12th September 2013
According to a report by the Nielson Norman Group, whilst website usability has improved dramatically over the past decade, intranet usability is not any better – and indeed, if anything, may be slightly worse. It goes on to state that intranets ought to have higher usability than websites because organisations have full control over the environment, know exactly who the users are and can see clear financial benefits when improvements are made.
Intranets can be hugely beneficial for sharing information within an organisation. They are generally be simple to setup and a low cost to run. However, they can also often become neglected, unmaintained and under-utilised. Given that the return on investment for intranets can be dramatic and clear to see, what can organisations do to ensure they make the most of them? Here are a few tips from our experience of developing and deploying intranets for our clients:
There are a host of possible platforms that can be used for company intranets – and plenty that will be perfectly adequate for what you need. The most important thing when choosing your platform, however, is to make sure you really understand what it is that your organisation needs from its Intranet. You may just want a very simple tool to share news or you may want something more advance through which people can submit timesheets and log absences. It’s key that you research exactly how an intranet could best benefit your organisation and then try to match that up with the different platforms that are on offer.
It’s all too common for company intranets to become unused wastelands. Whilst their functionality can be great and benefits significant, staff usage is the most important factor of all. By embedding your intranet into the working process of staff, however, you can ensure that staff-members continue to access your intranet regularly. In the case of SharePoint, the intranet functionality is integrated with user profiles and document storage, so visibility is automatically increased. Similarly, by building other features into your intranet – like timesheet submissions – users will have to access the intranet regularly.
By requesting or even necessitating that staff contribute to the intranet then much more engagement and buy-in will be fostered. Articles could focus solely on staff areas of expertise or could cover non-work-related topics as well. Eliciting contributions from across the organisation will encourage greater levels of commenting and conversation on your intranet and incentivising good quality posts will increase engagement further.
Integrating social features into your intranet will encourage greater levels of sharing and engagement. Not only will the functionality be improved, but staff familiarity with social features across the Web will translate into use of the features. Simple sharing buttons will encourage staff to spread links to interesting articles on social media and social commenting plugins such as Disqus mean that staff-members can comment using whatever accounts they prefer, further increasing engagement. Of course, it’s important to decide how open you want your intranet to be.
It’s absolutely key that you maintain momentum with your intranet. The moment activity tails off then staff will begin to stop using it. It’s a good idea to give one or more people responsibility for maintaining activity. Simple tricks like a weekly email to the company with links to new articles, incentivizing engagement and implementing staff suggestions for improvements can go a long way to keeping your intranet current and interesting.
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