Agility, speed and the ability to adapt to changing conditions are key attributes of growing companies. They are key elements that separate them from stagnant companies.

But odds are your intranet is killing your company’s chances at staying lean and agile. 

Your employees can’t find what they’re seeking. They spend an inordinate amount of time clicking through pages that are either outdated or contain incorrect information. They waste an hour or more each day searching for the right information.

All that has a bad effect on the customer experience you provide. Your customers are likely waiting extraordinarily long, or getting incorrect and outdated information. 

How could this happen? Why would such an important part of your company’s communication backbone be so badly broken? And how will you know if it’s time to renew your intranet?

Born Before Mobile

Most companies haven’t upgraded their intranet platform in the past five years. That’s an absolute eternity in technology, but it’s been a particularly bad time for intranets. 

There are an estimated 2.6 billion smartphones in the world today, most of which were sold in the last two to three years. 

Most intranet solutions were built before mobile devices were so ubiquitous, often placed behind a corporate firewall, making it difficult or impossible to provide secure access to employees from anywhere in the world. 

If your employees have to wait until they are working from a laptop with a secure VPN connection, it’s likely they’ve had to wait too long.

Good Governance Gone Bad

It starts off with the right intentions: corporate intranets need to contain verified, 100 percent accurate and legally compliant information. 

Employees in one region or department may need to see key and critical information that is only visible to them, and no one else in the company. With those goals in mind, companies begin adding intranet governance policies. 

Want to change a single word on the page? That will require a three-page form signed and notarized, and two pieces of government issued identification.

Intranets with broad and uniform governance usually go stale pretty quickly — content is not kept up-to-date because the people responsible for maintaining it are buried in paperwork to verify it is accurate and legally compliant information. A better, more flexible approach is required to keep the intranet fresh and vibrant.

Learning Opportunities

Communication is Universal

Nearly every line of business, from sales to finance and everything in-between, has specialized applications embedded in communication and collaboration capabilities of some form — from document management to news feeds to notifications. 

And while companies often have a preferred vendor to solve for these, there are still usually a plethora of communication and collaboration touch points in any complex IT landscape, whether they are legacy applications or new products bringing their own collaboration capabilities.

Most legacy intranet solutions make the assumption that they are the beginning and end of the universe, and that they can forcefully lock a customer into developing solutions using a proprietary set of tools and technologies. This leads to additional fragmentation and collaboration silos.

Additionally, since every line of business needs to collaborate, the balance between “geeky and cool” and “simple and easy to use” must be properly maintained. Some intranets are based on extremely powerful wiki-based solutions that allow power users to build incredible pages, but leave the rest of the company feeling overwhelmed or annoyed. 

And other solutions afford for easy page editing, but completely remove all of the extensibility and customization options for the sake of simplicity. Neither approach is perfect, and stakeholders must be bought-in to the usability aspects of any modern intranet.

The Real Cost

Rigid and outdated, most intranets today are costing companies millions of dollars and creating effects that cascade across a wide spectrum. Companies need:

  • Internal servers, monitoring equipment and staff to monitor the intranet 24-hours a day
  • Headcount and IT staff to manage the governance and maintenance of pages
  • Specialized developers to learn proprietary solutions with limited extensibility and customization options

Putting Intranets Back Together

So how can you make your intranet go from awful to awesome? By focusing on these key areas, companies can overhaul their intranets for the modern age:

  1. Mobile ready: the intranet needs to be available anywhere, from any device, in a secure and usable fashion
  2. Powerful but balanced governance: give teams the power they need to make changes while still maintaining verified, accurate and legally compliant information
  3. Based on open standards with broad extensibility options: ensure that the intranet can connect and bridge to any and every critical business touch point, from time and expense tracking systems to customer support and R&D applications
  4. Usable, modern design: strike a balance between powerful capabilities and ease of use, not erring on either of the two extremes

Investing in modernizing the intranet is extremely important to companies of all sizes. The right information and access to application data gives companies the agility and speed they need to compete in today’s marketplace.

Title image "Weary" (CC BY 2.0) by swotai

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