There are debates over whether building or buying an intranet solution is the best way forward. But with digital workplace requirements becoming more complex by the day, many brands are turning to vendors to help bridge the communication gaps within their organization.

To help make that selection process a little easier, CMSWire has taken advice from industry experts to find out these items every brand should consider when choosing an intranet platform.

1. Prioritize Content

You want your digital workplace intranet to be packed full of activity, knowledge sharing and collaboration. Thus, you’ll want to select an intranet solution that doesn’t just provide content creation features, but encourages that creation through user friendliness. “Modern intranets are all about communication; within teams, across offices, from leadership, and back up to leadership. The world of business has moved on from top-down oligarchies, and a good intranet reflects that. An intranet that only allows the leadership team to push information down, and doesn’t enable them to listen, is missing the point entirely,” said Vancouver, Canada-based Jostle CEO Brad Palmer.

How does this manifest in intranet features? According to Palmer, it’s all about, “good instant-messaging tools, a news page that allows everyone to publish and share articles, comments sections on all articles, and live-streams from Twitter. All of these types of features allow everyone to share and contribute.”

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2. Remember Rewards and Recognition

Gamifying your intranet experience is a great way to encourage engagement and show recognition to employees who are hitting or exceeding their expectations in the digital workplace. “A simple 'thank you' is an incredibly powerful gesture. Every time you thank someone, you’re showing them that they’re appreciated. The bonus is that you’re encouraging good behavior and publicly reinforcing your company values,” said Palmer.

An intranet with built-in recognition features can make it is easy to do all of this in a timely fashion. It’s even better, according to Palmer, if the intranet has peer-to-peer recognition, because fewer good deeds and work will go unnoticed.

3. Place Importance on Integrations

One of the bigger problems facing the modern digital workplace is noise. With notifications flooding in from Slack to Yammer to Gmail, employees have too many digital workplace tools to juggle. That’s why Mick Hicks, VP of Marketing and Strategy at Ontario, Canada-based Igloo Software, advises brands to consider solutions with ample integrations to — at the very least — make that juggling more manageable. For him, brands should look to an intranet solution that can help, “integrate personal productivity apps and enterprise systems into a central destination that meets the needs of individual employees, teams and line of business owners, as well as the executive team.”

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This makes it convenient for employees to access tools like their preferred files sharing system, document creation suite, instant messaging, and core enterprise systems like HRIS and CRM more efficient, and streamlines communication and workflows.

On top of integrations, Hicks believe it’s important for an Intranet to actually help users find the tools they want. “We are seeing the importance of federated search functionality, a feature that enables employees to search all of their apps and tools from within [the intranet]. For example, employees could set their search to look through their entire SharePoint repository, as well as searching through their Igloo workplace for a document,” he explained. With Hicks’ advice in mind, brands should list out their most commonly used employee tools to ensure that their chosen intranet solution streamlines the daily life of their employees, rather than complicating it further.

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4. Search For Sustainable Architecture

Palmer explained that one of the primary reasons for intranet deployment failure is due to poor architecture. With poor architecture underpinning the platform, he shared, "users can create hundreds of pages, which means information gets dispersed, files get lost, and it’s organizational chaos. The only real way to prevent this from happening is to hire an intranet consultant or having a full-time IT person manage it. Obviously, these are expensive options and to be avoided if possible. Find an intranet with an architecture that avoids this problem entirely."

5. Avoid The Feature-bloat Trap

Finally, a whitepaper published by San Francisco, Calif.-based Appirio warns brands about choosing an intranet based on a gluttony of features that aren’t actually relevant to the brand’s objectives. “While a compelling employee experience is required, an intranet doesn’t have to be a multimedia extravaganza,” the whitepaper reads. Instead, brands should carefully line up their shortlist of intranet solutions against their objectives to see if the features will help them, "serve each individual in a personalized and relevant way."