User adoption is the number one challenge facing anyone in charge of a corporate intranet or employee portal. If you cannot get your users on the site for simple tasks like finding a document or contact information than there is no chance that it will become a collaborative resource for your organization

There are three key areas which can assist in transforming your intranet from a barren land of little use in the day to day lives of your employees to a vibrant resource for information delivery and corporate communication as well as a platform for collaboration.

1. Don’t Waste Their Time

As Gerry McGovern noted last spring, “the number one complaint, by a huge margin, that employees have of their intranet is: It's a WASTE OF TIME!” If intranet users feel that the use of the intranet is a waste of time, they certainly will not use it as a platform for collaboration.

Enterprise search and categorization will help people quickly find information and expertise. However, you should use social tools to allow information to find your users. For example, if I know Bill was working on the new sales PowerPoint yesterday, I can simply go to his activity stream and find it. Alternatively, my colleagues’ ratings, recommendations and reviews will point me directly to the information they find most useful.

Tagging (of assets, people and groups) will help me select documents based on the corporate “folksonomy” and to locate the expertise I would need to collaborate on a project using the intranet.

All these elements working together will make your intranet seem like less of a waste of time to users and more like something which has daily value in helping them accomplish their goals.

2. Give Them Mobile Access

The number one trend online today is the explosion of mobile users. On the intranet, this trend is reflected in the fact that, of the winners of the 2011 Nielsen Norman Group Intranet Design Annual, the number of winners with a mobile-enabled intranet has doubled in one year.

Collaboration on the intranet will only work if people can collaborate on all the devices that they use to accomplish their work with. If your users can edit a Word document on their phone, but your intranet does not allow them to do so online, then the collaborative benefits of an Enterprise 2.0 intranet will be lost and you will be back to the misery of divergent versions.

To do this may not require that you build device specific apps either. E-mail is the lowest common denominator when it comes to accessing the corporate network on a mobile device and your intranet should take advantage of this fact to power mobile collaboration.

3. Build a Collaborative Culture

Martin White notes that collaboration on your intranet “starts with culture.” If you want your intranet to be a collaborative platform for managing projects and creating documents than everyone has to be committed to working this way.

A collaborative environment is only as strong as its weakest link. Nothing will upset the collaborative flow of an intranet-managed marketing project quicker than when the VP asks the team to e-mail her the final draft and she e-mails back her changes.

In our experience, a common reason for the scenario above is that the VP is on the road and wants to look at the deliverable on her phone -- see point two. In the end, if your company is not committed to using the intranet to collaborate then trying to make it into a collaborative platform is going to be a waste of everyone’s time.

Final Thoughts

There is much more to consider when building an intranet and every company’s needs vary. However, if you ensure that the intranet has daily value, that users can collaborate on their mobile device, and foster a culture committed to intranet-based collaboration, you will be off to a good start towards intranet success on 2011.