When Interact (news, site) announced the winners of its annual Intranet innovation awards, we thought it might be more beneficial to see if you could take advantage of the lessons learned.

Plan Before Starting

Intranets are a tricky beast, they need to have an energized userbase and be welcoming to all members of a company. U.K.-based intranet software provider, Interact, shed some light on best practices when announcing its intranet award winners.

Intranets shouldn't just happen, that way lies chaos. Any reasonably sized company should have someone or a team in charge of identifying the target audience, what they need to achieve and creating the right tools for different segments. Also, someone has to set up the rules of conduct and governance to make sure users behave themselves.

Launching your intranet is a very important phase. For larger companies, a phased launch around key departments will see wrinkles ironed out early. Still, you have to get the users energized. One company that won an Interact award offered a star prize of a trip to New York to encourage users to join in the launch of their intranet, with puzzles and information hunts to get them exploring its features.

Power of the Intranet

Among Interact's other winners were companies who experienced near 1,800% usage increases in their intranet, one saw a 50% reduction in help desk calls and others saw further business benefits. For example, one retailer deployed a human resources section with an "Ask" feature to reduce the amount of time that the HR department took to deal with simple issues.

Another company, with offices in 13 countries, added an "ask the CEO" feature and an innovation suggestion feature, so that those workers beavering away in distant lands could feel closer to the big scheme of things and interact more directly with the boss.

What Would You Do?

None of these tips are rocket science, but when given the right spin and treatment can turn a deserted intranet into a vibrant, essential business tool. it wouldn't surprise us that many companies simply put their intranet out there and let it flounder or float on the tides of user whim. If your company doesn't, then why not suggest one of these ideas and see what happens.

Or, if you're launching a company intranet, look at your company and the site, and see what you can do to better introduce them to each other. Remember to keep the momentum up once the initial enthusiasm has waned and keep checking to see what others are doing, after all borrowing a good idea will save you the effort of thinking of it. What do you think? Let us know.