Intranet. What does it mean to you? For many people it’s something that should be useful to them but feels a hassle or a chore to use. A company intranet should be a key cornerstone of your organisation's activity, somewhere to access essential information, lifecycle documents and catch up on news and company progress. But often it’s something that is barely maintained and something of a maze.

Who's responsible for an intranet?

The company intranet sits in a grey area between HR, Marketing and Internal Communications, so ownership is sometimes contentious. Maintaining and evolving the intranet is usually one facet of someone’s role rather than a job role in its own right – and all these factors contribute to its less than stellar reputation.

An intranet has the opportunity to bring employees together, reduce silo working, inspire and inform the company. So why doesn’t it feel like more of a valuable asset? Why isn’t it resourced like one?

Pulling in the crowds

In this age of digital and technological literacy, the intranet has a lot to live up to. People have become used to Facebook, Twitter and Google outside work, so a good intranet needs to be visually appealing, consistently updated, useful and relevant. If it doesn’t do what people require of it, they’ll stop using it or only use it if they absolutely have to – say, for booking holiday or finding a colleagues phone number.

To make your own intranet more valuable, you need to rethink the way information is presented and make it easily accessible. Facebook has aspects of its design and management that can frustrate users but since humans are naturally curious and most people’s friends are on Facebook, it remains popular. Everyone in the company should automatically be enrolled in your company intranet and, since they have an interest in the business, should be a captive audience!

Let's think about this

Before you start redesigning, talk to users and research the issues and obstacles they face with the current intranet. What would they like it to be, ideally? Also consider your own needs and frustrations with company intranets – or any online information source. Keep these in the forefront of your mind when redeveloping your intranet. This sounds obvious but it’s easy to get away from the main goals when involved in a project that has many stakeholders. It’s essential to have clear objectives and reasons for the way your own intranet is designed from the outset. This will help keep you on course and enable you to be firm about any well intentioned suggestions or extra requests mid-project!

Back to intranet basics

Once you’ve carried out your research, your first action should be to streamline the content management and make it relevant, accessible and easy to consume. Take what you’ve currently got and cut it down to the essentials, then carefully add sections and content as required. Our clients often come to us because their intranets have become swamps of information that no one updates or can remember how to navigate. To ensure people use it and love it, build a streamlined and concise intranet that serves its purpose.

Ensure the intranet basics are well executed and clearly signposted – for example, booking holiday may be a very popular use of the intranet, so make sure it is easily reachable from the homepage and easy to use. Think carefully about how your business works, what areas people feel most confused about (maybe hierarchies? Teams?) and consider the information they need regular access to (holiday bookings, HR information, people directory). Map these out and decide what content needs to sit where, then make it straightforward, beautiful looking and easy to use.

Feedback is essential

Enlist the feedback of colleagues to make sure that people feel ownership of the intranet and are able to contribute openly. And speaking of contribution, you may want to designate departments to be responsible for updating their own section of the intranet. Some intranet software will enable you to set editorial permissions by user. This ensures content is fresh and not reliant on one person to chase everyone and maintain everything, leading to burnout. Unless you have a dedicated intranet curator of course, in which case – happy days!

It can't be as easy as all that

Sounds simple, right? Too good to be true? Building your new intranet does not have to be a pain in the neck. It should be simple if you have the vision, strategy and also the right platform to deliver your intranet. Make a start as soon as you can because employee engagement and innovation are underpinned by a well-functioning intranet software and effective cross-company communication. McKinsey estimate that “improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.

So there’s no time to lose, especially since improving your intranet doesn’t have to be an arduous, lengthy task. Just get started and even if you are stuck with the same platform, getting user feedback and creating a redesign are the first steps to putting together a business case for a new platform that better serves your purpose.

What about the Hub? Our intranet (the Hub) is browser based so it needs no involvement from IT and users can access it from anywhere – mobile, tablet or laptop! This is really useful for sharing documents when remote working, and you can even set up user groups so people can work together on the same projects and share resources in a secure place, accessible by everyone. You can also set editorial permissions so that people can add content or you can lock it down so one person has final say - it's up to you.

Another great thing about the Hub is that it’s fast to set up and is in your own company brand, so all you need to do is decide the layout and fill the content! We’re on hand every step of the way, but it’s so easy to use that you’ll have a new site up and running in no time. Our clients include Ralph Lauren, Direct Line Group and RSA so you’re in great hands.

If you want to talk to us about your intranet software or intranet strategy, get in touch by calling us on 020 7099 6370 or email us at hub@pancentric.com

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