bare feet near a group of guitar pedals with cords plugged in
Intranets can act as the glue that binds your digital workplace together, providing a single place for workers to both access information and work PHOTO: Michael Henry

Digital tools have made us more efficient — there's nothing particularly groundbreaking in that statement. 

Yet when we dissect the impact technology has had on our personal and professional lives, we can see the enormous influence it's had on the way we work and live.

We now have tools to accomplish almost any task we can think of. While convenient, we are in danger of trapping important information within disparate locations as a result. 

Imagine updating an HR policy, saving it to your network drive, attaching it in an email, receiving feedback, editing it again, discussing it again, uploading the policy to the intranet, announcing the update on the intranet and then sending another email to remind people to check the intranet. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. While these tools and platforms all serve their individual purposes, when we have too many, they can hinder the productivity challenges they are there to solve.

Digital tools are meant to make things faster, right? Well, yes. 

But in examples like the one above, the tools aren't necessarily the problem, the way they exist together is.

Let’s take a step back and look at this in a physical sense.

Streamlining the Employee Experience

In a brick and mortar office, you don't have a designated ‘communication room,’ ‘collaboration room,’ ‘file room,’ and so on. If you had to walk to and from the designated rooms to complete each phase of your task, it would be both time consuming, physically exhausting and look completely ridiculous.

While you might be incredibly productive in each room, it’s the walking back and forth that will slow you down — or drive you mad.

Now is the time for us to utilize technology to connect the dots between all of our tools. The next phase of the digital workplace should integrate and connect these platforms to create a central location for productivity. A place you can log on at anytime, anywhere and "go to work."

This is where the intranet fits into the modern digital workplace strategy.

People often debate the future of the intranet, and where it might fit into digital workplace strategies — if at all. 

If you’re picturing an intranet as a static, one-way information base, then you’re living in the past. A modern intranet can be one of the easiest ways to connect your departments and the systems they use, resulting in a more productive and streamlined employee experience.

Here's how.

How Intranets Connect the Digital Workplace

Comprehensive Solution

Most modern intranet solutions will (and should) include some form of document management, content management, enterprise social network and process automation, amongst other features. 

These tools should be interconnected to create a single environment where users communicate, collaborate and complete tasks. This saves users the time of navigating divergent platforms, where they shoulder the responsibility to carry information from place to place — just think back to our HR policy scenario.

Integration or Single Sign On 

Integrating external systems to your intranet is kind of like plugging a tangled bunch of cords into an adaptor. By connecting them where possible, the user journey is easier and more streamlined. 

If complete integration isn't practical, single sign on capability can help reduce irritating barriers and create a more efficient and effective user experience. Essentially, integration and single sign on will allow you to access information and complete tasks faster.

Task-Based Information Architecture (IA)

Resist the temptation to build your intranet on a structure of department-based subsites. While intranets have traditionally been designed that way, this doesn't reflect the way organizations work.  

HR, marketing, finance, you name it, do not operate in isolation. By separating their pathways in your intranet, you’re building divides that restrict usability, knowledge sharing and productivity.

A task-based IA means structuring content and applications in relation to how people use them. The result is a more efficient user experience, and a logical pathway to all of those clever tools you integrated earlier. Those metaphorical rooms we built begin to open, allowing information and activity to flow between them.

Mobility

It’s no surprise mobility is a part of the picture, given our reliance on our tablets and phones. If you keep your tasks, communication and files segregated across disparate environments, it’s near impossible to get work done on a mobile device. 

By making your integrated, task-based intranet accessible via mobile, you’re able to ‘go to work’ no matter where you are or what device you’re using.

Intranets: The Great Uniter

Now that we have all of our tools, it’s time to bring them together in one place. Intranets continue to provide value and are surprisingly easy to evolve by taking these four concepts into account to create a digital workplace.