Industry awards help to deliver recognition for industry leaders and provide useful case studies for others to learn from — and intranet awards are no different.

The intranet space now gives out a number of awards, some well-established and others less so. 

One award with less of an international profile is the “Danish Intranet Prize,” an annual celebration of the best intranet in Denmark. The IntraTeam founded the competition in 2005 and announces the winner every spring at its annual intranet conference, an event I attended for the first time this year.

Denmark has produced some quite advanced intranet and digital workplaces in recent years. Jane McConnell recently noted that Denmark topped her annual Organization in the Digital Age survey of countries with leading digital workplaces. 

The thriving Danish intranet community is keen to share their experiences and case studies, so the winning intranet has a high standard to live up to.

Realdania's Winning Intranet

This year's winner was Realdania, a small philanthropic organization with about 200 staff. Realdania's members support its mission to “improve the quality of life and common good by improving the built environment.” To date, it is has been involved in 3,000 building projects in Denmark. 

What makes the Danish intranet prize special is that it takes into account the views of actual users. The prize goes to the organization which scores the highest in the IntraTeam's survey-based benchmarking tool aimed at users. 

The survey covers almost 200 questions, relating to everything from news to collaboration to findability. The team carries out a further evaluation of the intranet to validate the output from the user survey. 

Realdania's new intranet received very few negative reactions, showing the positive impact and trust it has established with employees in a relatively short time.

The new intranet replaced an aging SharePoint solution. The organization launched it in January 2015 with a splash. 

Per Sommer, web editor at Realdania commented: “Our co-workers did not know we would launch on this date, we made it a bit like a surprise party. We filled two or three hundred balloons with helium and placed them all over the building. Even in the elevators and restrooms. On each balloon we attached a small note with details about one of the many new attributes of the new intranet.”

Aligning Internal and External on One Platform

The intranet is named “Jarmers Hjørne” (Jarmers Corner) after the address of Realdania's physical headquarters in Copenhagen. The intranet is built on Sitecore, a CMS usually more associated with external-facing websites. 

Sommer explained, “We chose Sitecore for several reasons. Our corporate website runs on the Sitecore CMS so we already knew the system and it made it a lot easier to use for our editors. Our partner Oxygen, who implemented the intranet, also develops and supports our corporate website, so we already knew each other and they know the way Realdania works and our culture.” 

Using Sitecore for both internal and external channels created some opportunities for integration and workflow although at the moment these are relatively limited. For example, intranet personal profiles also appear on the external website.  

Unsurprisingly, the intranet closely mirrors the branding on the website. As you can imagine from an organization which is dedicated to building and architecture, the intranet offers a strong visual identity and design aesthetic to the intranet, with a clean and modern interface. 

Realdania intranet

The homepage of the Realdania intranet. Screenshot courtesy of Realdania 

A Fresh Start Requires a Fresh Intranet

The new corporate branding is part of an organizational transformation from a more hierarchical and traditional culture to one which is more open and collaborative.  

Sommer said, “We are in the process of coming from a top-down culture to a more bottom-up culture. Our new CEO started this process on many levels. Among other things we started a re-branding process which signals your new values. The new brand is of course also reflected in the design of the intranet.”  

This more open culture is also reflected in the intranet being strongly social, as well as being fully responsive and available over the internet. An activity stream receives prominent placement on the homepage. It’s also very easy to upload and post content, including from a mobile device. 

During the presentation of the Danish intranet prize, the team demonstrated the intranet in action by posting a "selfie" photo in front of the conference audience and a note to say that they had won the intranet prize. Within a couple of minutes, the note already had a number of likes from their Realdania colleagues.

Sommer explained: “We have an intranet with much less control and a lot more trust. Almost all pages can be edited by anyone. We don’t have any gate-keepers anymore who control what can and cannot be posted. You can say that the intranet is owned by everyone, as opposed to before where it was owned by the top-level of the organization. We have a small group of super users and editors who meet twice a year to evaluate and discuss future developments. My co-worker and I are responsible for any new developments and sorting out bugs.”

Free Communication For the Win

This is a great example of a modern intranet where useful content, social features and attractive design help to build an intranet which employees use, like and trust. It’s demonstrated by good levels of adoption and the high user satisfaction ratings which led to the award. 

It is also an intranet which embodies the type of culture and values the organization wants to move towards. 

Reflecting on the success of Jarmers Corner, Sommer said, “We have created an intranet where all employees can freely communicate. Anyone can create news and anyone can post in the social stream. We were a bit anxious if people would start communicating more freely, but luckily Realdania’s more open and free culture has been accepted by most and subsequently we are seeing a lot more activity on the intranet than we expected.”

Well done to Normann Sloth and Per Sommer from Realdania as well as the team from the Oxygen digital agency. My thanks to Per and Normann from Realdania, and Kurt Kragh Sørensen for helping to arrange the interview.