Only 50 percent of employees use their intranet on a daily basis. According to a survey conducted by CMSWire and Simpplr, the low numbers are due to poor adoption and low engagement caused by bulky design and complex navigation. Employees are looking for faster and simpler solutions, so some companies have been shying away from intranets in favor of other collaboration tools.
Numbers like these raise concerns about the future of intranets and brings us once more to the question: are intranets losing their role as a central point of corporate communication, collaboration and centralized storage of documents for businesses?
Checking the Intranet Pulse Again
People have been predicting the demise of intranets for a few years now, as some businesses turned to other, newer tools, such as Slack, Asana, Trello, Microsoft Teams and more. Company-wide communication and collaboration no longer depends on an intranet to be effective. Besides, tools designed for a specific purpose will often win out over intranets that are usually one-size-fits-all solutions.
Others see now as a time of rebirth for intranets. They argue that outdated, static, user-unfriendly intranets with poorly executed information architecture died out long ago. And those that survived, although still with some disadvantages, never stopped transforming and adapting to modern business needs and strategies. For example, Microsoft, Atlassian, Aurea and other popular vendors offer easy to use, feature-rich intranets that are easy to deploy and have an eye-catching design.
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Requirements of a Modern Intranet
To stay competitive, intranets need to meet specific requirements, such as:
Businesses want intranets to be developed faster but with a full set of capabilities, which means reduced risks of being irrelevant and not complying with current organization strategy and objectives. So, the majority of them choose cloud-based solutions as they can be easily and speedily deployed in comparison with on-premises solutions.
According to the latest Intranet Design Annual by the Nielsen Norman Group, the average time of creating an intranet decreased significantly from 6.2 years in 2011 to 1.2 years in 2018, and the trend continues. Iterative development strategies, such as agile, have helped make this possible, creating short-form cycles where intranet development and testing run in parallel. Agile approaches make it easier and faster to discover and fix bugs, add and remove features based on a company’s feedback after each cycle and deliver a final version of an intranet. What’s more, agile technology allows reducing costs on intranet development. The growing popularity of "intranet-in-a-box" solutions have also served to reduce deployment time to a few weeks.
Convenient UI and UX
An intranet brings value to a company if it has enough functionality, practicality and usability to engage employees. However, the look and feel also strongly effect user adoption and engagement. Attractiveness is a must for intranets, and intranets succeed when they offer simple, flexible and beautiful design. Most intranets offer both functional and appealing interfaces. It groups applications, as well as content, logically for individual employees or teams based on business objectives. Modern intranets make the employee working experience purpose-centric.
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The ability to quickly access information and connect to people is critical for effective employee collaboration. Availability is a key factor here. Intranets should be available 24/7, regardless of device or location, as a mobile-friendly intranet can at times even become a basis for a help desk. Mobile-friendly intranets also acknowledge the fact that employees are increasingly working remotely or while traveling on business, which means sharing and collaborating on critical business information like contracts from anywhere is a must.
Content personalization within intranets increases employees’ productivity by putting the information relevant to them at their fingertips. By showing personalized content based on employees’ interests and roles, an intranet can facilitate meaningful and effective interactions with the content. For example, new accounting policies can be shown only to the employees of the accounting department. Intranets can also make navigation easier and more intuitive by providing a personalized menu depending on user location, department and language.
Over the last few years companies have introduced AI elements into their intranets to increase labor efficiency, reduce costs due to automation of processes, and deliver better employee experiences. The most popular applications of AI in intranets include:
- Virtual Assistance — AI chatbots help users navigate, use and search their intranet more effectively by acting as their personal assistant. Chatbots not only provide quick access to information but also notify users about updates, policy changes or events. Also, chatbots can help users book meeting rooms, plan vacations, etc.
- Smart Search — AI can help reduce the time it takes for people to find documents in their intranet. AI algorithms enable smart suggestions based on the content that employees searched or accessed earlier. Intelligent search also allows showing results as you type and prioritize them, which makes search more effective.
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Integrated Working Environment
To bridge the gap between multiple business functions, intranets need to be flexible to seamlessly integrate with multiple software — CRM, ERP, HR, document management system and more. Integrations are also critical for user adoption, as the stronger they are, the more chances employees will find everything they need from one place.
As collaboration and communication are a priority, intranets can’t go without strong social features. Employees can keep in touch with co-workers quickly and effectively via email, voice and video calls, social networks, etc.
To stay viable, intranets need to keep user engagement and performance high and the content relevant. To stay on top of both of these, intranet managers must pay close attention to user feedback and analytics. Intranets use robust analytic tools to help evaluate key metrics and pinpoint places to enhance the intranet performance and make a solution more user-friendly and personalized. For example, metrics can include information on the most popular sites, unused sites, page views per visitor, visit duration, visitor activity and more.
Rumors of Intranets' Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated
Once again, rumors of intranets’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Intranets have been growing and changing with the needs of organizations. Most modern intranets prioritize a user-centric approach and offer wide opportunities to personalize user experiences, optimize intranet functions and integrations, and leverage AI benefits. Thus, intranets become all-inclusive and engaging working environments that encourage employee use, facilitate business needs, social activities and improve productivity.