It is January 2019, and like many an optimistic person, IT companies like us make up their list of resolutions. Much like the ‘lose more weight — eat better — exercise more — be healthier’ resolution for millions around the world, the same resolve pops up annually for us– without fail — but in different shapes and forms. Our recurring promise to ourselves has always been “this year we will build/launch/promote/update our intranet.” This promise appeared at the top of the list every year — except for the last two.
Sadly, by the second quarter, this resolution would have fallen by the wayside. There was always a good reason why the intranet could not be prioritized — our technical team members were engaged in meaningful projects, our intranet ‘admin’ had changed positions or jobs, the content was not being updated; hence no one was accessing it… The reasons were plenty, and the result was the same: our intranet project was dead, or dying.
As an IT company that has implemented more than its fair share of internal portals (or intranets) for medium to large organizations, we know one thing: Intranets fail. No matter how much money is spent on them — from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars — intranets do not bring about their promised ‘return on investment.’
Why is that?
In theory, the concept is a solid one — creating an internal portal connecting employees, essential company data, calendars, events, updates seem like a win-win situation all around. Logically, organizations should be ready to update the content; employees keen to access it. But that is hardly ever the way it works.
After spending hundreds of thousands on ‘ready-made’ portals, organizations find that these solutions sit on a virtual shelf, collecting virtual dust because they poorly designed and rarely updated that employees find them unworthy of their time and effort, or so complicated and full of information that they overwhelm and confuse.
Our intranet was a classic example of the latter. On designing it, we decided we wanted everything this ready solution could offer — calendars, events, document management, advanced search, message boards, the works. Our logic was that as an IT company if we don’t use it all, who will?
As it turned out, no one did use it. We had a couple of die-hard portal fans who insisted it made life more comfortable, but the majority of employees either accessed it once and forgot how to do it again, or accessed it only when they occasionally received an email about something they could find on it.
Here we list the top reasons why intranets fail:
- Not enough triggers. Interaction today is all about triggers. People are only seeking out information when they need something specific. Users are hardly ever interested in browsing portals for the sake of browsing. Most intranets have poorly designed notifications or triggers. You either need to be logged into it on the web to receive notifications, or continually checking your emails, clicking on a link, and then logging in to view information that you may or may not need. Data needs to come to the user conveniently.
- Not mobile-friendly. Most portals are not designed for mobility. The pages have too many components (because they are intended for web), and so many of the web parts don’t work on small screens. Why is it important to be mobile friendly? Because the drastic increase in mobile app usage is a guarantee that applications and portals that are not mobile-friendly will be obsolete within about 18 months of launching.
- Jack of all trades — master of none. We have forgotten what intranets were initially for- hosting and disseminating useful organizational content. Today, a typical intranet is expected to organize and distribute, but also to engage with puzzles and riddles, surveys, complaints, inform you of the weather in six different cities, and the time in five different time zones, as well as provide a virtual play area for employees to ‘socialize.’ Sadly, intranets are rarely good at the fun stuff, they are poor social options, and trying so hard at everything else makes them weak at hosting and disseminating content.
Then again, not all intranets fail. Some organizations boast of relatively good usage numbers, often due to ‘intranet policies’ which are rules or regulations put in place to guarantee some traffic. But is your intranet successful if you need to force traffic in its direction?
So what do you do with your current, sickly intranet? Do you invest even more into it by trying to make it more engaging or creating a ‘mobile interface’? You could — but is it worth it?
After years of trying to breathe life into ours, we decided it was time to cut our losses and identify precisely what we wanted this intranet to achieve. After all, was said and done, we knew what we wanted: a place to host critical organizational data, and disseminate necessary information. It was that simple.
We let the intranet die a slow, inevitable death. For the content we needed, we created a clean, minimalistic information library that made access to data easy, straightforward, and quick. Our focus was on documents, videos, and learning content. We connected this library to iDenedi, our mobile announcement, and engagement application, and the company was able to easily share content using cellular triggers, make important announcements, and engage with employees and partners in a way that was quick, secure, and fun. As an uncalculated side benefit, we found employees were also engaging more with each other.
In summary, if your intranet is not what you wanted it to be — you are not alone. Let it go and give some thought into what you need. You will likely discover that what you need is a lot simpler than what you already have.