and run through the typical features and content that support them.

What are the main objectives of an HR intranet?

At a very high level, most HR intranets are specifically designed to:

  • Support employee self-service and related manager self-service, allowing employees to get things done on a self-serve basis without having to ask HR, relieving pressure on busy HR support teams
  • Improve HR and people-related processes by making them more efficient, increasing take-up, standardising them across the enterprise and minimising risk
  • Support important HR policies and initiatives including learning, wellbeing, Diversity & Inclusion and flexible working
  • Drive a strong employee experience to make the organisation a great place to work, supporting talent retention and attraction.

Let’s explore the features and content that help deliver these four main aims.

1 Access to HR policies and procedures

HR functions will have numerous HR policies and procedures that employees and managers will need to refer to from time to time when they need to complete tasks, make decisions and carry out HR processes. An HR intranet provides an opportunity to create a single source of truth for all your HR-related content that employees will trust is always up-to-date. It’s the place to access the staff handbook, find out what needs to be done to register for maternity or paternity leave or explore the company’s bonus scheme.

HR intranets deliver this through various features including content pages grouped into relevant HR themes, as well as an authoritative central policy library with all the latest policies and how to content and documents. A decent search and intuitive information architecture are also important to ensure employees find the HR content they need.

2 Personalisation to ensure relevant HR content

A core capability of modern intranets based on SharePoint is the ability to support personalisation and target content to employees based on their Active Directory profile. This means employees see the content that is relevant to their role, location, division, department or similar attribute. Personalisation is really important in HR intranets, especially in larger global companies where HR procedures, policies and systems can vary from country to country. Managers also need to be able to access HR information relating to managing their team. It is imperative that employees only see the HR information that is meant for them and their location; personalisation is a must-have intranet capability that delivers this, although there is a dependency on having complete and accurate AD profiles.

3 Integrations to support employee self-service

HR and people-related systems are numerous, and can include a core HR system like SAP or Workday, a time-recording and expenses system, a benefits portal, a learning management system, a system to log a ticket with HR support desk, an appraisal and performance review application, a wellbeing app and many more. One of the most valuable elements of an HR intranet is delivered by integrating some of these applications with the intranet, meaning employees can access personal HR information and complete simple transactions without even having to visit these disparate applications and systems.

For example, the intranet might not only act as the front door to reach these systems, but also display information through integrations, such as how much annual leave a person has, the benefits choices they have made or the status of an HR helpdesk ticket. They may also be able to actually book their annual leave, log a helpdesk ticket or make their benefits choices, all from within the intranet. Increasingly, these transactions are being delivered by chat bots.

Some HR intranets also include an inbox which displays automated notifications and reminders from different systems, including the ability for managers or HR staff to approve requests as part of their workflow. Overall, these integrations help support employee self-service, drive efficiency, initiate quicker approval processes and result in less frustration for employees who no longer have to log in to multiple systems and rely on email.

4 Support learning and training

HR intranets themselves don’t tend to directly deliver learning and training, but can play an important role in making it easier for employees to access learning resources. For example, we often implement LMS365, a learning platform that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365. This integration means that you can create pages on an HR intranet based on SharePoint that act as an informative and attractive front end to LMS365 and encourage more adoption; employees may not even realise they have left the intranet and entered into the learning platform. You can also integrate LMS365 courses and assets into an intranet search. An events calendar on your HR intranet can display learning events and encourage people to register.

5 HR communications and updates

A good HR intranet should provide communications and updates relating to HR through news and reminders about core processes such as annual appraisals, the employee engagement survey and more.

6 Support employee onboarding

HR intranets tend to focus on moments that matter throughout the employee lifecycle, including when a person first joins a company. Employee onboarding is a core HR process that supports better employee retention. New hires are more likely to stay if they have a strong onboarding experience, and an HR intranet can help by gathering the resources new starters need to refer to all in one place, making the process of joining less overwhelming and more welcoming.

An area of an HR intranet targeted to new joiners can include a schedule of onboarding tasks they need to complete and when, links to all the information about the company, lists of contacts and even a welcome message from the CEO. The ability to target notifications and reminders in your HR intranet and integrations can also cover specific tasks and activities for new hires, such as completing relevant learning.

7 Ensure health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing have been priority areas for HR functions for a long time now, but the pandemic has placed even more focus on them Some teams are including a specific wellbeing hub on their HR intranet which brings together wellbeing-related content, resources and features onto one specific page or microsite. Typically, this will include:

  • Information on health-related benefits
  • Wellbeing related content, including tips and tricks, often produced by third parties
  • An opportunity to book wellbeing events and activities such as online mindfulness sessions
  • Access to a wellbeing community for discussions
  • Health and safety policies and procedures.

8 Employee resource groups to support Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is a crucial priority for organisations. An HR intranet can support D&I by providing information about initiatives and policies, as well as specifically supporting spaces for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are groups of employees that join together based on shared characteristics to support each other and positively promote D&I policies. Common ERG demographics include women, LGBTQ+ people, ethnic groups, military veterans and more. An HR intranet can provide information and resources about establishing ERGs, but also support discussion groups, usually through social collaboration features including integration with a platform like Yammer.

9 Create dialogue to check the employee pulse

Increasingly leaders are realising the importance of listening to employees and establishing dialogue in order to engage employees and help inform decisions, but also spot problems and issues that need fixing. Intranets are an excellent channel for HR functions to get a sense of employee sentiment and understand issues that are impacting staff. There are a variety of different intranet features that can help get a pulse check on how employees are feeling, including:

  • Discussion feeds and communities, such as those powered by Yammer
  • Quick polls and more in-depth surveys
  • Commenting on blogs and news articles
  • Overall analytics to see what content staff is engaging with.

10 Nurturing organisational culture to drive employee experience

HR functions want to create a great place to work in order to retain and attract talent, and intranets can help nurture organisational culture that contributes to this. Internal communications an integral part of any intranet play a part here, alongside the ability for employees to post updates from across the organisation, celebrate successes and thank their peers. Information about company purpose and values, as well as updates on CSR activities, can also play a part.

Need to discuss your HR intranet? Get in touch!

An HR intranet can provide real strategic value for HR functions and organisations through a combination of features and content. If you’d like to discuss your HR intranet or how an intranet can help your HR department, then get in touch!

Webinar: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Webinar details

Date: 24th November 2021
Time: 2:00pm UK time

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

Register now!

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