intranet

5 Essential Features of a Successful Intranet

5 Essential Features of a Successful Intranet 150 150 Kerry Butters

A company’s choice to integrate an intranet into their office infrastructure can be of great and, importantly, controlled benefit to the workforce’s communication and shared knowledge resources. Data sharing within the confines of a firewall, yet still with greater web access outside of this safeguard, is at its foremost reassuring to the organization that any sensitive information cannot be accessed outside of the company, yet still the workforce is not shackled by limited web access.

But, be that as it may, and assuming that the firewall that your company has in place is effective in keeping out any uninvited traffic, threatening or otherwise, the real success of an intranet is measured by what happens within the safe confines of the firewall. Indeed, what makes a modern day intranet great is its social dynamic, and the capabilities it has to engage the company’s internal users.

Let’s look in more detail at the features that create a successful intranet.

 

Accurate, Up-to-date and Well-populated User Profiles

One of the most useful pieces of information that a well-functioning intranet can provide for users is for them to be able to see who else is using it. If your company has a medium to large workforce ­– anything above 30 employees, really – it is unlikely that an individual employee will be accurately informed as to whom all of the other employees are, exactly what the chain of command is, and who precisely to turn to if they are encountering a specific problem.

Profile completeness across the board eliminates this problem in an instant. Profiles should all be headed with a picture of the employee, their job description, and a work in progress profile so everyone can be continuously informed as to what is happening in the company. Other information can include which project teams or work groups the individual is involved with, plus identification of skills, knowledge and expertise, so the right person can always be accessed for the right information at the right time.

 

Clear Communication Pathways

Your successful intranet will also provide clear channels of communication going in all directions around the hierarchy of your enterprise. Senior leaders and management heads must be able to communicate all organisational messages to all of their employees individually and en masse if necessary.

What’s more, those same employees must also have access to communicate their feedback, queries and complaints right up to the top of the ladder. Peer-to-peer pathways are also essential and should be encouraged to maximise communication, which inevitably leads to better organisation, an increased team ethos and better productivity. 

 

Collaboration Platforms and Portals

Going far beyond the reach of emails, your intranet can put in place platforms on which a team can begin to convene ideas through knowledge sharing and instant messaging, as well as building up a catalogue of internal and external links to essential knowledge and information surrounding the project, upload videos and start to build an action plan. Once the project is underway the same platform or team-site can be used for members to keep each informed as to progress, any help required or problems encountered.

 

Policies, Payslips and Pensions

Yes, holidays, travel expenses, pension plans, payslips, benefits etc. are all part of running a business and looking after the rights and privileges of your employees. Using your intranet to provide a one-stop platform for your employees to carry out all requests and transactions streamlines these often time-consuming back-end details of your business, saving time and administration costs for the company.

 

Superlative Content

Making sure that your intranet is populated with engaging, well-written content is just as important as it is when marketing yourself out there on the World Wide Web. Content authors are responsible for crafting the culture, personality, ethos and tone of voice for your company, which your other employees must adopt and reinforce as they make their communications with your customer base at large.

The intranet content that your authors create will provide the gateways for all of your employees to attain essential company knowledge. What is more is that this information is forever stored on your intranet, so there can never be a case of an employee leaving the company and taking with him all the essential knowledge of the job in his head. Indeed, the database of company knowledge that your intranet will continuously grow will be one of the most beneficial tools of the system.

The intranet is most certainly not a thing of the past, though in order for it to be a successful platform to increase your company’s productivity efficiency then you must embrace it in every corner and fold of your business. But, once it is all in place, it will prove to be an invaluable communication network for all company knowledge and all employees going into the future. 

How to Construct an Intranet Homepage that Engages

How to Construct an Intranet Homepage that Engages 150 150 Kerry Butters

The intranet homepage, being the most visible page on the site, tends to be the most cluttered, the most littered, and the often the most confused, as it is there that staff often contend for space to post and advertise the links that they want their colleagues to see.

The homepage is the jumping off point for the rest of the site, and too often the clutter and convolution manage to bury and even camouflage the navigation tools, which really should be plainly visible for all. Although intranet homepages do need to be the homes of useful and interesting news feeds, it is important to never muddy the functionality of the page by overdoing the links and visuals.

As is the case with so many things, homepages are all about getting the balance right. If there are too many links, then it is likely that users will not click on any, and if the navigation tools are buried beneath all the clutter, far too much time will be wasted by staff trying to dig their way around the site which should be self-explanatory.

 

Navigation

Let’s start with one of the homepage’s most important functions – the navigation bar. Indeed, when designing your homepage, start with that, making it clear, concise and functional, and build the rest of the page around it. The intranet homepage is the gateway through to the organisational information of the whole company, and allowing employees to attain easy access to this information is perhaps the whole point of having an intranet in the first place.  

For some reason, a lot of intranets do not see fit to devote too much space to navigation on the homepage. What you will often find is a very slim navigation strip either across the top or down one side of the page, with only 4 or 5 links listed. These, of course, may then be burdened with awkward-to-use fly-out or drop-down menus, sometimes with multiple levels, making accessibility to the required information at least a chore, at worst impossible to find.

Intranets are only used when they are useful, which means that staff need to be able to find the information they require quickly and accurately. So, devote plenty of space to navigation on the homepage, and consider all of the avenues that staff may need to explore during the course of a working day and create a well-ordered, easy-to-find link for each.

 

News

The displaying of corporate news is absolutely essential for your intranet’s homepage, since it is, naturally, the most visited page on the site. However, just how that news is displayed is of equal importance. In order for your staff to navigate through all the headlines that you want to display, it is vital that you take great consideration over the structure of the information you provide.

When structuring the news feeds on your homepage:

  • Use a maximum of 3 different news sections for different types of news. There will be corporate news, media mentions, featured news, breaking news, operational updates, job postings and many more to choose from. But, don’t try and cram it all in there. If necessary, you can create space in your navigation to link to any that won’t fit neatly.

  • Make sure the summary of each article is well written, but most importantly succinct so as not to add to the clutter.

  • Only include an image if it provides additional information and/or context.

  • Enforce a clear policy for what is to be published as ‘news’ on the homepage – don’t waste vital space with updates that are neither useful nor relevant.

 

Tools and Functionality

Search and staff directories are the most frequently used tools of the intranet, so it is important to allocate space for them on the homepage.

Other business systems may also of be of perpetual use, such as tools relating to finance, operational business systems, workflow systems and hierarchy of work. Make sure these are visible too.

Some tools will need to be targeted to key user groups – sales people, managers, front-line staff, etc. So introducing a colour code for quick navigation is usually a good idea.

Ensure that functionality is always at the forefront of your model, so implementing single sign-on (SSO) to negate the need for additional log-ins is definitely something to think about.

All in all, the main thing to consider when constructing an intranet homepage that engages is to give utmost priority to its functionality and navigation. Having lots of links and images may look exciting, but it will be in the practicalities of the page that your staff will engage. Keep things clear and simple, avoid clutter, and allow appropriate space for tools and navigation.






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