woman looking out a window to the skyline below
Intranets can be a key part in delivering the digital workplace your employees want PHOTO: Ben Blennerhassett

Enterprises have had a love/hate relationship with their intranets for more than two decades. 

An intranet is often labeled an information hub, but in most cases the interface and the way information is organized are so unfriendly that many employees either ignore it or access it begrudgingly.

Are Intranets Still Necessary? It Depends ...

Meanwhile, innovations in the digital workplace have focused on the user experience. The concept is much broader, delivering simple, user centric, context-aware interfaces that provide engaging experiences, and support employees whenever, wherever and however they want to work. 

At the recent Gartner Digital Workplace Summit, much of the conversation focused on the next evolution of employee experience and how artificial intelligence capabilities, such as chatbots, are beginning to reshape how companies service employees.

This begs the question: is an intranet necessary in the era of the digital workplace?

Well, it depends on the company, its culture and where it is on the journey to a digital workplace. If an intuitive and welcoming “front door” can lead to what users want and need, an intranet can be a valuable tool that affirms employees are being heard and helps them get work done faster, improving their relationship with the organization. 

In this sense, an intranet can become an enabler of the digital workplace.

Transform Your Intranet as a Digital Workplace Gateway

Every organization should start by answering these four key questions to transform their intranets into gateways to the digital workplace.

What is the culture and digital maturity level of your company? How do employees help shape the next experience?

The workplace is changing dramatically. Digital capabilities keep many employees connected to the organization anywhere, anytime, on any device. 

On the one hand, this creates the flexibility that many employees love. On the other, it can create expectations around productivity that existing technology might not support. For example, the ability to connect anywhere in the world from a laptop with an office suite in no way guarantees increased productivity or collaboration with others.

Companies must assess their digital maturity and the tools they have in place, and determine if these are spurring productivity and collaboration or if new tools are required based on what users are saying. Once you know user needs and have put the right solutions in place, one way to effectively use the intranet is to surface widgets for employees to easily access these tools and files from across any device.

What are the obstacles your employees face to access the information and apps they need?

Too often, enterprise IT adopts new tools and provides access to them without ever listening to the needs of employees. Failure to listen results in user frustration and product failure. Listening to users ensures a clear path to meaningful improvements and, in many cases, dramatically enhances the employee experience.

What can you get rid of today?

In many organizations, there is a tendency to add new processes, policies and file shares while never deleting the garbage. This creates clutter and noise. Employees cannot distinguish what is useful from what isn't, or don’t trust the relevancy or accuracy of how knowledge is managed.

Determine what employees no longer want or need. Look at the data and eliminate everything that is irrelevant. Fix what is broken or get rid of it. Make sure the intranet is a seamless experience that provides a smooth back and forth with the digital workplace. This way, as new processes and content are added, employees will be better able to assess their value.

How can you enable as much personalization as possible?

Beyond clutter, the greatest failure of most intranets today is their inability to personalize the experience. Why does a software developer on the job for two weeks have the same user experience as the long-time director of sales?

Personalization is the key to a great user experience. Employees want to interact with technology for work the same way they do in their personal lives. They want the latest technology, and they want to trust their experience with it. Artificial intelligence and cognitive services can bring these experiences to life. Investing in the ability to customize and provide personalization to the digital workplace is a critical success factor.

Evolve Your Intranets for the Modern Workplace

The intranet doesn’t have to be an awful experience. Rather, intranets can be a window to the digital workplace that greatly enhance employee productivity and satisfaction. Some might even consider the digital workplace itself is the modern 'intranet,' the central place where employees become immersed in the news, tools and culture they need to succeed.

The important point to remember is that the digital workplace is an evolution. That might mean making small enhancements over time based on user need, introducing modern innovations like AI, or taking bold steps like starting over completely. The end goal is digital dexterity so employees can work faster and smarter, with the data and information needed to advance the business and a digital culture that immerses all employees in the brand experience.