The new year is always a good time to take stock and think about the bigger picture. It’s also when intranet managers and their teams may be planning the months ahead, working out their specific objectives and prioritising activities.
For any planning process a useful reference point are the deeper trends seen across the world of intranets and digital workplaces. Factors such as the software market, AI and the Office 365 roadmap (for SharePoint Online intranets) can present both opportunities and challenges for intranet teams, and it’s always good to anticipate the trends that will be occurring over the next year or so.
We often get asked by clients planning a new intranet what will happen in the market in the short, medium and long-term future. While it’s always impossible to be completely certain about what’s going to happen, there are some intranet trends that are happening now that we can expect to become more prevalent in 2020.
So, to help planning here is our view of ten of the intranet trends we can except to see in 2020.
1. Intranets continue to be strategically important
Sometimes intranets get a bad press and are not regarded as particularly valuable, but the fact is that after 20 years intranets are still very much part of the enterprise digital landscape. One of the reasons they have survived so long is because intranets adapt and evolve to the needs of organisations and employees, absorbing new capabilities, and taking influence by developments on the web. Currently SharePoint Online intranets (and intranets in general) are starting to absorb more automation and can even be accessed through other applications like Microsoft Teams. Intranets continue to drive efficiency and engagement, and organisations continue to choose to invest in them.
2. AI becomes normalised on the intranet
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the subject of feverish and prolonged media attention, but we’re now starting to see AI creeping into everyday work processes and appearing as a useful feature of the intranet, particularly through chatbots. For example, within the suite of WIzdom and LiveTiles products AI is being used to remind employees to complete their people profiles and making tagging suggestions for content owners. Chatbots also help employees to find things and drive employee self-service, relieving some of the pressure on IT and HR helpdesks. During 2020 we can expect to see AI increasingly normalised on the intranet in ways that are actually useful.
3. Intranets outgrow the homepage
For a long time, the intranet has been the key destination and the starting point for navigating around content, services and increasingly apps. However, employees don’t spend their working day in the intranet, they work within applications like Microsoft Teams and Salesforce. Therefore, when an employee goes to the intranet homepage, it is quite possible it breaks the flow of their natural work. Increasingly we see employees wanting less and less fragmentation across the digital workplace and wanting to access intranet content and features from wherever they are.
In 2020 we believe we’ll start to see more and more intranet content being accessible from within applications, bypassing the homepage altogether. In intranet products like Wizdom this is already possible with elements such as the Power Panel and Wizdom for Teams, presenting a genuinely new paradigm for intranet design.
4. SharePoint intranets become intertwined with Office 365
One of the directions of travel for Office 365 has been the easier and more consistent integration of the different tools and services within it, including SharePoint Online. This means it is becoming easier and easier to add web parts that reflect content from Yammer, Teams or elsewhere into a SharePoint Online intranet, as well as take advantage of the Microsoft Power Platform capabilities around workflow and automation. In 2020 we believe SharePoint Online intranets well become ever intertwined with Office 365, helping leverage the investment in Office 365 and usefully surfacing the range of tools for employees.
5. An intranet has a digital employee experience mandate
Digital employee experience (DEX) has been a term that has grown in use over the past year, referring to a more holistic and strategic view of how digital channels can enhance the overall employee experience at all stages through the employee lifecycle. Just as customer experience is understood by stakeholders, the term employee experience similarly resonates, particularly with HR functions.
Armed with a mandate to drive a better digital employee experience, intranets are being considered more as part of a whole ecosystem that contributes to moments that matter for employees such as onboarding, internal promotion, and more, as well as driving everyday efficiency and engagement.
6. Microsoft investment continues to stimulate options
Over the past two years Microsoft has continued to introduce features that support an enterprise intranet experience straight out of the box using modern SharePoint, for example extending capabilities around content targeting and navigation. This year they also announced the creation of home sites to bring something starting to resemble an enterprise intranet homepage. In 2020 we believe Microsoft’s investment will continue to add more options for intranet teams while also driving innovation within “in a box” products like Wizdom. Essentially this means teams have more options and SharePoint intranets get better!
7. Knowledge management comes back into focus
In late 2019 Microsoft announced an intriguing new service currently in development as Project Cortex This uses AI to organise content into different topics such as projects, products and processes, and also assemble related knowledge networks based on information from the Microsoft Graph. This effectively brings automation to Knowledge Management (KM), with the intranet an obvious place for output such as related learning content or even curated knowledge centres. We think as Project Cortex starts to be revealed, it will bring KM sharply back into focus with the intranet as a key delivery channel. KM has never really gone away, but it may now get some of the attention it deserves.
8. Personalisation becomes the key to intranet success
Intranets keep on improving but many of their more sophisticated capabilities such as content subscriptions and targeting, ability to view relevant apps, links and sites, and the “intelligent” elements such as AI require some level of personalisation.
Personalisation allows individual employees to fully leverage the power of intranets as a relevant experience that helps them with their working day and is centred around their needs. A frontline employee based in South Africa and back office employee in France have completely different information and communication needs. Through 2020 we expect to see personalisation continue to become increasingly important for intranet success.
9. Persistent toolbars become productivity engines
A common design feature of intranets has been persistent toolbars that follow users from page to page. Partly designed to reduce clutter on the homepage, increasingly these allow employees to view personalised sets of links and apps, sites you a member of, aggregated notifications and more.
These toolbars are often designed to help employees get things done and find what they need, driving efficiency and replacing email. In Wizdom, for example, the
10. Intranets support the democratisation of automation
We’ve long admired the way Microsoft has designed systems like PowerApps and Power Automate (previously Flow) to be able to be configured by power users rather than non-developers, effectively democratising automation and allowing departments to drive their own process efficiencies without wholly relying on IT functions. The easier integration of the Power Platform apps into SharePoint Online, the general use of workflow and forms on intranets and even the increase in the use of bots means that we see intranets continuing to support the non-IT creation of automaton and workflows. This will make intranets even more business relevant through 2020.
Stay with us through 2020
We hope you’ve found our run down of the themes for 2020 useful. For more insights, continue to check our blog and watch out for details of webinars and presentations through the coming year. If you’d like to discuss any of the themes or you need help planning out your intranet or digital workplace strategy for 2020 then get in touch!