BNY Mellon, winner of the 2017 Digital Workplace of the Year awards
PHOTO: Jeff Callen

Intranet and digital workplace awards and competitions have been around for many years now and have provided a great mechanism for sharing in-depth intranet examples, management approaches and designs across the global intranet community. This has helped with knowledge-sharing and the adoption of good practices across intranet teams.

Awards, Awards and More Awards

Awards like Step Two’s Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards and Digital Workplace Group and CMSWire’s joint Digital Workplace of the Year Awards (disclosure: I manage the former and do work with DWG, but not directly on the latter awards) help celebrate some of the world’s leading-edge platforms: not only in their design and capabilities, but also in how these intranets are managed. Both competitions, which are both open for submissions at the time of writing, owe a debt to the Nielsen Norman Group’s Awards which were established in the early aughts and are still running today.

Joining these global competitions are many other intranet and digital workplace awards covering specific countries, vendors and conferences as well as competitions for related disciplines such as internal communications, employee engagement, and knowledge management. Indeed, the relatively niche intranet competition space is now becoming quite crowded.

By sharing good practices, successful approaches and innovative tactics, these awards have arguably made intranets — and the teams that manage them — operate a little more effectively. Other mechanisms such as conferences, networking groups, blogs and publications and the existence of a high number of practitioners in the intranet and digital workplace vendor and consultant ecosystem have also played a role in professionalizing intranet teams.


Related Article: A Look at Nielsen Norman Group's Top 10 Intranets of 2018

How Awards and Case Studies Can Help Intranets Progress

The dissemination of examples of great intranets and strong intranet management practices has benefitted intranet teams in three ways.

First, because intranets are internally-focused, many details remain hidden behind the firewall due to confidentiality. Awards provide a raison d’etre and a more controlled process to share designs and practices which otherwise might never be shared.

The second is that many members of intranet teams stumble into the world of intranets by accident. Internal communicators, digital specialists, administrators, HR folk, business analysts, IT people or others may inherit their first intranet responsibility, having had no prior intranet experience. Let’s be honest: no one (ever) has said at school they want to grow up to be an intranet manager. So many who find themselves running an intranet can find the designs and methodologies outlined in award submissions very valuable, even as just a starting point to guiding their own decisions.

The third reason is that intranets have evolved, and so has how they need to be managed. Over the past 15 or so years, intranets have changed to involve far more capabilities and are now being positioned as digital workplaces. Some intranet managers are also inheriting new responsibilities around the digital workplace and these are reflected in Awards such as the “Digital Workplace Leader of the Year.”  I’ve managed Step Two’s awards for seven years now and we’ve seen waves of valuable insights included in our winning entries covering incorporation of social functionality, how to deliver mobile solutions, and now the digital workplace.

Related Article: How the Danish National Police Created an Award-Winning Intranet

Intranet Information and Inspiration, But Don't Cut and Paste

We know awards help intranet teams apply successful practices in their own organizations because they have told us this is the case. Very occasionally it’s possible to spot where one intranet team has taken inspiration from another.

However, it is important to note you cannot “lift and shift” what has worked well in one organization and expect it to suddenly make your own intranet more effective. Details of an “award-winning intranet” can only be applied within your own frame of reference, but successful examples of content governance, change management approaches or improving search often are a very good starting point for your own team.

One criticism of awards is they only tend to show off the most shiny, expensive intranets or take a modestly successful intranet and then pump it up to be a ground-breaking, game-changing initiative within an organization. Cases study material can effectively end up like candy in these cases — fun to ingest, but not really good for you.

However, most intranet competitions are aware of this. Rather than just showing pretty screenshots, winning entries also focus on lessons learned, management approaches and good practices — basically the stuff intranet teams need to know. A healthy mix of different organizations among the winners, putting intranet lessons within reach for all, not just global corporations.

Related Article: How Stihl Australia Launched Its Award-Winning First Intranet

A Growing Body of Knowledge

The case studies which come out of competitions have helped create a body of knowledge and good practices which practitioners continue to draw upon to make their intranets and digital workplaces more effective. And as managing the wider digital workplace becomes more important, awards will continue to produce material which is a useful reference point for teams — which in turn will help make the platforms they manage more effective.