Intranets have been part of the workplace technology landscape for over twenty years and continue to be an area where organizations choose to invest and find valuable. One of the reasons for this is that intranets have themselves evolved over on the years to take on a much wider set of capabilities. The modern is very different from the intranet of even a few years ago which tende. Despite this, there are still some questions about intranets in their value. In this article we are going to explore what an intranet is and ten ways in which it drives benefits for an organization.
What is an intranet?
Although definitions for an intranet differ from organization to organization and are partly defined by the capabilities they have, in general an intranet is regarded as a private website for employees that includes content and other features that help employees stay informed, complete tasks and find information. This is mainly achieved through a publishing platform that also has search capabilities, but there are also likely to be additional features, tools and even integrations. For example, your intranet may have an employee directory, a place to book meeting rooms, a video channel and more.
One of the things that many people don’t appreciate about intranets is that they deliver a whole range of different benefits. Let’s explore ten key areas where intranets add value.
1. Internal and leadership communications
A key role of the intranet is to drive internal communications. Employees need to be kept informed and updated about what’s happening in the company and intranets are a key channel to enable this with news and announcements. Intranets are also a great channel for leadership communications such as updates from the CEO.
What makes internal communications far more effective on a modern intranet is the ability to carry out content targeting so messages are truly relevant and delivered to the right audience, based on aspects such as a person’s role, location and division. On some intranets, employees can also subscribe to topics of interest.
Another important element that means intranets work well for internal and leadership communications is that different kinds of messages are usually catered for, covering everything from big formal announcements to informal social posts to operational updates to videos from the CEO.
2. Amplifying your culture and supporting dialogue
Intranets are usually a reflection of an organisation’s culture but also act as a platform to amplify and influence that culture too. This can be done in different ways such as leadership communications, information about values, people updates, information about CSR activities and so on. Providing the ability for users to share successes, do shout outs to peers and give updates also allows the great things that are happening across your company to “bubble up” to the surface and mirror the best parts of your culture.
Another important element of an intranet is it can also give everyone a voice, allowing users to give feedback, create blogs, express opinions and more. This can be critical in helping to drive engagement and creating dialogue, also allowing leaders to get a sense of how employees are feeling and creating a good rapport that cuts across organisational hierarchies.
3. Getting things done
The single biggest ticket item for intranets to do is to help employees get things done. An intranet will help your employees complete everyday tasks through a variety of different elements, saving everybody time and driving efficiency. Intranets deliver this in several different ways including:
- Helping employees find documents, people and apps through search and navigation
- Providing information on how to complete simple tasks
- Aggregating personalised reminders and approvals across multiple systems in a more efficient way than email
- Providing a starting point for forms and workflow
- Integrating with other apps to view data and carry out simple transactions, such as requesting annual leave.
4. Finding what you need
Helping employees find what they need is a staple of the intranet. Employees need to be able to find information, documents, people, apps, workspaces and more to carry out their role, to complete tasks and to collaborate. A good intranet saves on the enormous amount of time that gets wasted by people trying to find what they need. An effective intranet supports strong findability through:
- Providing a point to carry out a search, ideally looking though the intranet and related systems
- Having an intuitive navigation
- Personalized toolbars and menu items that allow people to reach apps, sites and workspaces they use everyday
- Access to special directories of information including the employee directory.
5. One source of truth for reliable information
Intranets can act as the “one source of truth” for authoritative and reliable information that employees need to access on a regular basis. Knowing that the version of an HR policy document or information about products and services is fully up to date and accurate ensures employees are able to be more effective.
Being able to reference content and other material helps employees to follow particular processes and carry out tasks; this can cover supporting customers, ensuring brand standards are met, driving sales, makimg decisions and more! Having a one source of truth for documents and information might not sound very exciting, but it is absolutely critical.
6. Collaboration and communities
Collaboration is important for organisations in getting work done efficiently but also in other processes like innovation. Intranets support collaboration by providing access to relevant sites and workspaces, but also sometimes though providing collaboration tools themselves, as well as resources that help people to understand how to use and get the best out of these tools. Collaboration can come in many different shapes such as project workspaces, Communities of Practice and even external collaboration sites, all of which can be supported by the intranet.
An intranet is also often integrated with social networking tools and platforms such as Yammer that help to drive more enterprise-wide discussions but can also support areas for non-work -related groups such as sports activities.
Overall an intranet that supports collaboration and communities creates enormous value, breaking down geographical and hierarchical siloes and driving connections between employees.
7. Sharing and accessing knowledge
Knowledge management (KM) is still an important for many organisations particularly in sectors like professional services, financial services and engineering; KM helps employees share best practices, use templates for model documents, support R&D activities and avoid wasting time by reinventing the wheel. Effective knowledge management also ensures people can easily find experts and get answers to questions or related advice. An intranet is the best vehicle for knowledge management, helping people find documents and content, share knowledge through Communities of Practice and locate experts through rich, detailed employee directories.
8. Standardisation of approaches
Large global companies can be diverse and complex, especially if they have been built up by acquisition. Sometimes large companies want to help drive common standards and processes across all of their different locations and divisions; this can happen in many different ways including the way people work, how customer service is carried out, policies such as Diversity and Inclusion, branding and many others. Sometimes they may want to onboard a new acquisition quickly.
Intranets are a great tool to standardise approaches because they allow everybody to access the same information but also provide connections between people in different offices. If you want to be a truly global company, you need a truly global intranet.
9. Front door to the wider digital workplace
A more recent role of the intranet has been to act as a highly convenient front door to the wider digital workplace, the portfolio of different apps, systems and platform that employees use every day. An intranet which contains links to all the different apps people need to use can act as a “launchpad” to accessing systems such as Workday, ServiceNow and the whole of the Microsoft 365 suite. Ideally there should also be Single Sign-On (SSO) so employees don’t need to enter a log-in or password. Some intranets also go further, including integrations with different systems to display data or carry out simple transactions.
10. Facilitating remote work
We have all seen during the COVID-19 crisis the importance of the entire workforce being able to work remotely. A good intranet supports this on several fronts including the ability to access critical information such as contact details pointing people to the right tools and collaboration sites, providing tips and guidance on remote working and even a place employees can connect with their colleagues to make the working day a little less lonely. Great intranets are doing their bit for helping us all navigate the current crisis.
Need advice on your intranet? Then get in touch!
Great intranets deliver a range of benefits but not everybody has a great intranet. If you’d like to discuss how to improve your intranet then get in touch.