5 crucial questions to ask before launching your intranet

Grapple with these essential considerations before overhauling your messaging hub.If your colleagues are socially distancing themselves from your content, your firewalls are leaking and managers have taken to collaborating on WhatsApp, then it might be time to get yourself a new intranet.

Before you do so, ask these five questions to make sure your new platform is a good fit for post-pandemic hybrid working.

1. Is hyper-personalization important – or just hype?

If you haven’t upgraded your intranet since the Spice Girls disbanded, then you are in for a pleasant surprise. One of the most significant changes with the new generation of digital platforms is that they can now recognize each of your users as an individual to better target messages and campaigns. Your colleagues will embrace a new intranet that has news, stories and connections that are tailored to them.

Hyper-personalization implies tailoring to an audience of one – a bit like your Facebook or Twitter feed. That might be a little too intrusive, but if you can target news and content to geography, function, seniority and interests, you will start to deliver a personalized user experience, which means higher engagement and richer conversations.

2. Is your knee bone connected to your thighbone?

We here at Ragan Consulting Group spend our days looking at all kinds of intranets, from the stupendous to the sclerotic, and the first sign of a standout success is an intranet that everyone uses. The biggest driver of 90%+ usage is to include all those other essential apps that staff use to get their jobs done. If the intranet portal is the easiest route for me to check my shifts, see my payslip and get notifications about what needs doing next in my workflow, then that’s where I’ll go first – especially if it’s all in a handy mobile interface that includes my email and diary.

Deep integrations are vital to the modern intranet. This does not mean having an array of buttons that spin you off to another application. What we are talking about here are those friction-free integrations that allow you to sign off a holiday request within your activity feed or make a change to that vital presentation and embed it back into the CRM – all while making a cup of coffee.

3. Could I have found a better vendor for my new intranet?

Choosing an intranet is like choosing a partner – you’re going to be stuck with your decision for some time, so swipe right with caution.

The 200 or so candidate platforms will all promise the earth, but how do you decide whether they will be faithful in the future? The simple answer is that you can only really make a good decision when you know your own business. Your organization is infinitely more complex than the software you are signing up for.

So the first step is to discover what your senior team is looking for from a personalized digital intranet. Then do some focus groups with staff to find out what they want from a platform. Before you know it, you’ll have an intranet strategy based on high-level user requirements, which will soon reveal which kind of vendor you are likely to hit it off with.

Then you can set up a beauty parade of the top four or five, and take your time on a series of dates before you settle on the technology partner of your dreams.

4. Is there intelligent life out there?

The amount of data we produce every day is truly mind-boggling. Granted, not all of it ends up on your intranet, but there’s a lot of data silting up your cloud servers – and every day, it’s getting worse. There’s one big problem about allowing your intranet clouding over useless information; your search results are getting less clear.

In the past, our advice was to regularly cull old files and keep your content up to date by rooting out all the ROT (Redundant, Out of date, Trivial). But this time-consuming task is about to be swept away by developments in artificial intelligence. Microsoft Graph has been around for some time. It gives you a handle on your data that includes your employee directory and the files in your organization, plus how people access them using Outlook, Teams, etc. But now, with the advent of AI and machine learning, systems can search those files more intelligently. Search can now look for the latest version of a policy document and offer up results based on your context – where you work in an organization, who you work with and who is writing the popular stuff that everyone else wants to read.

It’s like taking a recommendation from a waiter who knows everything you have ever eaten in every restaurant you have ever visited.

All of which means that search inside the enterprise is getting a whole lot better. It might never be as personalized as Google, but then again, it’s exploiting your data to help you find the next thing you need, rather than using you to help an advertiser find their next sale.

5. Should I wait for Viva’s va-va-voom?

This spring heralded a new suite of products from Microsoft – called Viva – which contains four components:

  • Viva Connections – a company-branded SharePoint portal in a Teams app with Yammer Communities and stream video integration. It’s the intranet you always wanted to be delivered within Teams, where most of your colleagues live and work.
  • Viva Insights – Personal and Organizational productivity reporting and tips, building on Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics but also pulling insights from third-party platforms like Zoom, Workday, and SAP.
  • Viva Topics – Using AI (see above) to mine data stored in SharePoint and create “Topic Pages” about the topic and pointing to experts on that topic. Experts can further curate pages.
  • Viva Learning – an enterprise learning platform that surfaces training content to employees in Teams.

Right now, Microsoft is offering Connections – the intranet bit – at no extra cost.

Regardless of which path or platform you choose, make sure your hub is worker-centric and employee-friendly. They’re the ones who will make or break your intranet success, after all.

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