Are intranets relevant? There has been a lot of discussions recently about the value of intranets in Microsoft 365 and the modern digital workplace, and rightly so.
Some claim intranets are dead or will be soon. Perhaps, but some factors may slow down the ‘death’ of the much loved and maligned intranet.
Intranets and the Alternatives
Much of the discussion around the question ‘are intranets relevant’ focusses on the tools available in the Office 365 stack and if they make a central intranet redundant.
The consumption of news, documents, processes and information can be surfaced and consumed through Teams, Groups, Communication Sites, Delve and many other applications.
However, and there is a huge ‘however’ here!
Intranets for all
Those discussing the death of intranets or indeed asking ‘are intranets relevant’ are generally tech savvy Office 365 professionals with a deep understanding of the alternative tools – not the end users or consumers – you know, the really important people!
There are some fantastic features in Office 365 which, as digital professionals, excite and motivate us. But we live and breathe Office 365 – the end users do not!
What we think is fantastic is not necessarily a view shared by a warehouse operative or information worker.
Creating and Consuming Intranets
When users engage with any system they do it for a number of reasons but chiefly those reasons are:
- Get their work done and fast.
- Find knowledge and information to make their lives easier.
- Improve their day to day efficiency.
When organisations think about an intranet they do it for a number of reasons but chiefly those reasons are:
- Deliver content to inform.
- Provide a key communications tool.
- Support the company culture and brand.
- Create efficiencies
So how do you glue those requirements together into something that will satisfy end users and organisational strategy?
You use a glue that will bring all of the information, data, communications, processes etc into a single container for easy navigation in a familiar interface. A portal perhaps!
The best glue has been and continues to be SharePoint. It is the perfect vehicle to surface information to consumers in a single user interface.
It may be a single landing page or a fully blown intranet but the underlying features of SharePoint will provide the functions to successfully engage.
Now don’t get us wrong we love Teams, Groups, Yammer, Planner, Delve and all of those great tools that Microsoft is deploying. They have massive potential in collaboration and efficiency. They may indeed one day replace intranets.
There is one very important facet of any platform that really will glue your information together – Information Architecture.
Information Architecture is a common dictionary that we use across all of our corporate information and it allows us to aggregate disparate information into a common surface.
So as an example, if we do a search for Prince 2 it may bring us back documents, people, projects and news about Prince 2 – all possible using an IA.
Gaps in the Glue
Much of the collaboration we do is around documents, especially in project teams and groups. However this is missing from Microsoft Teams and Groups document libraries.
If we want a common user experience, which we surely do, then template re-use is a quick and easy way. Microsoft Teams cannot be templated so every Teams site may be different!
There are quite a number of gaps in other products like Staff Hub, Planner, Delve etc but you have to remember that these applications are still in their infancy and will improve – they have their merits and their potential is huge.
Intranets are still evolving despite what people may lead you to believe. We still engage with clients who don’t fully realise the advantages of a quality intranet.
The other tools that are out there should be seen as complimentary to an intranet and not a disruptive factor.
Our engagement with end users and information workers so far has lead us to understand that most people still want that portal experience where they can get the majority of their work done from a central interface.
Adding business value through any system or platform really does depend on the end users and it is vital that they are engaged, especially if you want to work better and faster. Introducing applications that may seem disparate to them need careful consideration and planning, especially those applications that are still developing.
So with respect to the question ‘are intranets relevant’.
Absolutely! Providing they add value to the end-user and the organisation alike.