woman on a laptop
Just because we have access to more tools to support our work doesn't change the purpose (or the need) for an intranet PHOTO: Christine Hume on unsplash

The purpose of an intranet remains the same: to inform and connect staff across the broader organization. So when people ask where intranets fit in a digital workplace strategy the answer is, "where they always have."

The need for what intranets provide hasn’t gone away and is unlikely to in the future. Sure, new tools and concepts will emerge around how we work but the essential requirement to keep employees informed and engaged remains unchanged.

Single Point of Truth

Over the years, we have tried different tools to build employee engagement. Static web pages, eRoom, SharePoint, Slack and custom-built solutions. The goal has always been the same: find a place outside of email where people could obtain basic information and ask questions. Sure, some intranets have more advanced features such as reserving the company’s baseball tickets, but most people just want to know if they have to work on Columbus Day or not.

The intranet arose as a way to leverage the exciting technology of web pages to communicate internally. A digital version of the breakroom bulletin board. Advanced features started showing up as the technology evolved and organizations became ambitious. Still, the core requirement to have information available in a well-known, and ideally well-trafficked, location has never changed.

Enter the Digital Workplace

Now pundits are touting the digital workplace. While not a new concept, the point is to make sure people can have a single user experience to accomplish a single job; no more jumping between applications to perform a single process. Historically people put forward the idea of a cockpit, similar to what airplane pilots use, to illustrate the need to have everything required for a job in one place.

It stands to reason that as these digital workplaces advance, IT could simply add the key components from the intranet to the digital cockpit. The problem is that for many organizations, there are multiple roles. Multiple roles mean different digital experiences.

Pushing the intranet to people just isn’t feasible. While larger organizations may have more resources to make this happen, they also have more digital workplaces to push this through. This approach was tried last decade with the corporate portal and that quickly faded away when people realized that skipping the portal to the right applications was faster.

One Company, One Voice

The role of the intranet has not changed, but it is becoming more important than ever. When teams become more dispersed, the need to insure a common message and culture is more important. While many employees will skip the intranet most weeks, it is critical that it is ready to assist when employees do stop by.

If anything has changed, it is the increased need to invest in the intranet. The digital sophistication of the average staff member is rising. They expect more interactive experiences that allow them to express their opinion and engage. The simple page full of links no longer has the wow factor, no matter how cool the image of your CEO being dunked at the company picnic is. Many employees not only want answers, they want to discuss it with colleagues and provide direct feedback to the decision makers.

So how does the intranet fit into the modern digital workplace? The same way it always has, front and center. A good intranet can help people feel like they all belong to a larger organization even more. It is a place where they can go when they have a question they need answered.

Or at least get those tickets to Thursday night’s baseball game.