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The best employee intranet software in 2023

The best employee intranet software in 2023

We often get asked what the best employee intranet software is in order to meet the needs of a particular organisation. That’s not actually a straightforward question as there are lot of variables it depends on, such as the budget available, the need of users and the underlying technology stack in use. However, there are certainly some general observations that can be made about the best employee intranet software to buy in 2023. In this post we’re going to try to unravel the question and provide some answers.

What do we mean by the best employee intranet software?

Modern intranets are platforms that deliver multiple capabilities and support several core organisational processes including internal communications, collaboration, employee self-service and employee engagement. Intranets also help employees find all the information they need, complete tasks and stay informed, while also acting as a web-based publishing platform for news and updates. Increasingly modern intranets are also an entry point into the wider digital workplace through links to applications and integrations.

The best employee intranet software is the optimal technology platform and related applications that help to deliver the intranet and all its feature and capabilities. As already noted, there is no one “best” or one-size-fits-all solution as every organisation has slightly different needs for their intranet. However, in our view intranets based on SharePoint consistently provide the widest number of options and flexibility to suit virtually every business.

What are some of the key questions to ask to determine the best intranet software?

There are many factors that will impact any decision about the best employee intranet software for a particular organisation. The kind of questions that intranet and digital workplace teams need to be thinking about, include:

  • What strategic objectives does your organisation want to achieve with the intranet?
  • What are the pain points that your employees are experiencing relating to communication and productivity?
  • What are the specific processes that the intranet could support?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is the underlying technology stack that is already in place?
  • What are the particular features that you need on the intranet?
  • Are there any specific security, compliance and regulatory issues that need to met?
  • What sort of supplier or vendor are you looking for?

All these questions should ultimately lead to a set of functional and non-functional requirements that will help you choose the best employee intranet software. But there are some high-level factors to also consider in the choosing the best software, which we’ll cover below.

The power of Microsoft 365 and SharePoint

In our view the best underlying software for an intranet is SharePoint, often delivered through Microsoft 365.  The good news is that many organisations have a technology stack based on Microsoft, and many have implemented Microsoft 365. SharePoint is an exceptional platform which is flexible, scalable and has a rich set of features that can be assembled to deliver an employee intranet. Moreover, it also means you can seamlessly integrate other Microsoft tools to provide an overall excellent digital employee experience.

SharePoint has also been the dominant base technology for intranets for nearly twenty years, and while it has not always been universally loved, the current version is the best yet. There is also a whole industry of intranet and employee experience platforms and products based on SharePoint that adds to SharePoint’s value, and can be used to deliver a great intranet. The fact that SharePoint is bundled as part of Microsoft 365 also makes it very attractive and potentially a cost-effective base technology for an intranet.

What’s the best version of SharePoint for an employee intranet?

There are multiple versions of SharePoint. Some of these date back many years and include SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013 and so on. SharePoint is also available on-premises or online.

While it’s unusual for organisations to still be relying on older versions of SharePoint, occasionally you do find an old custom intranet that relies on SharePoint 2007. Older versions of SharePoint tend to be built in “classic” – this is a highly flexible platform but has a far less attractive interface and its far harder to manage for intranet publishers and users.

More recent SharePoint intranets are based on modern SharePoint, a much more attractive and intuitive platform that also has better performance. Most versions of SharePoint Online that accessed via Microsoft 365 are based on modern SharePoint. In our view, the best version of SharePoint for an employee intranet is modern SharePoint Online.  It is perfectly possible to deliver a large, enterprise intranet based on SharePoint Online and many organisations choose this path – however relying on this alone does mean there are some gaps in functionality and features.

In-a-box employee intranet software

There are many intranet “in-a box” products that offer turnkey software that can deliver a fully functioning employee intranet. This is both a mature and competitive market and there are multiple feature-rich products, presenting a lot of choice for intranet teams. Some of these are branded as employee experience platforms (EXP) as they often present features and functionality that involves integrations and the ability to access intranet content via other channels. A sense of the breadth of choice can be gained through a Google search or by looking at ClearBox Consulting’s excellent Buyer’s Guide that profiles and reviews some of the highest profile products.

Within the in-a-box market, there are really two main types of intranet software: those that run alongside or on top of SharePoint and those that are completely independent. In our view, the best products are those that work alongside SharePoint. These products take the best of modern SharePoint but then adds value by filling any gaps in the functionality including offering better support for internal communications and engagement, incresased flexibility over branding, providing ready-to-go templates, and more. This results in a better intranet that is easier to manage and with a quicker time-to-market. For many years we’ve helped many customers implement an intranet based on the LIveTiles SharePoint in-a-box product which is perhaps the best all-round product with a highly reasonable price point.  There are, however, alternatives to using an in-a-box product that we explore below.

Choosing web parts that will improve SharePoint

SharePoint (and SharePoint intranet) pages are made up of building blocks or components called web parts. If you are using SharePoint Online for your intranet, sometimes rather than needing a whole in-a-box product for your intranet software,  you only actually just need a few specific extra web parts. For example, SharePoint Online doesn’t have a web part out of the box that allows users to configure their own personal links to apps and sites, but this is actually a really popular intranet feature.

Because we continually saw a few common extra web parts requested by intranet teams, we created the Lightspeed 365 Modules product. This is actually a collection of web parts that extend the power of SharePoint to give you all the features and modules you need to deliver an excellent intranet; this approach means you can leverage the full power of SharePoint but have all the main required extras at a much lower price than an average in-a-box product.

It’s also worth noting, that some organisations may choose to develop their own custom web parts to add to their intranet. SharePoint is a strong platform to do this, especially because you can use Microsoft’s Power Platform to create apps, workflows, dashboards and even bots.

Specialist applications to complete your employee intranet

Sometimes there might be a particular feature of your intranet that is particularly important to your organisation and your employees, but your requirements are not fully met by SharePoint or additional employee intranet software. In these cases, you may need to consider specialist software that integrates with your intranet.

For example, a policy library that can be accessed by the intranet is important for organisations in regulated industries, but this can be quite a limited feature in intranet software. An intranet team then may need to invest in deeper policy management software that helps employees find the policy they need, but also enables policy owners to better manage their policies. We found this was the case with multiple clients, so we built Xoralia, a robust policy management solution that integrates with SharePoint , but to users can feel just like part of the intranet.

The role of Microsoft Viva Connections

In recent years, the use of Microsoft Teams has exploded and for many organisations it is the centre of their digital workplace. Given its popularity, Microsoft launched an employee experience platform called Microsoft Viva made up of a number of different modules that is mainly experienced through Microsoft Teams.

One of the modules – Viva Connections – allows a SharePoint intranet to be accessed through Microsoft Teams, and increasingly some of the features in Viva – including a personalised content feed and a task-focused dashboard – can also be accessed through a SharePoint intranet. We expect Viva Connections to evolve and to become a part of the intranet software landscape – thankfully this comes bundled with you Microsoft 365 license.

Trying to decide the best employee intranet software?  Get in touch!

In our view SharePoint is the best employee intranet software, but there is also a lot of extra software to consider. If you’d like to discuss finding the best employee intranet software for you, then get in touch!

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