The five fundamental purposes to intranets are: content, communication, collaboration, activity and culture. Each purpose plays a key role in meeting staff and organizational needs and successful intranets maintain a balance between all five.

Intranet teams benefit from having a clear picture of the current focus of their intranets, highlighting areas of strength and weakness. By focusing on improving key areas, intranet teams can transform their intranets into valuable business tools.

This article focuses on two of the five purposes and looks at where intranets are in terms of communication and collaboration. 

Communications

Intranets can do much to support communication and collaboration, which are now seen as integral to the success of modern organizations. Over the past few years we have seen intranets evolve in these areas from just providing news on the home page and the odd project collaboration space, to delivering tailored news, giving staff the ability to comment on, like or add to news articles, and promoting the use of social and other collaborative tools.

In Step Two’s annual Intranet Innovation Awards we have seen improvements in these areas including innovative use of team-based collaboration tools, knowledge-sharing initiatives, integration of other communication channels and uses of technologies such as blogs and wikis.

Intranet Communications Tailored to User Needs

The intranet has a clear role to play as a corporate communication channel, one that reaches most staff across the organization.

On most intranets, this consists of one or more news boxes on the home page, publishing regular items of organization-wide interest. While the intranet’s role as a communications channel is well recognized, it only delivers on this objective when the site is being regularly used, and news alone isn’t enough to draw staff to the site.

We are now seeing a move to tailoring communications to the needs of the audience with home page news including corporate messages as well as departmental, local or role-specific messages. As the intranet delivers greater business value within organizations, we see more effective use of intranet news.

Microblogging and the use of activity streams within the enterprise were prevalent among this year’s Intranet Innovation Award entries. While this is becoming standard in many intranets, success is not as common. 

Collaboration

Historically, there has been little corporate recognition of collaboration, and teams and business units were left with just email and shared network folders. Intranets acted solely as publishing and news platforms, providing access to corporate documents but not directly supporting collaboration.