A flawless intranet design isn’t just important to a company’s success, it is absolutely essential. An under-performing or poorly designed intranet site can take years for a company to recover from. The functionality of the design has to be intuitive, the technology has to be current, the data has to be meticulously analyzed, and the planning has to be perfect. A robust intranet platform goes beyond ROI, encompasses a completely user-first approach, streamlines business processes, and creates an atmosphere conducive to maximized productivity.
2016 is rapidly approaching and it seems the tides have already begun to turn as more companies are looking inwardly to make big corporate changes. Businesses are realizing that the employee experience is as vital to their overall success as their customer’s experience. According to President and CEO Burton Goldfield’s article, Boost your Brand from the Inside, “One of the best ways to ensure that your employees are in sync is to maintain a robust, frequently published and widely used intranet. Having an intranet can be a relatively cost-effective way to keep the company’s message out there and ensure that all employees are working towards the same goals.”
Knowing where to start, what data to collect, and how to analyze the data once you have it can be challenging. Creating an interface simple enough for entry-level users, but sophisticated enough for executives is never an easy task. Your intranet should act as a social platform, company information hub, and employee communication portal. And, promote information sharing in real-time, according to Entrepreneur’s article on Knowledge Sharing, “Intranet services allow employees to share information with coworkers, and many incorporate the use of topic tags or hashtags to make previously shared information more searchable. This allows employees to seek and share information about common problems, minimizing the need for managers to step in.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to a company’s intranet system there is no room for guesswork, therefore proper planning, research, data analysis, and assessment are imperative.
- Gap Analysis: A method used to determine a company’s software application and information system’s performance. Primarily a company should establish goals like; Where the company wants to go? Where the company is today? And, Where additional energy needs to be focused? This process will help determine whether business requirements are being met or not.
- Qualitative and Quantitative data: Analyzing qualitative and quantitative data can help a business understand what the problems are, what is working, and what isn’t working. Qualitative data like interviews, questionnaires, and surveys, collected from management, end users, and executives can paint an excellent picture of the current situation, enabling companies to improve forecasting. To ensure accurate results, keep polls and surveys concise and relevant. Qualitative data will be especially important in the beginning of a company’s intranet development, while quantitative data is typically beneficial once a company has already implemented the system. Utilizing and understanding quantitative data has long been one of a company’s most straightforward analytical tools.
- Benchmarking: Benchmarking is an excellent way for a company to measure and compare themselves with industry leaders to determine performance, business processes, and best practices. And, also to help companies set measurable targets.
- User Requirements and a User-Friendly Approach: Personas are used to keep the human factor in mind when an intranet system is being designed. Personas are fictional characters used to represent users, and ultimately to help create that user first approach. Personas help to prioritize design features and keep the user present during the design process. The personas help determine what the most critical features will be, and what elements will benefit them the most.
- Know your User and Target Audience: Define the different roles of the users, from senior level management to administrative staff, and the different levels necessary to accommodate these roles within your intranet. Feedback is a critical tool in knowing your users, and determining what they need to be productive. Use the fictional but fact based personas to develop a very comprehensive platform.
- Best Practices: The winning characteristics of leading corporate intranets are to Engage with Users, Set Standards, Simplify the System, Measure Data, and Promote the System’s value.
Determining what your company will need is a great place to begin in planning your platform.
- Where to start: Developing a site plan or site map is a great place to begin to get your intranet system up and running.
- What level of customization do you want: Know your intranet design limitations! Building your own intranet may offer some added levels of freedom, however, the cost is exponentially higher and will most likely require an in-house IT department. A customizable off-the-shelf SaaS solution that provides freedom to customize design is a great way for companies to achieve an intranet platform with high-level design features, and freedom to personalize without getting lost. Building an intranet system from scratch can take a company six months to a year, call for a skilled IT department, and cost thousands. A SaaS solution can offer a customized platform for a fraction of the cost, time, and give the company access to skilled IT professionals.
- What if any development / IT skills do you need: Developing an intranet can be an extremely complex process and will require trained IT personnel, therefore many companies opt for SaaS solutions or to outsource intranet development and management. An intranet developer will be responsible for visual design, site navigation, site content, user engagement, training, and complete technological understanding. Many SaaS intranet solutions available today come prepackaged with a number of intranet design templates that can we used straight out of the box without the need to custom development. Some even have different modules that can be dragged and dropped onto your sites pages.
- Create an Attractive and Useful Intranet: For years intranets have been neglected like the kitchen in the back of the house at a restaurant; designed primarily for function and completely ignoring form. However, the aesthetics of a company’s intranet have proven to be far more important than most IT professionals ever realized. Despite the fact that intranets are not customer facing, their overall look and feel should be on par with the customer experience to carry over a company’s culture. Your intranet design should be simple, clean, and free of distractions, and should feel like a comfortable extension of the workplace. They should be scalable, kept up-to-date, and accessible. Burton Goldfield believes, an excellent way to build your corporate reputation is from the inside. “Typical marketing activities certainly play a role, as does the overall strength and quality of the services that you deliver. But you also have another indispensable asset: your own employees. Building a corporate reputation and powerful brand identification in the marketplace begins right at home.”
- Content Management: Creating engaging user content and an interactive experience in your intranet are vital to a great user experience. Informative text, interesting videos, and captivating photos are all excellent ways to engage your audience.
- Social Media: The types of social media you are utilizing should be a direct reflection of what social media your end-users are using. Social Media is a great way to personalize your user’s experience. Videos, Facebook, Podcasts, Instant Messaging, Blogs, and Wikis are all easy tools used to connect to users.
In order for a company’s intranet to be successful, it has to be reliable, attractive, accessible, inviting and engaging.