The biggest problem with creating an intranet


PHOTO: NESA by Makers

People like to build things. Cars, washing machines, tables, computers, LES and, of course, intranets.

Cars and other mass-produced goods are all at least of decent quality. Transactional software such as ERP, because of their function supporting certain processes, all the information and all the required flows are surfaced and implemented during the process analysis. As a result, I would say that most ERP implementations meet their requirements at least to a decent level.

When it comes to building an intranet, it’s a whole different story.

The visible impact of poor intranet design

All intranet projects start from the same generous goal: we need a tool for better internal communication. The outlet is a website, and in this regard, intranets are quite similar to each other. They all contain text, images, documents, and links to various resources such as employee directories, applications, etc.

However, in the end, the intranet is a business tool. And in most cases, intranets aren’t enough. They are not supporting the business at all levels to the level that they should. The problem is made worse by the fact that their owners are not aware of the problem.

I’ll give you two small examples:

A few years ago, I consulted a German multinational. Its SharePoint implementation was state of the art, the graphic design was impeccable, one of the leading SharePoint consultancies in the UK built the system – so you expected a great solution. Yet when I asked the IT product manager why an employee couldn’t easily find the company’s very sophisticated products, he replied, “We probably don’t want our users to easily find information about the products. products ”. “Not unless you want to sell them,” I replied. Overall, the information architecture was inconsistent, and while it was better than nothing, it wasn’t quite up to the level it should have been. Some of the most basic information was not readily available, meaning it was virtually non-existent.

In the other case, I saw the intranet of an Italian financial services organization just a few weeks ago. Once again, the graphic design was flawless and the system was operated by a leading consulting firm. Yet content coverage was scarce, mainly covering news, proceedings and some contractual flows. There wasn’t much going on. Then I looked at the company’s reviews on Google Maps, and it confirmed what was visible on the intranet. Some places received great reviews, while others had mostly bad ones. While they were selling the same financial products, the quality of service was dictated by the local manager and not by the strength (or weakness) of the underlying systems.

Basically, the inconsistent level of customer satisfaction in the physical world was in part determined by poor intranet design.

Related Article: Intranets Are Back, But Not Like Before

Does your intranet answer “why” and “how”?

You might be wondering: what is the connection between low customer satisfaction and intranet design? It’s a good question. Whenever the customer interacts with an employee, that employee will perform some sort of task. Each task can be broken down using Simon Sinek’s Why, How and What model. As I will detail below, the intranet should be able to provide the why for a given task and offer easy access to all the information required to support the how. If he does not do it very well, the employee is limited by his experiences and those of his colleagues, resulting in greater variations in the quality of service.

The main problem in the two examples above (and countless others that I have encountered over the years) is that digital workspace / intranet managers don’t have a simple, actionable template to apply. in their work. A guiding framework would allow them to design a better supporting structure for their digital workplace.

Intranets are run by people from IT, HR, internal communications, operations, or sales, to name a few. Each intranet manager brings their own bias to the implementation, which can cause them to ignore the challenges that other areas of the business face.

In most cases, this leads to intranet systems that are lacking in core areas, which generates a lot of frustration, both internal and external, and poor business results.

This is, I believe, the biggest problem in intranet design.

Related article: Applying the Why, How, and What Model to Your Intranet

A framework for the creation of a resilient intranet structure

Below is my approach to such a framework. I have been applying it for over 10 years and it has allowed me to dramatically improve operations in some key areas.

1. Every employee job is someone else’s service. To improve job performance, we need to improve the way employees use this service. Instead of asking managers what content they have, we need to ask them what services they provide internally.

2. Make an inventory of all services provided to internal employees and their owners.

3. Evaluate their impact on business, because not all services are equally important to your bottom line.

4. Describe each service using a simple template:

  • Why: Explain why the employee who performs this task well is important.
  • Inform: Provide the employee with the information necessary for the performance of his duties: procedures, recent changes, FAQs, related to the support application module.
  • Form: Provide direct access to related training materials.
  • Support: Who can help.
  • Feedback: Mechanisms for sending feedback directly to the internal service owner.
  • What: This includes task and notification management, associated KPIs, and the actual application module that allows the user to perform the task.

5. Manage a gradual implementation of all internal services. Not all services require the same level of detail and not all can be implemented at the level of detail desired in the initial phase.

This template will help you create intranets that actually improve the way people work together in the business, the way the business operates, and the way it serves its customers. Also, it helps to inform the intranet manager where their product is at and next steps.

Cristian Salanti works as a Digital Employee Experience Architect at He has been developing intranets for 20 years. He argues for a more practical managerial approach to the design of the digital workspace.

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