The Team Collaboration Blog

10-07-2017
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14 Intranet Best Practices

What features do you need in a social intranet? Get the full picture.

We have collected 14 intranet best practices that characterise the features of a great team collaboration tool. Use these intranet best practices as a guideline when comparing different intranet software solutions.

The tips focus on 3 main issues to consider when choosing an intranet platform:

  • Social Intranet
  • The use of collaboration tools
  • Easy intranet usability that helps you achieve your future goals.

 

1. Easy team collaboration with a social intranet

A social intranet gives employees the opportunity to communicate with colleagues across the entire organisation. The main purpose of a social intranet is to close the communication gap that employees in large organisations often experience. The features of a social intranet let your employees collaborate across the organisation and create a knowledge sharing culture among colleagues.

One part of a social intranet is the personal newsfeed, which is inspired by Facebook and other social media. This is the reason why employees can handle the intranet without extensive training and tutorials. Hence, a social intranet is an intranet built with a simplistic and intuitive design that makes it easy for everyone to incorporate and use in their everyday workflow.

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In a social intranet, your employees can create and use workgroups, where they can access project teams. This ensures easier collaboration on interdisciplinary assignments. 

A social intranet is the way to go if you want an interlinked and collaborative organisation. Intranet software slowly, but surely, adapts to the way you work. A lot of companies now offer flexible hours and allow employees to work from home; furthermore, the organisation has more technological opportunities than before. So, naturally, an intranet ought to suit the way an organisation leads and delegates its tasks.

A well-designed social intranet combines tools that assist in collaboration processes. If employees have access to these tools, they have a good chance of meeting your expectations, which will lead to a more productive workforce.

Let us delve into what a great social intranet looks like.

 

2. Develop your intranet alongside your employees

A social intranet can be used to promote collaboration on projects, find employees with the right skills, and look for relevant content.

When you look for a new intranet, consider how the social intranet suits the work processes of your employees and the goals of your company. To build an effective working platform, look at the working processes of your employees, talk to stakeholders, and identify in which areas an intranet can help your organisation reach its goals.

A social intranet should be developed with the purpose of focusing on your employees and their needs for a more effective intranet. Their needs come first, as they are the ones who are going to use it.

 

3. Find your colleagues with an intranet phonebook

The intranet is the digital workplace for all employees in your organisation, and therefore, it should be designed to look like people are using it. Profiles without pictures or information make an intranet feel heartless and unattractive.

Intranet phonebook

A study shows that 30 percent of people use LinkedIn to look up colleagues in their organisation and to find colleagues with specific skills and responsibilities, simply because the information on LinkedIn is more comprehensive than that of their current intranet.

A social intranet offers complete user profiles, which makes it easy to look for co-workers' contact details, find relevant employee skills, and find out what colleagues look like. User profiles make employees more productive because they can easily find details about their colleagues and contact them.

To secure interaction and effective skill-finding opportunities, it is important that employees fill out their profiles with their pictures, data and skills.

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Completing your profile with accurate information is important, as it is used for a variety of situations, including:

  • People looking for each other’s contact details
  • Employees' birthdays and anniversaries
  • Identifying skills and knowledge in the organisation to set up work groups with the right set of skills and expertise
  • Information on who is who in the organisation for newcomers
  • Finding procedures and go-to people for specific tasks
  • Finding people with the right set of knowledge and expertise for specific topic forums

If employees are unable to find the information they are looking for, they feel that they are wasting their time and might end up frustrated. Hence, they may end up looking for information in other places. As a result, it hinders the adaptation of the intranet. The intranet is only a success if employees feel that it is useful.

 

Case: Find colleagues

Elisabeth is the Executive Secretary of the City Council. Regularly, she meets with citizens faced with a problem or question that Elisabeth needs help from others in the organisation to answer. In the past, Elisabeth used her knowledge about employees to find out who to call. She looked up the employee in Outlook and clicked a few times to find the phone number. Often, the employee was not available, and she would search for a new employee. This caused Elisabeth, as well as the citizen, to waste a lot of time and frustration.

 With the social intranet, Elisabeth logs on and searches for the skills required to help the citizen. A few employees who match the skills she is looking for appear. Elisabeth is immediately able to see who is available and their phone number.

4. Boost business performance with collaboration tools

Collaboration tools are features that are used to help employees work together to achieve common goals or objectives. Collaboration tools foster organised teamwork across departments, functions, and borders. Social intranet collaboration tools include:

  • File sharing
  • Workgroups
  • A personalised newsfeed
  • Employee directory
  • Task management

A Forbes Insights survey reveals that collaboration tools not only leads to better ideas, solutions, and increased productivity, they also naturally foster a sense of trust and community. If your employees feel a sense of community with others, they feel that they are valued and work in an environment of trust.

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While there are many ways to facilitate collaboration and a sense of community in your organisation, you should make sure that collaboration tools are visible on the front page of your intranet.

Social intranet software works as a communication channel for knowledge sharing and collaboration. But an intranet is only as successful as the amount of energy and engagement employees put into it. 

Encourage users to create content if they feel they have something to share. Invite comments and listen to and respond to them, and ask employees to share ideas and welcome new ideas. This way, the intranet will be more active and thus create a stronger community feeling.

 

5. Encourage employees to share relevant content

Employees use an intranet for a series of purposes, among them, reading the latest company news, collaborating on a project, and finding contact details for other co-workers. Simply put, people use an intranet to help them be more productive in their daily work life.

Creating accurate, useful, and relevant content saves employees time by making it easier to find what they need and carry out their business more effectively. Making content interesting is important so that it gets read and passed around.

To make the content creation process as smooth as possible, your intranet should have the possibility to create smart content templates, where content creators can fill in their content. A smart content template is a template where boxes for content are predefined with the formatting your company want. To ensure great content right away, make sure that the template has:

  • A strong headline
  • A summary that makes the text easy to understand
  • Text showing above the fold
  • The possibility to tag content
  • Author tagging
  • A place to add the date
  • A comment box
  • The ability to add photos and videos

A template makes it easy to create content without having to consider form and style. A smart content template makes it easy for employees to create great content right away.

Make sure you set up tracking on your intranet, to ensure that you know what is being read and what is not. With tracking, you can identify what content should be archived, what content should be improved upon, and what should simply be deleted from the intranet.

When creating intranet content, consider how information is consumed there. Writing for an intranet is not the same as writing paper copies because people read online text differently than they read an annual report or white paper. When reading text online, people are visually driven, skim, and read in chunks.

Furthermore, intranet users are usually busy people. This means that when they look up information on the intranet, they are most likely in a hurry. Thus, the content should be easy to scan.

To make sure content is easily digested, remember to use:

  • Helpful links to related content, either from manual links or from automated recommendations made by the intranet itself
  • Visitors should be able to interact with the content, either through comments or by giving feedback

 

6. Implement a content governance function

A content governance function is a process that requires the content author to evaluate every piece of content they have created after a certain time. That way, you avoid the intranet being stuffed with unused content and no one taking responsibility for it.

To make sure that content governance is not a manual process, your intranet should have an automatic content governance function. This can be set up automatically in the social intranet by applying the content author's name and date.

Depending on your organisation, you might want to revise your content once a year or more often. This way, every person oversees their own piece of content, and they are responsible for evaluating its relevance. This function has two purposes:

  • It forces employees to take ownership of their intranet and the content they create
  • It ensures that content is revised on a regular basis

Having a clear governance function will create the right amount of engagement and less manual governance will be needed.

 

7. Store old files in your intranet content archive

Many areas of your intranet potentially contain out-dated content: company news, employee recognition nominations, and blogging, to name a few.

Content archive

Thus, old content should be archived on a regular basis. Removing these items from your day-to-day workflow and workgroups keeps the site uncluttered and easier to use. A great intranet has a scheduled clean-up utility, where old content is archived. Alternatively, users should be automatically invited to act on content they have created themselves.

Community members need access to archived content occasionally. Content archives can be a labyrinth, especially after a few years of use. Making archives easily accessible for employees will cut down on frustration and make them easier to navigate. One of the ways to make the content archive easily accessible is by placing a link to the archive on the front page.

 

8. Invite employees to give feedback 

Your employees are undoubtedly going to have something to say about the new intranet and what functionalities they need in their daily work, as they are the ones who will be working with the intranet on a day-to-day basis. They may have feedback to offer, or perhaps there are issues that they want to address to the intranet administrator, that were not collected before implementing your new intranet.

To invite feedback, placing a feedback form or comment box on the intranet can enable employees to bring their concerns to the forefront. Another way of inviting feedback is by inviting different intranet administrators to expert group meetings with other intranet administrators, so that they can discuss functionalities in the new intranet system, which can be beneficial for the entire community.

 

9. Usability is the key to success

Often, the intranet is used with many different job functions, professional backgrounds, and digital skill sets. Make sure you choose an intranet software that accommodates your users’ needs. Make sure it is intuitive and easy to use for everyone. The simpler your intranet is, the more likely it is that the intranet will be used by your employees.

The core purpose of your intranet is to work as a digital platform, information hub, and primary work tool in employees’ daily lives. Therefore, it is important that employees can easily navigate to the resources they need. If it is difficult to use the intranet and too hard to find relevant information, the intranet is likely to fail.

The front page should allow employees to navigate to the resources they need. Your front page should provide clear links to key resources, such as news, frequently used content, and collaboration workspaces.

 

10. Enable access to your intranet on-the-go

Your intranet should be accessible wherever you are and regardless of what device you are using. PC, tablet, or mobile — your intranet should be available and function on all systems.

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Case: Using the intranet in the field

Deborah works in a rehabilitation team. She is based at a care centre and works with clients in their homes. In the past, she has had to write notes about her clients by hand or type them into a system, and then put them into another system when she returned to the care centre. She did not utilise time optimally; often, details about the client were lost in the process.

Now, with a social intranet, Deborah is happy that she can write journal notes and update her care plan when she visits the clients in their homes. She can do that regardless of whether she has a laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. Deborah now has more time to spend with her clients and less time spent on administrative tasks.

  

11. An intelligent search engine

As your intranet expands to all employees, it will contain a lot of information, and finding specific things might be difficult to do. Besides a clear and simple design, having an intelligent search engine on your intranet makes it easy to find the correct forms, documents, skills, and people that your employees are looking for.

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Allowing your busy employees to instantly find what they are looking for in the intranet makes them more effective. A resourceful intranet is useless if employees cannot find the information that they are looking for; resulting in lost time and lost opportunities. If users cannot find what they are looking for, they will probably move on to another site. Consequently, an ineffective search engine may result in a weak intranet adaptation and, perhaps even more importantly, demotivated employees.

Therefore, it is vital for a great intranet to have a robust search engine that delivers what the searcher is looking for. Your intranet search engine should work like any other search engine. For instance, the search engine must think ahead, like Google’s search engine, because your employees are used to this search engine’s behaviour.

To ensure that employees can find what they are searching for, you may improve your content’s search ability with these tips:

  • Strong headlines with the phrases people search for
  • Provide content with relevant tags
  • Watch out for misspellings
  • Make sure the search engine bar is visible on all pages
  • Link related content with each other
  • Track usage of the search engine to improve it

Make sure that your new intranet has an intelligent search engine, and see effectiveness and engagement increase. The easier the intranet is to navigate, the more likely the intranet is to be successful.

 

12. Quick, easy access to all of the important things

Your intranet should reflect your company in design and culture because an easily recognisable design is easier to relate to. Therefore, it is important that your new intranet be customised to the different demands of your intranet users with its many different functions. Your social intranet software should make it possible to personalise the front page for each business unit.

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For a user to use the intranet optimally, it is important that they are comfortable with and understand how to use it. Therefore, it should be easy and intuitive for an employee to find workgroups and information that are relevant to their type of work.

Personalization and segmentation of content and pages are central to an intranet, so the intranet design is both easy to use and reflects their work.

The core purpose of your front page is to allow employees to navigate to the resources they need. Consider providing quick links to:

  • Key resources
  • News targeting the organisational unit
  • Quick access to important things, such as?
  • Quick links to relevant areas, such as?
  • Relevant workgroups
  • Collaboration tools on the front page, such as?

Make sure that the most frequently used areas and links on the intranet are displayed prominently so that employees can access the important resources they use in their everyday work. Also, make sure that the front page can be customised by the user and minimise the number of clicks users need to get access to their most important resources.

 

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13. Easy integration with other systems

If your organisation, like many others, works with many different systems, you have probably experienced frustration when you need to open seven different programs to gather all of the information for one simple task!

To ease your work, your new intranet should be able to gather all systems in one place to create an optimised workflow. Whether it is Business Intelligence, Exchange Server, or CRM systems, the intranet can gather all of these systems in one place and create an optimised workflow.

Single Sign On

Modern social intranets offer a Single Sign-On platform. This means a user only needs to login with a single ID and password to gain access to a connected intranet system, without using different usernames or passwords. This integration is typically made possible by SAML 2.0. The SAML packet contains available metadata about your users and suppliers, which can be expanded to include metadata from other systems. This means that it's completely safe to use a lot of different suppliers. The benefits of using a single sign-on include:

  • Mitigating risk for access to 3rd party sites (user passwords are not stored or managed externally)
  • Reducing password fatigue from different user name and password combinations
  • Reducing time spent re-entering passwords for the same identity
  • Reducing IT costs due to a lower number of IT help desk calls about passwords

 

Integration with Microsoft Active Directory

By integrating Microsoft Active Directory (AD), you can add your current organisational data to the intranet. When changes are made in the AD, it also changes on the intranet. Among other things, it becomes simple to load the whole organisational structure directly onto the intranet. This makes it easy to handle assignments that require a lot of coordination, or to get an overview of departments and contacts.

With easy integration, you can structure and adapt your intranet to become your tailor-made intranet, with access to all of the systems and data that fit the needs of your organisation.

 

14. Flexible hosting solutions

Whether you want your new social intranet to be hosted in the cloud or on-premises, your intranet software provider should offer the flexibility for you to choose. Decide whether your data needs to be located on a server in your organisation, or your intranet might be a cloud solution where your provider hosts your data.

Cloud hosting is a flexible setup, where your intranet software provider takes care of all aspects of hosting your intranet. Whereas if you want to host your intranet by yourself, your organisation will have to provide its own servers, hosting, backup, internal network connection, internet connection, and other kinds of hardware and software, as needed.

There is no difference in security, whether you chose one hosting option or the other. However, most intranet vendors only provide continuous updates to your system when you choose cloud hosting.

In summary

So, does your intranet need all of the features listed above? Not necessarily. But, to get a viable and effective digital workspace, there should be a clear and well-defined roadmap. A roadmap will outline the goals of the intranet, what problems a new intranet will solve in your organisation, and the return on investment a new intranet will provide.

Consider these suggested intranet features as a guideline for your intranet requirements, and start making a road map for your intranet that suits your current needs. And perhaps most importantly, choose an intranet software provider that helps you achieve your future goals and your company vision.

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Nicoline Sørensen
Blog Author
Nicoline Sørensen
Nicoline was Colibo's Head of Marketing. Her interest is in employee engagement, intranet best practices and SEE ALL POSTS

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