a juggler
An intranet juggles multiple roles in any digital workplace strategy PHOTO: Juan Pablo Rodriguez on Unsplash

Intranets long ago shed their reputation as a mere document repository. Instead, they now satisfy employees craving for a centralized communication tool that offers both an information portal and ways to collaborate with others at your company.

Today’s intranet is a virtual location that conveys corporate culture as well as offers employee news and services. Your company may already have virtual water coolers that offer slick, polished internal services to some workers, but don’t forget where your intranet fits within your larger digital workplace.

Wherever you are in your digital workplace journey, your roadmap should address the role of the intranet within your organization. Here’s why: Some parts of your business may be underserved by technology, and prioritizing those areas may be where the greatest return on investment lies.

Employee surveys often cite a need for better internal communication, knowledge-sharing and ability to find colleagues. Updating and modernizing your intranet can go a long way to improving employee satisfaction in these areas.

To further explore how an intranet creates value for your organization, we’ll look at the different roles it can play in a workplace and how it fits into your digital workplace strategy.

Corporate News and Employee Services

Your intranet can be an internal website providing daily corporate news stories, updates or photo galleries. It can also provide updates for emergencies or critical events. Additionally, intranets can aggregate corporate calendars with event listings targeting specific groups.

Traditionally, intranets have been a place for employee resources to be housed and accessed. In earlier iterations of intranet services, resources were available as PDF forms that users could download, fill out, sign and submit through inter-office mail. These days, intranet resources are online forms that are electronically submitted and routed for electronic signature, eliminating the need for paper.

Centralized Meeting Place

The social intranet allows for free-flowing communication among users. The concept is simple: Provide centralized online meeting places, grouped by location, department, role or subject to let users exchange knowledge, ask questions and have contextual conversations tied to specific files or projects. This centralized meeting place can also be organization-wide, acting as a town hall for Q&As or offering information on new initiatives or programs.

Micro-blogging and conversations are common intranet features, but you can also add commenting and liking files, posts or articles. Aside from work matters, a virtual water-cooler environment makes it possible for social interactions to take place. For example, an online classified network is an easy way for coworkers to exchange goods and services or to ask for help.

Intranet as a Portal

Your intranet can be a gateway to other line-of-business applications. In its simplest form, this approach can include pages with links to other applications that are connected through single sign-on, allowing for easy access to the variety of applications users need to do their jobs.

In its more complex form, an intranet can represent a personalized dashboard experience pulling in data, screens and feeds from different applications that react and respond to one another based user action. For example, executive dashboards can display reports and real-time metrics. Inside sales reps can access a console with CRM data in one module and product codes and orders in the module next to it.

A People Directory

As organizations become more geographically dispersed, it’s challenging to track down colleagues, find someone with specialized expertise and know who to call with specific questions. An intranet can house dynamic people directories, driven by search, tied to user profiles that display important attributes beyond title, department and phone number.

The key to a successful intranet is keeping the use cases simple, clearly delineating the role of the intranet and what users can expect to find in it as opposed to other digital workplace services.

Keep expectations for the intranet realistic. If the site does not contain applications that are part of users' job responsibilities, they won’t spend time there. However, you can design your intranet with job responsibilities in mind. In short, let your overall digital workplace strategy dictate the role and design of your intranet.