Content Formula

15 top intranet best practices

What is the best way to manage an intranet? What are some of the intranet best practices that we should follow?

These are typical questions that we get asked during an intranet project. Of course, there is no right or wrong or even definitive answer as every intranet and organisation is slightly different. However, over the years we’ve seen a LOT of successful intranet projects and there are a range of common approaches, techniques, tactics that work well time and time again.

In this post we’re going to explore fifteen essential intranet best practices that will help to drive adoption and value on your intranet. Of course, some best practices will be more relevant to particular intranet teams than others. You might also not agree with us, and we can’t absolutely guarantee that an intranet best practice will work for you. However, we’re pretty confident that if you follow all fifteen of these suggestions that you’ll have a successful site.

Let’s explore 15 essential intranet best practices.

1. Always have an intranet strategy based on user research

An intranet delivers benefits at multiple levels across your organisation. It supports communications, delivers change management, drives productivity, underpins learning and knowledge sharing, improves processes, minimises risk and more. It’s a strategic-level benefit and it is important to get it right.

It’s imperative to have an intranet strategy that will help to drive value and adoption. Having a well-thought-through overview of what you are trying to achieve with your intranet that aligns with your overall company strategy is essential. Having an accompanying plan and roadmap of how you’re going to achieve it also allows you to maintain focus, prioritise efforts, win over stakeholders, unite different team members around the same goals and ensure your intranet keeps moving in a strategic direction. An intranet strategy will also provide the framework for much of the detail around design, features, content and more.

A successful intranet strategy must focus on the needs of users and be wrapped around the way they work. This can only be achieved with a thorough understanding of your employees, their respective needs and their pain points. Undertaking user research and discovery exercise to fully understand the needs of different groups is key. You cannot formulate an intranet strategy and build an effective solution based on assumptions.  I

f you’re going act on only one intranet best practice from this article, then this is probably the most important!

2. Involve cross-functional stakeholders from across the organisation

Intranets impact an entire organisation and also need input from a wide variety of different business functions and departments. Creating an intranet and ensuring it remains valuable and has good adoption, requires input and ongoing involvement from a range of stakeholders including HR, IT, Internal Comms, Business Operations, and more.

These cross-functional stakeholders not only provide critical feedback into the direction of your intranet but will also be responsible for important content and possibly some of the systems that you may want to integrate into your intranet experience.

Stakeholder involvement should usually be reflected in some kind of ongoing governance structure such as representation on an intranet steering committee or as part of an intranet working group. When different stakeholders from varying functions are continually involved in your intranet, it has more buy-in, relevance and value.

3. Focus on content governance

An intranet is only as good as the content published within it. Great content is purposeful, relevant, accurate, up to date, engaging and on-brand. Intranets often launch with content that has been refreshed so it ticks all these boxes, but then that content quality is not maintained, and the intranet starts to decline in value over time.

A key intranet best practice is to ensure that you have a content governance framework in place that will help to maintain the quality of your intranet content over time. This is particularly important if you work with a devolved publishing model with content owners and authors from right across your organisation.

A content governance framework will consist of a number of different elements including:

  • Clear ownership of content, down to the page level.
  • A set of clear publishing standards.
  • Having clear content owner training, guidance and support.
  • Providing site and page templates.
  • Having regular reviews of content.
  • Using automated reminders for page owners to review their content.

4. Ensure your users shape your intranet

The best intranets are often shaped by direct input from the users.  Involving users through research, iteration and testing when creating your intranet will help to ensure it is user-centric, and also gives your intranet more legitimacy in the eyes of employees.

Another intranet best practice is to gather and act upon employee feedback regularly to inform changes. This not only provides hugely valuable data so you can tweak and improve your intranet, but it also lets employees know that their opinions are valued, emphasising the role of the intranet as a truly user-centric channel.

There are various techniques to support gathering feedback, including creating a regular user group, running polls and surveys, and creating feedback mechanisms via the intranet itself.

5. Leverage digital and intranet champions for launch

Invariably central intranet teams tend to be quite small, and sometimes can be just one-person or two-person teams. This can be challenging when launching an intranet across a large organisation.

Many intranet teams find that leveraging a network of voluntary digital and intranet champions is an excellent way to launch an intranet and drive adoption.

Champions provide a local point of contact to let different teams know about the new intranet, answer any questions, relay any feedback and provide any support. They may also promote ongoing changes and potentially play some kind of coordinating role with content. Digital champions provide additional value by being trusted by their peers and also by providing context about the role of the intranet with reference to local working practices and needs.

6. Make your intranet the front door to the wider digital workplace

A primary role of the modern intranet is to act as the “front door” to the wider digital workplace, providing easy access to the wider portfolio of applications used by employees throughout the enterprise. When the intranet acts as this entry point, it drives efficiency, supports intranet adoption and also the use of the individual apps.

There are multiple ways to achieve this. For a SharePoint intranet, integrations with other Microsoft 365 tools makes it easier to create this digital “front door” with web parts for tools like Microsoft Viva Engage. You can also add links to apps and tools so the intranet homepage acts as an “app launcher”.

It’s also possible to initiate specific integrations with enterprise systems like Workday and ServiceNow to help employees complete common tasks like logging a ticket or requesting annual leave. The Viva Connections dashboard and the ability to leverage out-of-the-box connectors is one of the best ways to create a task-based dashboard on your intranet so it is truly the entry point to the wider digital workplace.

7. Use personalisation on your intranet

Using personalisation is a “must-have” intranet best practice. Inevitably workforces are diverse, particularly in large, complex and global organisations. For intranets to succeed, content and experiences need to be relevant to different roles, divisions and locations. Invariably users also expect the technology they use inside and outside work to “understand” them and save time, reflecting their needs, interest and preferences. Internal communicators also want to be able to target items to different sections of a workforce to deliver effective messaging.

Leveraging personalisation so that relevant, targeted content appears based on an individual’s profile, groups and preferences is essential for any modern intranet.

8. Make sure your intranet helps employees get things done

Intranets support multiple processes but two of the most important are keeping employees informed and helping employees complete tasks and get things done. Because intranets are often owned by internal communication teams there is usually an emphasis on news and messaging, particularly on the intranet homepage. This is vitally important, but the truth is that most employees come to an intranet to complete their work rather than read the news. If your intranet is too focused on news only it can result in poor adoption.

An important intranet best practice is to ensure your intranet has a good balance between news and task completion.  You can achieve this through using the intranet as an app launcher, integrating key enterprise systems, incorporating “How Do I” information, ensuring there is informative content such as policies, and even using the intranet to aggregate reminders from multiple platforms.

When your intranet helps employees get things done it will drive better adoption and in turn ensure news items get read when people visit, ticking both boxes for internal communications and supporting productivity.

9. Have a user-focused and task-based information architecture

Another way to help employees get things done is to create a user-focused and task-based intranet information architecture and site navigation. This guides employees towards task completion and support user journeys.

All too often an intranet has a navigation that mirrors an organisational structure, use terms that are not clear and has bad practices such using lots of acronyms. An intranet best practice is to avoid these traps and make sure your navigation uses intuitive labels and is orientated around the needs of users. The best way to make this happen is to carry out user research and testing for your navigation using techniques such as card-sorting and task-testing.

10. Use measurement to drive continual improvement

Intranets and digital workplaces are never finished. There are always improvements and changes to be made, and the best intranets are managed on a basis of continual improvement.

Measurement is a key component of continual improvement, helping to identify where changes are needed. Intranet teams collect analytics on adoption and usage, reach, engagement, user satisfaction, search results, the individual performance of different content and more.

When measuring, ensure you take time to analyse and understand what the numbers mean, make changes or adjustments, measure again to see what the impact was and then make further changes. In this way, measurement is part of the process to drive improvement over the long term.

11. Make your SharePoint intranet available via Microsoft Teams

If you have a SharePoint intranet it is easy to integrate it with a range of other Microsoft tools. Using Microsoft Viva Connections, you can also enable your intranet to be accessed via Microsoft Teams. While there are still some advantages in viewing the intranet through the browser, if your users are spending much of their working day within Teams it makes good sense to allow them to view the intranet there too. This will help to drive intranet adoption by integrating it more directly into the daily flow of work.

12. Make your site accessible

Accessibility is a neglected area in the digital workplace, and it is surprising how few intranet sites actually meet the AA level of the WCAG 2.2 guidelines – the acceptable level that most external-customer sites aspire to to support people with disabilities. Ensuring that your site and content is accessible is not only important from a diversity and inclusion perspective, but also improves the general usability of a site.

Several practices can help make a site accessible including ongoing testing, introducing policies such as always having transcripts for videos and videos, double checking that all images have alt text and more.

13. Engage and support your publishing community

We’ve already explored the importance of establishing content governance. A companion intranet best practice is to ensure that you engage and support your devolved publishing community so that they continue to produce high quality content.

Generally, any publishers or content owners that are responsible for an area of an intranet will be doing this as an additional activity that is above and beyond their day job. Spending tine on an ongoing training programme, providing an online community, driving engagement through recognition and providing the right resources and tools that will make life easier for a content owner, will  all make a huge difference.

14. Ensure your intranet supports dialogue using social and community tools

Modern intranets are dynamic and lively channels with high levels of participation that ideally mirror an organisation’s vibrant culture. They have evolved from the dreary, static content repositories of the past.

An intranet best practice is to ensure that your intranet can support dialogue using social and community tools. This has multiple benefits including the ability to get feedback and input on initiatives, get a pulse check on employee sentiment and feeling, create valuable discussions for leaders, support employee engagement by giving everyone a voice and more.

There are a wide variety of different tools and features that can be used including blogs, polls, commenting, discussion forums, social feeds, hashtags and @mentions, feedback mechanisms, and more! Sometimes social tools can be added by integrating a social platform like Microsoft Viva Engage.

15. Hire an intranet manager

Intranets don’t look after themselves and they require some stewardship. While much of the responsibility for intranet content may be devolved, actually you do need someone to help coordinate everything, look after the intranet day to day, and continue to grow adoption and drive value. In our experience hiring an intranet manager or equivalent is critical to get best out of your investment in a new intranet.

Carrying out intranet best practices

In this post we’ve looked at some of our favourite intranet best practices that we’ve learned over the years. Of course, there are many more!

If you’d like to discuss a particular best practice, one we might have missed, or simply the best way to manage your intranet, then get in touch!

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