The age of the “everything intranet” is finally here

The age of the
"everything intranet”
is finally here

If you asked your employees what their perfect intranet would be like, what would they say? Some might answer that the perfect intranet would be a single place where they can find all the information they require to carry out their daily work. Others might say it’s a platform where they can get everything done without having to go to a myriad of other different apps and tools. Another employee might say the perfect intranet acts as a “one stop shop” for what they need during their working day.

For anyone who has ever carried out user research for an intranet project, these kinds of comments are very typical. Welcome to the concept of the “everything intranet” where users are able to find and achieve everything they need to do. One place. One platform. One experience. For everything. Or more realistically, just about everything.

In terms of the humble intranet, to some this may sound like nirvana. But in the past year we’ve seen more and more organisations achieve what is effectively an everything intranet.

What is genuinely surprising is that the everything intranet is not something that requires a multi-million-dollar investment and is only reserved for the world’s top global companies. Small and medium-sized organisations are investing in the everything intranet too. In fact, it’s quite possible for smaller companies to leapfrog larger and more technically mature organisations to achieve a world-class everything intranet, with relatively reasonable costs.

In this post we’re going to look at the concept of the everything intranet, the value it can bring and its main characteristics.

From the one stop shop to the digital workplace to the everything intranet

The concept of the intranet being a “one stop shop” for what employees need for their work is nothing new. I worked on my first few intranet projects in the late 1990’s – even back then it was common to have the one stop shop concept as an explicit aim of the project. But up to now this ideal has remained elusive and hard to deliver. It’s also expanded in scope, as intranets have taken on more features over the decades and introduced integrations with other systems.

Eventually the “one stop shop” idea outgrew the intranet and grew to encompass the concept of the “digital workplace”, a wider ecosystem of applications ideally underpinned by single sign-on and seamless integration. But all too often these have ended up as link farms that take the user on a fragmented and disjointed journey across corporate systems, each with their own look and feel.

Within the wider digital workplace, the intranet has taken on a role of “front door” or “window” or the first entry point to the wider digital workplace, and subsequently some intranets have been labelled as digital workplaces.

But the everything intranet is the latest evolution, with the intranet going beyond just being the front door. It’s the actual place where you can get things done without leaving the intranet itself; the majority of everyday tasks can be done via the intranet without having to visit a third-party system. The user experience is smooth and fluid. Whatever workplace task you are carrying out, things feel familiar and more harmonized. The age of the everything intranet is here.

What’s changed? Why now?

There are various enabling technologies driving the emergence of the everything intranet. These are primarily Microsoft technologies and tools.

The key one is Microsoft 365 – arguably Microsoft’s flagship technology which is now dominating the workplace. It’s the ecosystem where users can access dozens of different apps and tools, all of which integrate with each other. To use these apps, each user needs a Microsoft 365 licence and a Microsoft Entra ID which identifies them on the ecosystem and is core to delivering a highly personalized and secure experience.

There are also a number of other complementary developments that are enabling the everything intranet, including:

  • The evolution of Microsoft Teams into a platform which can aggregate information from multiple sources into one seamless experience.
  • A growing library of out-of-the-box connectors that help integrate Microsoft 365 with key non-Microsoft enterprise applications such as ServiceNow and Salesforce.
  • An expanding number of products based on SharePoint and other core 365 technologies that deliver key solutions such as a learning platform (e.g. LMS365), a policy management tool (e.g. Xoralia) that expand what’s possible to achieve using the intranet and SharePoint; these include Microsoft Viva modules.
  • Native solutions such as Lightspeed365 enable the rapid building of an everything intranet, meaning organisations don’t need to use a full intranet in-a-box solution but still extend the power of SharePoint.
  • Frameworks such as SPfX and Microsoft’s Adaptive Cards that make it easier and cheaper for organisations to build seamless integrations into their intranet experience.
  • Microsoft Graph which is working in the background in 365. It enables personalized experiences by aggregating user information, emails, files, and even information from other systems. This allows the intranet to display tailored content and relevant information, enhancing user engagement and productivity.
  • And, of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning AI. Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service leverages the OpenAI large language model popularized by ChatGPT. This new technology is rapidly ushering in AI-driven content assistance, intelligent chatbots, and automated workflows, transforming the intranet into a dynamic, AI-enhanced workspace.

Ten characteristics of the everything intranet

  1. The everything intranet delivers a consistent, seamless and intuitive user experience, that ultimately simplifies things for users, but is also on-brand. It avoids the cluttered, fragmented and frustrating experience often associated with digital workplaces that involve multiple applications to get things done.
  2. The everything intranet covers a wide range of business processes and services with everything from learning to engagement to booking meeting rooms to HR transactions; in fact, it covers most work-related tasks and information outside core operational and project work.
  3. The everything intranet uses personalisation and targeting to deliver a highly relevant experience that is different for every individual and tailored to their particular needs.
  4. The everything intranet has strong findability – delivered through search and browsing – connecting employees to the content, people, apps and data they need to get things done and make decisions, usually with personalised results. This findability isn’t necessarily just confined to items with Microsoft 365; increasingly Microsoft Search is also being used to connect to other content sources and third-party repositories. Going forward search will also integrate generative AI, with the use of natural language so users can simply ask questions rather than look for answers.
  5. The everything intranet allows users to complete simple transactions without the need to visit third party applications – all from within the intranet estate. For less common and more complex transactions, a user is handed off to the third-party application in question.
  6. The everything intranet often has a dashboard-like experience, aggregating data and features from multiple tools and repositories, all in one place.
  7. The everything intranet is highly secure and can be accessed in different ways – via the browser, Microsoft Teams, on a mobile device and increasingly via conversational interfaces and chatbots.
  8. The everything intranet is based on Microsoft 365 and encompases the myriad apps and tools included within it.
  9. The everything intranet is never finished and keeps on evolving and incorporating new features, including AI, which has the potential to transform the everything intranet into a personalised digital assistant
  10. The everything intranet has high value and tends to have high adoption, but barriers to entry and costs are now relatively low. It’s completely achievable for every organisation. If your current intranet is delivers a poor experience it’s now time to do something about it and build an everything intranet inside your organisation.

What are the benefits of an everything intranet?

There are multiple benefits of an everything intranet:

  • It has high value and relevance for employees, so it tends to have higher adoption than more traditional intranet models.
  • It surfaces and highlights Microsoft 365 tools and features such as Viva Engage, helping drive 365 adoption and ROI.
  • It supports productivity and efficiency by reducing the time employees spend finding information and having to log into multiple systems.
  • It reduces complexity and the overwhelming experience of “app overload” as well as the loss of focus that occurs from “context switching” between different applications multiple times per day.
  • It helps employees get things done with confidence now that they are able to complete a multiplicity of day-to-day tasks easily and quickly.
  • It contributes to an overall better employee experience by removing friction and saving time.
  • It can prove to be highly cost effective given the value it brings and the productivity it supports, opening up the opportunity to build an everything intranet to small and medium-sized businesses.

What does an everything intranet homepage look like?

There’s no definitive everything intranet as one size does not fit all. An intranet will differ from organisation to organisation. The example below shows an everything intranet accessed through Microsoft Teams.

The everything intranet is here to stay

We think 2024 will see more and more everything intranets delivering value for employees and organisations. If you want to create an everything intranet for your organisation or transform your current solution into an everything intranet, then get in touch!

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