view of the US from space via NASA
As our digital workplaces continue to expand, intranets can serve as the anchor to a distributed workforce PHOTO: NASA

Intranet get a mixed rep in today’s digital workplace. They’ve been around, under one guise or another, since the explosion of the internet in the late 1980s: and in a fast-paced, continually innovating tech market, that longevity is often seen as a bad thing.

If you’ve got one, you probably know it’s value. If you don’t, they might call up visions of old-school private internal networks, a dumping ground for outdated policies, HR notices and the staff newsletter no one reads.

But today’s intranet is near-unrecognizable compared to its predecessor. Its place in the modern digital workplace should no longer be a question. Given the challenges and opportunities now facing our globalized, dispersed workforces, it belongs at the very center of your long-term strategy. 

Our Increasingly Complicated Digital Workplaces  

No holy grail for business software exists. In fact, vendors who feature stuff their applications, claiming to do everything in one, often do so at the cost of user experience. In short, it’s better to have multiple specialist tools that do a few things well, rather than one tool that does everything at a mediocre level.

Digitally-savvy users enjoy more flexibility and choice than ever before, and the result is an increasingly complex and diverse digital workplace. A single organization may have hundreds, if not thousands of different tools and applications as part of its technology stack, particularly as the BYOD culture continues to grow. Our employees are hopping from Skype to GoToMeeting, from Dropbox to Asana and BambooHR to Capterra — a recipe for technology fatigue. 

Add into the mix an increasingly dispersed workforce who can now work from anywhere, at any time, from any device and it’s clear we’re facing one of the greatest organizational challenges of the modern age. Simply, we’re spreading out: physically and technically.

Modern Intranets Enable Connections

This is where the modern-day intranet has tremendous power.

Yes, today’s intranets now offer a wide range of features and functionality. However, rather than trying to replicate specialist tools and do ‘everything,’ the best intranets are now designed to facilitate and unite the digital workplace. They connect not only people, but platforms, tools and processes.

Their relevance lies in their ability to transform the employee experience. An effective intranet will complement your existing technology stack, rather than disrupting it. Where once staff were battling lost or duplicated information spread over various applications, an intranet can serve as a central access point to everything employees need.

It doesn’t replace: it provides a gateway. By integrating with existing tools and platforms or using outbound single sign-on (SSO) functionality, it will break down information silos, streamline common processes and ultimately bring your digital workplace together. Simplifying the digital experience ensures our employees can concentrate on what is most important: getting stuff done.         

Building a Common Culture 

Building connections goes further than bringing together applications and information. One of the biggest challenges facing dispersed workforces is the inevitable breakdown in a common culture, with staff potentially never meeting their peers face-to-face, and shared physical spaces on the decline.

However, 82 percent of respondents to the Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey believe that culture is a competitive advantage. Culture is integral to employee engagement, drives behavior and impacts customer service. If your staff are globally dispersed, how do you unite them under a common mission?

With the introduction of social features and a user-focused approach to internal communication, an intranet will help create and embed a global culture that unites users, regardless of their role or location. Staff can connect according to shared interest or goal, gain visibility of what their peers in Hong Kong are achieving from the comfort of the New York City office, and have easy access to top-down communications from senior management.

The Intranet: At the Center of Modern Day Business

Technology has opened up avenues of opportunity. And for most of us, it has made the world bigger. More data has been created in the past two years than the entire previous history of the human race; we’re using more apps and tools than ever before; our colleagues no longer sit with us in the same office. The business cosmos is expanding outwards, and rapidly.

The intranet has a strategic role to play as an anchor point, a powerful connector at the center. Deployed successfully, it will bring together our people, information and applications. Even as we gain more and more pieces, the intranet can prevent us from fragmenting.