Productivity

Signs your business is ready for an intranet

Iain Ferguson
Business and Technology Journalist

Iain is a freelance writer and editor with extensive experience in journalism and corporate communications.

Iain Ferguson
Business and Technology Journalist

Iain is a freelance writer and editor with extensive experience in journalism and corporate communications.

Highlights
  • Getting the right intranet technology is critical, so look closely at the features and functionality.
  • A cloud-based intranet solution could help you scale more easily in the future.
  • Positive user experiences are the key to a successful intranet.

Get your workers completely engaged ‑ and at the same time free your management teams from low-value tasks ‑ with astute use of an intranet.

You’ve worked hard to grow your business from a one-person operation into a medium sized operation with different teams operating in different locations. You’ve noticed your culture become deeper, richer and more diverse as you add more workers from different backgrounds with different life experiences. 

Two business men working on a tablet and mobile Intranets can be powerful tools for businesses of all sizes.

However, you’ve also noticed that people are tending to group into individual silos and not reach out to colleagues in different teams or functions. Two or more teams may be working on very similar projects without knowing what the other is doing. 

These are signs your business has neglected the key success factors of worker engagement and collaboration. Tim Otton, General Manager Cloud Platforms and Strategy, Telstra, says policies and procedures that enable people to access common documentations and processes become crucial when a company reaches a certain size. “As soon as you move beyond a 10-person business, or particularly when you move to a multi-site or a multi-state office, you need to look at how people communicate and how people are engaged.” 

Creating and launching an intranet can help forge unity and ensure everyone in the business – from office administrators to the chief executive – is on the same page. So what are the key elements of a successful intranet?

Choosing the right technologies is critical

Otton believes that choosing the right technologies to deliver the intranet is a crucial first step. “You need a platform that will be robust and can scale because it is amazing how quickly an intranet can grow if it is used properly.” 

Businesses should look closely at the range of features and functionality provided by the intranet platform. “A simple document repository without any additional functionality is not where it’s at any more,” Otton says. “You want a platform that provides the kind of communications and social tools that really enable communication and collaboration.”

The platform should also enable the intranet to be accessible via mobile devices for team members working in remote areas or who are out of the office.

Plan information lifecycles, structures and rules 

The next step is to plan the lifecycle, structure and rules governing the information held in the intranet. “Without proper lifecycle planning, the document repository component of the intranet can become overloaded and the information itself outdated,” Otton says.  

For businesses without internal expertise, engaging a consultancy to help deliver the intranet may help fill the gaps and ensure the project meets business requirements.

The answer may lie in the cloud

Otton recommends businesses look at a cloud-based intranet solution “simply to get a platform that will scale easily over time.” Many businesses can find it hard to forecast demand levels, particularly if they plan to use the intranet for document storage. 

“There are a lot of good services that provide really good intranet hosting rather than the business itself having to deploy and manage the system,” Otton says. “A cloud-based solution will probably also simplify the enablement of remote access, and supplier or partner access should the business plan to evolve the intranet into an extranet to integrate associated parties.”

A positive user experience is key to success

One of the keys to delivering a successful intranet is to provide a positive user experience. Failure to do so will see the project fail as discouraged users turn to workarounds to achieve the outcomes the intranet was intended to deliver. Well-used intranets typically feature effective search, easy navigation and intuitive placement of information.  

The power of communication

Understanding the power and value of an intranet in communicating to team members is also critical to success. “You need to make sure the senior executive team, including the CEO, buy in to the intranet and participate regularly in communications, particularly in responding to people when they have questions,” Otton says. “The communications should be more like the norms of social media conversations rather than stuffy organisation-speak – they should be a bit more open and frank, but still respectful.”

Facilitating collaboration and interaction

An intranet can be used to disseminate the company’s vision and strategy and show how the activities of its team members can align to it. 

It can help a business avoid becoming too head office-centric, minimise the risk of teams becoming too siloed by facilitating collaboration and social interaction between workers in different functions or locations.  

The intranet can act as a repository for contributions such as articles, videos and images from various teams and offices. Experts may choose to submit tips, tricks and hacks that other team members may find useful or (where confidentiality requirements permit) details of current projects.

Self-service capabilities free up HR team members

A well-designed intranet can also help a business apply role-based access to information to maintain confidentiality and comply with regulatory and governance rules. The intranet can also be a portal for employees to access and update information, such as bank account and superannuation details, freeing human resources team members for more valuable projects.

An intranet can be an invaluable tool for businesses to position themselves to move to the next level. It can reinforce positive behaviours and help change established practices. For example, the intranet can be used to train employees on new systems and processes, and help them understand relevant new regulatory or compliance requirements. These rewards can only be achieved if a business aligns the development and use of the intranet with its broader goals, and selects the right technologies and partners to deliver the project.

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