Most surveys conducted on intranets come to two conclusions about corporate intranets: They are not resourceful, and no one uses them. Intranets are basically being looked at as a dead technology.
Statistics support this bad reputation intranet carries. A Gartner report in 2019 states that traditional intranets are stale and outdated, and many are essentially dead. A study by Forrester found that most employees were not satisfied with the experience and performance of their corporate intranet. But is intranet really dead? The good news is, no.
While it is true that intranets weren’t completely successful in meeting user expectations due to a lack of technological innovations in the late ’90s and early 2000s, a lot has changed. As a result of the continuous evolution in the intranet industry and changed workplace trends due to COVID-19, intranets are making a comeback—all the more stronger!
In this article, we will take a look at how intranets served as a savior during the COVID-19 crisis. We will go through the evolution of intranet over the years and its position and contribution in today’s times. Let’s get started.
Intranet as a Savior During the COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 changed the face of work. Most organizations shifted to a digital workplace without any preparations. The world witnessed a digital renaissance of work. Of the many challenges that a virtual work atmosphere brought, carrying out internal communication, collaboration, and information sharing were the most prominent. Since most people were remotely working from different locations, they couldn’t coordinate tasks, as in an office setup. And intranets provided a simple and effective solution for this.
In the absence of a physical office, intranets provided an internal communication system that served as a central point for the employees to come together. It met the most urgent need of regulating internal communication of the organization. With notifications, announcements, and alerts, a company’s intranet was successful in bridging the gap among employees working from separate locations. It also became a space where employees could access the latest information related to COVID-19 and business news.
Its role as a document management system was critical in maintaining the smooth operation of businesses during remote work. Tools like Sharepoint empowered employees to access information from a centralized platform in an easy way. With advanced features like version control, metadata, access control, and keyword tagging, document management processes could be streamlined to a great extent.
And an intranet’s offering in terms of collaboration is truly magnanimous. The seamless collaboration support for teams, extensive organization of tasks, use of the cloud to introduce flexibility, scalability, and accessibility, and platform’s assured security indeed became a savior for organizations that suddenly had to cope with the unexpected stress of remote work.
A Quick Look at Intranet Over the Years
Every great technology goes through constant iterations to adapt to the latest ideas and strategies and to evolve over time. The concept and overall definition of an intranet, too, went through various stages to become what it is today. Let’s turn back the pages and look at how intranet changed over the years.
When some companies started building an internal resource in the 1990s, the idea was of a simple web-based portal. Its sole goal was to enhance the internal organization of companies by creating an internal webpage to access various resources and information. It served as a middle ground for people to reach other points and had limited scope for engagement.
In the late 1990s, intranets had evolved to integrate communication and collaboration features. Messaging and other sharing tools became a part of intranet. However, it wasn’t well advanced technologically. There was a lack of interactive components, and integration of external services wasn’t possible. Thus it failed to woo the employees.
In the early 2000s, with an aim to improve employee interaction, intranets added employee self service (ESS) functionality. ESS empowered employees to perform tasks by themselves and optimized the workload of HR departments. But ESS portals required much customization, which wasn’t practical for all organizations.
In further attempts to improve interaction, social intranets were introduced in 2010—these employed social media features such as likes, comments, and interactions to promote teamwork and increase sharing. The concept was influenced by the Web 2.0 movement, whose goal was to put user interaction first.
In 2017, Microsoft 365 was revamped. It aimed to combine communication tools and productivity tools in one place. By bringing together tools like Teams, Yammer, Sharepoint, OneDrive, etc., it further enhanced the concept of intranets..
And the latest development in the intranet industry, modern intranets, is a combination of social intranets and Microsoft 365. It emphasizes user experience, brings more personalization, and improves collaboration. Modern intranet software addresses the shortcomings of early intranets and reaches out to employees on a better level.
What Is a Modern Intranet
The latest development in intranet essentially defines a virtual workplace of the future. By understanding the importance of intranet today and realizing the pitfalls of earlier intranets, developers are focusing on overcoming the drawbacks with modern intranets. Employee experience is the foundation on which designers are setting up modern intranets.
Let us take a look at four key areas that the modern intranet works on to enhance employee experience.
A major issue of earlier intranets was the lack of two-way communication. Modern intranet takes care of this by making interaction through surveys, likes, and comments a priority. This interactive atmosphere improves engagement and increases transparency and employee loyalty. It promotes the exchange of information and enables better decision making.
When employees feel that they are heard and their work is valued, they naturally perform better. For the hybrid workplace that the post-COVID world is preparing for, it is a necessity. It is a great tool to encourage the commitment of employees.
As intranets evolved to accommodate self-service functionality, collaboration, and social interaction, its primary aim of facilitating internal communication took a backseat. The modern intranet makes regular internal communication a top priority. It takes care of information distribution within the organization—both routine and regarding any specific events or incidents. This is more important today than ever, as the world of remote work will change drastically.
By bringing back notifications, announcements, and alerts, the modern intranet promotes better information distribution. It ensures that important information like best practices, security policies, etc. are accessible to all employees.
Building on the idea of ESS, the modern intranet provides self-servicing tools for employees to coordinate their work schedules. This digital empowerment is necessary for the younger generation of the workforce who are used to a digital lifestyle in all aspects of their life.
With a modern intranet, employees can quickly access details like their attendance, payrolls, leave requests, etc. through a single platform. It will encourage them to use their corporate intranet as a natural part of their work routine and reduce HR personnel’s effort to process employee services.
Organizations today are keen on building a workplace learning culture. They encourage employee learning and create ample opportunities for employees to access knowledge materials. Modern intranets serve as a storage space for learning materials. By organizing the knowledge materials in a good and easy-to-find structure, intranets double up as a valuable learning space.
Thus, we see that the requirement for a modern intranet is more vast and encompassing. By taking a more personal and individualized approach, the modern intranet focuses on improving the employee experience to the maximum.
How Intranet Is Contributing to Corporate Goals
The idea of corporate intranets is going through a paradigm shift. It is more important now than ever in the various ways in which it contributes to the corporate goals.
An intranet helps to reduce risks by preparing the organization and its employees for crises with well-defined processes and responsibilities. It helps to save costs and increase profits by improving employee productivity. It also facilitates learning, communication, and collaboration, which translate to an increase in sales.
We can clearly say that in the post-COVID digital workspace, the value offered by intranets is immeasurable. It will help to balance the hybrid work culture and shift organizations to a more employee-centered approach.