At its core, an intranet is a digital workplace where employees can go to find and share the information resources they need to do their work every day. Whether you have 50 or 50,000 employees, the right intranet with rich content can help your employees work smarter and more efficiently while helping them feel more connected with each other and the business.

If your company is considering its first intranet or upgrading from an existing intranet that’s no longer meeting the organization’s needs, the first step is to choose an intranet platform.

There is a whole universe of platforms available (the days of SharePoint dominance are over!). With names like Jive, Simpplr, Igloo, MangoApps and Communifire – just to name a few – these platforms provide page templates and a menu of features and functions to help you create a customized experience. It sounds simple enough, right? But the fact is, when it comes to
choosing a company intranet platform, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. We’ve
implemented intranets for a broad range of clients, from biotech start-ups to multinational
pharma companies, and so far, because every client’s needs are so different, we’ve never recommended the same platform twice.

Narrowing it Down to the Top Contenders

We’ve identified six important questions to answer to help companies quickly create a shortlist of potential platforms and eliminate those that won’t meet their needs. Once you’ve used
these questions to zero in on a handful of platforms, selecting your finalists will be much more obvious.

Ready to get started? Here are the six questions to answer:

1. Does it integrate with the applications your company already uses?

To drive employee usage, your intranet must be seen as a one-stop-shop for all the
applications your workforce uses on a regular basis.
Examples of common applications
employees might already be using are DropBox or Box for document collaboration, Workday for
benefits and payroll, and Zendesk for support ticketing. Other important applications to
consider are your single-sign-on (SSO) service, to make sure users won’t have to enter multiple
passwords to get onto the intranet, and your people management system, like Active Directory,
which will populate the employee directory part of the intranet (a critical feature, which we’ll
talk about next).

Create a complete list of applications by surveying stakeholders in each department and remember that no intranet will integrate with all applications, so prioritize the ones that are
used most frequently by your people.

2. Does it integrate with the People Directory?

Employees most often visit the intranet for the company people directory. They use it to quickly
pull contact details, find someone’s title, or see who’s who on a team. That’s why it’s so
important to make sure the platform you choose will seamlessly integrate with your HR
systems, but it’s also about making sure the functionality and flexibility is compatible with
your people directory needs
. All too often, this part of the platform isn’t thoroughly assessed
before the decision is made and companies end up paying for customizations or third-party
apps to make up for missing features.

When reviewing this feature on various platforms, consider:

Display fields: Does it include all the fields you use, like employee ID number, desk number, or employee status (contractor or full-time)?
Employee inputs: Do you want employees to be able to personalize their profiles with their favorite headshot, add skills, interests, hobbies or other personal details? This can
be a great way to engage employees and help them get to know each other, but it’s not
right for every company. For example, some security protocols require employees to
keep their badge photo in the system for identification purposes.
Org chart functionality: Is it easy to navigate, zoom in and out, toggle between individuals, or link to a person’s profile? Should it include empty roles? Do you want it to create a printer or slide friendly version?

3. Does it offer the most advanced search capabilities?

Employees often stop using the intranet because it’s hard to find the resources they need. If you want your intranet to stay useful for the long-haul, find one that is constantly integrating the latest and greatest search technology. We’re living in a Google era, which means employees are more likely to find what they need by using the search bar rather than navigating to the page where the resource might live. Things like personalized results (based on a person’s role and search history), autocomplete (predicting your search terms as you are typing), and the ability to filter by file-type are setting high expectations for users. While all platforms offer a search bar, focus on finding one that is proactively enhancing their search functionality and keeping up with new advancements.

4. Is the mobile version user-friendly?

Given how people consume content, having a mobile-friendly platform is table-stakes for intranet adoption, especially for companies with a large field force – which many of our healthcare clients already have or are planning to have in the future. This group of employees can be one of the most challenging to engage with the intranet because they don’t sit in front of a computer. Employees should also be able to access the intranet on their commute (as long as they’re not operating a vehicle), from home, as well as anywhere else. It’s not just about having a mobile version – which most platforms offer – it’s about having a mobile interface which is as easy to use and navigate as the desktop version. That means users can quickly see the latest news and announcements, easily search for documents and resources, and navigate to the pages or sections they use most in just a couple clicks. When you’re evaluating intranet platforms, don’t just check the box on mobile, be sure to give it a test drive!

5. Could anyone and their grandma edit pages and content?

This feels like a no-brainer, but you want the intranet to be easy to administer. There’s a universe of new, intuitive, easy to administer platforms that are built for the tech un-savvy. One of the biggest reasons intranets fail is because the content is not kept up to date and employees stop trusting it as a reliable resource. If it takes more than a 20-minute training session to learn how to administer the pages, then you’re going to have a challenge getting the site and department administrators to do their part to keep content relevant. As a litmus test, have your most tech-wary site administrators help you evaluate the administrative function.

6. Does it have the right level of social features for your company?

More and more, people expect the platforms they use at work to reflect the platforms they use outside of work. That means, an engaging intranet should include some social features, which allow employees to participate. However, it doesn’t mean you have to go big on social from the start. While some platforms are designed to prioritize user-driven content, others are more conducive to top–down communication.

Start by thinking about what level of social is right for you. A conservative approach might be exploring low-risk ways to let employees contribute, for example, letting them “like” content. A step up from that would be letting employees react to existing content by commenting, messaging, and tagging. Finally, a more social intranet allows more free-form communication in the way of microblogs or discussion forums. Be sure to pick an intranet that gives you the ability to turn on and off the features that make the most sense to your company and your employees.

Where to go next

With so many factors to consider, decisions to make, and often shared ownership between corporate communications, HR and IT, it’s helpful to have an experienced, platform-agnostic partner lead the way. The first stage in all of our intranet engagements is a thorough discovery process to determine “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features or functionalities for the company’s intranet that align with the company’s culture. These six questions serve as an important starting point for these conversations and for evaluating and selecting a platform that is the best fit for each client.

Once you’ve picked your platform and started the process to get it up and running, the next step is to start planning for how you will launch your intranet to drive engagement from day one and keep your intranet useful after launch. Stay tuned for an update and if you have questions in the meantime, give us a call!

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