A recent study found that 85% of employees feel most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news. And the best tool to do that is, yes, the intranet portal.
Let me offer you another statistic. 85% of respondents also noted faster access to information as a significant intranet benefit. And that are just two of the many reasons you shouldn’t mistake an intranet portal as something that helps people receive emails. Intranets have, over time, growing at par with user expectations when it comes to speed, features and usability.
The days of an intranet being as dull as getting stuck in traffic are gone. Today’s intranet is fast, infinitely intelligent and looks good on any device. Today’s intranet is the James Bond of enterprise software.
It powers some of the biggest enterprises in the world. Entire governments are powered by cutting-edge intranets that offer seamless file sharing, document controls, internal communications content, etc.
What is intranet vs what is the internet?
First, let’s get the basics out of the way. Intranet means a private network of computers and servers that employees can securely use in an organisation to communicate with each other. This could have various other components depending on the specific nature of the company. But in essence, it is a tool that helps employees communicate effectively with each other. Now that we have cleared up what is an intranet let’s talk about the internet.
On the other hand, the internet is open to all and connects individuals from all parts of the globe. Even though the underlying principle of communication is the same, the internet is more for the general public. In contrast, the intranet is for employees or individuals pursuing a common goal.
Another word that is generally confused with the intranet is extranet. An extranet is nothing but an extension of an intranet that enables additional external stakeholders like contractual employees, suppliers, vendors etc., to communicate with the company’s employees. This is relevant primarily for large organisations with other related or unrelated companies collaborating on projects.
What is intranet to my organisation?
Just because you are a large organisation doesn’t mean that a solid intranet portal will add much value to your company. By looking at data to understand employee behaviour, one can determine how many employees need to access their work emails and intranet regularly. Of these, how many people have access to a computer or smartphone is another question that needs an answer. Suppose the answer to these questions is that most of your employees have access to internet-enabled devices and connect to their work emails and intranet almost every day. In that case, a robust intranet portal can do wonders for your business.
What is the intranet vs independent systems debate?
Most companies are already sitting on a mountain of data stored in disparate servers. Most companies also use multiple ways to communicate with their employees on critical issues and updates regarding their organisation. And finally, most companies have not yet leveraged the power of an intranet platform to smoothen workflows and keep morale high using targeted communication updates and an advanced content management system to make sense of their data.
Independent systems do add a lot of value in the short term. Still, as an organisation grows and its data management and people management need to increase, the deployment of a solid intranet platform becomes critical. The Government of Dubai is one of the best examples available today. It had set itself an ambitious goal of going paperless by 2021. Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had announced that this would result in cost savings of 1.3 billion Dirham (USD 350 million) and 14 million person-hours. This goal was achieved using various measures, including an intranet platform to ease the flow of communication between government employees and every other stakeholder in the picture.
How technical is an intranet?
In a technology-driven world where everything is expected at the tip of a finger within seconds, user behaviour is primarily predicted by how easy to use a platform is. This is where companies like Neologix come into the picture. We have a team of highly trained professionals who can make your company’s switch to an intranet seamless. The initial integration of the platform with your existing system is undoubtedly a matter that needs solid technical expertise, but a team of experts essentially handles that part. Beyond this, the actual rollout and training required to become familiar with the system are also flawless, as the leading intranets of today are highly user friendly and intuitive when it comes to the end-user experience.
How Relevant Is It To My Team?
If you work in a highly collaborative environment where your work contributes to the company’s overall goals, then an intranet is an excellent fit for your team. Teams can collaborate on a whole new level using the various features that come with the intranet meaning this can happen regardless of the location or the time zone differences. The flow of communication becomes more manageable, and it also becomes effortless to see and pinpoint the contribution of each member in a specific workflow. This also brings greater clarity regarding the roles people play within teams and positively contributes to overall productivity levels.
In this age of remote working and collaboration, the uninterrupted flow of information is critical to almost every operation in an organisation. A solid, easy to access and highly usable content management system facilitates this flow of information. Intranets like SharePoint have this functionality built into them, making life easier for employees, managers, external stakeholders and more. A well-designed intranet can serve the correct information literally at the speed of thought and significantly accelerate the team’s overall productivity.
Better Intranet = Better Employee Experience
Large enterprises find it challenging daily to retain employee morale while keeping them aligned with the company’s strategic goals. This issue grows exponentially for teams working from various geographies and time zones. You can leverage a well-built intranet system to boost employee experience in delivering the correct information promptly.
The intranet portal connects the HR team and the employees, from work-related information to company-related content. Personalised communication collaterals developed for employee engagement can be strategically deployed using the intranet to get maximum reach and engagement. In the long term, this contributes to better morale and connection to the organisation’s goals and overall place in the corporate world.
The Rise & Rise Of Work From Anywhere
In just two years, the global workplace has seen more changes than in the last 50. More and more organisations saw the need to keep their employees safe and healthy by letting them work from home. As this evolved, the hiring market is now abuzz with the phenomenon of employees looking for options to work from anywhere. This also means that their work-related assets and data must be seamlessly and securely accessible across a wide range of devices.
As this so-called trend is crystallising into a mainstream phenomenon, companies need to look at the intranet portal as an essential service that will enable employees to work from the place and setting of their choice without feeling the need to set up a regular office for day-to-day work. There are even instances of companies ultimately moving away from brick-and-mortar offices and conducting quarterly meetings in holiday resorts in pristine locations. Even in scenarios where employees are not keen on using a laptop or PC for work, the intranet can still enable peak productivity accessible on all mobile platforms. You can now expect the simplicity of using an app from your intranet.
In the case of a permanent work from home scenario, the overall goals and KPIs are set from the beginning itself and the intranet is offered as an enabler that will assist the employees in meeting those goals. The intranet is evolving as more of a necessity than a choice for most large organisations; as employee attitudes change towards work, corporate realities of profitability and scalability remain constant.
Mobile accessibility is one of the significant factors to consider while zeroing in on an intranet. Search patterns have been heavily skewed towards mobile devices for many years now. It would be safe to assume that employees might want their intranet as an extension of the same experience. Another global trend gathering steam is the reduction in per capita devices that one uses. More and more people are looking to own devices that can quickly help them juggle between a pc, tablet and mobile. Therefore, the mobile experience of an intranet is key to the way employees perceive and eventually use it.
The Update Cycle Paradox
Intranets are relatively complicated when it comes to updates and feature additions. Every aspect of an update needs to be tested and evaluated before being released to end-users. This makes for an exciting debate that the intranet is a slow-moving colossus that holds back the company in terms of having access to the latest and the greatest.
A relevant example will be Microsoft, which has a 3-year update cycle for its intranet SharePoint. Au contraire, there is a tremendous underlying advantage to this. For one, the update comes with next to zero bugs and is error-free for most users. And once they do arrive, the team needs to be informed about the updates in workflows and features that may affect their work. The most significant advantage here is that once deployed, and the intranet will offer three years of predictability and minimum disruptions as most employees become more familiar with the workings of the platform. Historically speaking, SharePoint has also provided updates that are easy to roll out and have minimal impact on the system’s current usage. This could mean bottom-line savings for major enterprises that use intranets as the backbone of their internal communication.
User Experience Is King.
Some solutions claim to overhaul your existing intranet in the blink of an eye. In most cases, this is nothing but a fancy UI overlaid over the current legacy systems and software. The result could be a cleaner and prettier looking UI that is equally slow and sluggish as the one you set out to replace. Overhauling or ultimately moving away from an existing intranet can be challenging in many aspects.
But taking into account its long-term benefits related to productivity and profitability, the strategy should prioritise the short-term pain over the long-term gain. Many organisations have struggled with these older, slower and less effective intranets due to various reasons, including budget constraints. But in the long run, it always makes financial sense to move to a more robust and faster intranet that helps every last user. Given that most employees begin their journey as technology users from a smartphone, it is quite natural that they expect the same speed, efficiency and effectiveness from their corporate intranet. You can deliver the same to sustain employee delight by moving to a technologically superior intranet system.
Because Great Communication Matters
What is an intranet without great employee communication features? Internal communications as a department are among the most important ones in a company from the employee perspective. Especially in organisations that have large workforces, the internal communications department is responsible for keeping employees engaged and focused on all the common goals. From one organisation to another, there might even be goals set for specific business units and even specific teams within such business units.
In this complex environment, a great intranet can help relevant stakeholders reach out to each employee through targeted and personalised communication. Depending on the context and content, such communication delivered through an effective intranet can help galvanise the entire team as a single unit working as one body towards a single goal. This is even more relevant for new employees who need guidance about how the organisation functions and their role in the larger strategic picture.
An effective intranet can be treated as an extended arm of the communications team to drive better results in engaging the employees and offering them clarity about where your company is headed. It can also be a platform for employees to come together and collaborate on new creative projects, air their views on various topics and generally create a more vibrant online environment for the entire workforce.
Intranet also drives the need to have a cohesive and consistent communications strategy for engaging with employees. This can be developed according to the overall communication strategy and deployed seamlessly for maximum effectiveness. Employees prefer organisations that constantly engage with them and keep lines of communication open for detailed discussions and inputs on different topics. An intranet can facilitate this to a large extent and help create a collaboration-focused work environment within the company.
Much like the overall content strategy, the internal communications strategy can leverage relevant topics related to the company and adapt them to the various features and avenues available on the intranet for maximum reach. The intranet should also have in-built functionality to help you monitor the effectiveness of your communication. Relevant data should be available to you to understand what kind of communication works with which audience to help you tweak things on the fly. Communication is one of the most significant ways to align employees with the organisation’s strategic goals. The intranet can play a vital role in this by first helping deliver the proper communication and then generating the right metrics to see its overall effectiveness. With time these metrics will help identify critical insights that you can use to refine your overall communication strategy.
A Platform In Progress
An intranet should be treated as an evolving phenomenon in a dynamic organisation working on various projects with multiple teams. As ground realities change for groups, it becomes imperative to have the intranet plug into multiple other systems and solutions that can further help smoothen the workflow. It is also advisable to look at an intranet as always a work in progress. It should be flexible enough to be adapted to the company’s specific needs with minimal disruption.
Depending on which industry the company is in, its intranet will need to operate smoothly with disparate systems that channel different types of data and content. We have a dedicated team to help you fully understand these changes and help you deploy them smoothly for your team. Years of experience working for clients globally and locally has helped our team develop a deep understanding of the challenges companies might face at this critical juncture. Therefore our consultants can help you with bulletproof ways to achieve your goals without any major hitches.
Globally, brands are becoming more and more purpose-driven, and their reason for existence is way bigger than turning a profit. Communicating the company’s values and mission to every last employee is critical for achieving strategic goals. Therefore, a vibrant intranet reflects a company that encourages dialogue and wholesome collaboration among its employees. One of the most prominent examples of this is Google, which has, over the years, delivered some of the most popular products that originated from the close collaboration of its employees.
Some firms have a significant investment and interest in research and development. Therefore, a culture of innovation can only thrive in an environment which facilitates the free flow of thoughts and ideas. An advanced intranet system can help nourish this climate of innovation within a company and help it advance as a leader in multiple domains. It can easily facilitate collaboration between two employees who would’ve never met offline but get a chance to interact on a forum about topics they are passionate about. From this perspective, the intranet has its relevance as a platform that can help organisations succeed in real-time.
When Great Minds Think Alike.
Many credible studies point to the fact that the success of an intranet also depends on how robust its search functionality is. Employees need to access critical resources that can help them with their work and inspire them creatively. Any given name in the Fortune 500 list will have petabytes and petabytes of data that employees can use as a valuable resource. Therefore, making sense of this data and making it available to them is crucial for an intranet.
How critical is this, you ask? Here’s a little story about a giant tech corporation working on a project for around two years. They invested the time and energy and finally got the product ready for patenting. Once they submitted the patent, it was supposed to go through without any hassles, but the response came that someone else already had a patent on the same product. To further understand the similarities of the other product, they sought the details of the patent holder. They found that it was owned by another employee of the same company in another country, to their surprise.
Imagine the heartbreak and the waste of resources on an idea that existed and was even patented years ago. All this could have been possibly avoided by having an effective intranet that could have produced the existing product’s patent details right at the beginning when the team was contemplating it just as an idea on a whiteboard.
Breaking Silos. Unleashing Agility
The availability of a robust intranet brings the agile side of an organisation. Imagine the speed of emails combined with the power of advanced search functionality. Employees And teams can leverage both these to attack problems with much greater speed and arrive at possible solutions thanks to the easy flow of information. Things that needed an in-person meeting earlier could be sorted out over an online brainstorming session. Intranet saves time and encourages employees to collaborate deeply and unlock undiscovered potential like never before.
Large corporations are perceived to become slow as they grow more prominent. Still, you can change this perception altogether by having an intranet that helps employees collaborate and create win-win scenarios for the company’s end customers. This could be mission-critical for businesses in the B2C and D2C space, where agility and top-notch customer service are the norms. Organisations that look at customer-centricity as a core function ingrained in their DNA should look at an intranet as the means to deliver better customer outcomes without investing in additional human resources or other resources.
You can use a robust intranet system to gather much more feedback in a small amount of time and process it systematically to deliver customer delight. You can replicate the efficiency brought in by the platform across company functions to identify improvement opportunities and address holes that were once invisible to the management.
Social media plays a massive role in the lives of almost all employees. You can integrate the social media interaction experience with the intranet to drive more engagement and productivity. The gamification of certain features or sections can add more excitement to the overall experience. Microsoft is one of the finest examples of deploying the full strength of the intranet to harness employee productivity and collaboration. In-house social tools like Yammer are seamlessly integrated into the intranet to give employees a user experience close to leading social media websites.
Not only does this help in delivering content using various media, but it also helps generate internal virality as you can instantly share content with relevant stakeholders. The flexible nature of SharePoint allows its seamless integration with Office 365 suite, which adds numerous power features that enterprises can leverage for their custom use cases.
Formal, Meet Informally.
An empirical research paper by Mid Sweden University defines a social intranet as ‘An intranet containing several different social features where the employees can easily make contact, communicate and share knowledge.’ While delving deeper into the concept, the paper also mentions how organisations are broadly classified into three when it comes to social intranets and company culture. Firstly, there is a combination of formal and informal culture focusing on the performance of the individual while recognising that a group solves problems at times. The second is a solid formal, but collaborative culture and the third is a strong informal and collaborative culture.
Depending on the kind of culture you have in your respective organisation, you can customise the intranet to deliver a user experience that is in line with your strategic goals and your larger corporate culture. A social intranet is a place where employees can express themselves. This can also evolve as a place for interacting with peers, validating ideas and quickly moving towards execution to get faster results. The structural change here is to see the merit in moving from an individual-based culture to a more group-based collaborative work culture.
The 3D Approach To Intranet
To summarise, it will be sufficient to say that organisations need to look at the intranet as just one pixel in the large picture for better productivity and collaboration. Organisations that are committed to extracting the best out of their employees and also want to build a vibrant ecosystem of innovation should look at it as the starting point of this long yet meaningful journey.
When combined with an excellent communication strategy that taps into the organisation’s strategic goals, an intranet can start giving the correct results consistently in the long term. Coupling this with the various tools that can boost collaboration, the organisation can look at long term payoffs in terms of greater employee collaboration that can potentially result in newer products or even entire business units. For other businesses that thrive on creating positive outcomes for their end customers, an intranet can be the linchpin that integrates into every solution or tool that helps them achieve such goals.
Intranet on its own is a good piece of software, but when leveraged as a strategic asset, it is a tool to turbocharge your organisation’s journeys into the future.