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All the things that are wrong with your Intranet

Every organization faces competitive pressures to stay relevant, lean and ahead of the curve. On the one hand that means employees should be able to make informed decisions quicker and quicker, yet on the other hand the data in the world is doubling every 18 months. What has however remained unchanged, for the most part, is the software with which businesses support their employees. Many of today’s most popular programs–CRM, ERP, Payroll, KM, but also Intranets–have been around in their current form for over a decade, without any mind-bending changes to their original concept.

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1. Search is a huge untapped potential

This means employees are having a hard time finding what they’re looking for; having to click through too many windows and sieving through too much outdated, incorrect or irrelevant information along the way. The danger of relying on plainly wrong information aside, consider the time that is lost: Imagine just for a second that every employee could save just half an hour every day through better and more intelligent search results. Times all the days in the year (~231 average working days in the US in 2016). Times hourly wages (~$22 per hour for knowledge workers in the US). And you saved yourself a whooping $2,563 that year, for just one employee. Only when you spell such figures out do you realize how much the potential really is–even for just small improvements–to improve the bottom-line.

Shaving time off inefficient Searches is just a win-win-win all around. It’s not just money saved for staff, it’s satisfaction increased among customers, wait times reduced in call centres, decision-making processes sped up among management, etc. If you tackle search, everything else sorts itself out.

2. Most Intranets are too old to function

In the US over 70% of employees bring their smartphone to work and worldwide we are nearing 3 billion smartphone users overall. Yet, most Intranets were created before the iPhone was even invented.

In fact, most companies haven’t upgraded their Intranet in the past five years. Ask yourself what else from the year 2011 you would still consider cutting-edge today: A 2011 Ford Explorer? Not really. An original iPad? Maybe as a paperweight. SharePoint 2010? Oh yes, that’s totally still a decent enough Intranet… You’ll notice the irony, but in fact if your organization is still on SharePoint 2010, you’re in good company.

So it’s no surprise then that most Intranets are still VPN-only, desktop-only. Meanwhile, in this day and age no one wants to wait until they get their hands on a laptop before they can get busy. Not making “mobile” the center stage of your enterprise app strategy is missing a low hanging fruit that competitors will happily pick to increase their productivity round the clock.

3. Intranets are like a city library

An Intranet’s innate capacity to host accurate information is also responsible for its decline in relevance within the workforce. Some people say it’s a little like a city library – a beautiful (and expensive) place that hosts a lot of vetted and verified information. A shining testament to corporate governance and legal compliance, if you will. But that also means that changing just a single word or a page requires 3 signatures from 2 managers. Which means no one experiments and tries out new things and the Intranet goes stale pretty quickly thereafter.

Which is no problem until Google came along: Now if you want to look something up, you Google it, exchange ideas in comment sections and rely on crowd-sourced encyclopedias. So city libraries have somewhat faded in their perceived importance to most people. Depending on your position within your organization, this could be a problem you should address.

4. They are not inclusive

For nearly every department there are specialized pieces of software, like ERP or Payroll, that all have some form of content and communication tools embedded within them. Therefore often employees in fact manage more than one document management system, require more than one login and have more than one source to find relevant information. All these are realizations that stand in contrast to Intranets: According to their vendors everything and anything is supposed to go into the Intranet. If it’s not in the Intranet, it doesn't exist -- according to Intranet evangelists.

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Our current Intranet’s are somehow completely oblivious to the sheer complexity of IT landscapes and bore us with their monolithic architecture that incorporates, at best, data sources from the same vendor but never from others.

For the future

Our current Intranets still have some way to go before they become holistic, modern tools that empower users rather than bogging them down. This is a (non-exhaustive) list of key areas that will change with Intranets in the near future:

  1. Mobile left right and center: It should go without saying but future Intranets will be available on any device and anywhere – while being secure and excelling at UI design.

  2. Inclusiveness of data sources: Email attachments, personal Dropboxes or Bots will become integral to the information management and data access within Intranets.

  3. Up-to-date standards: Modern HTML5 Web Components will allow a faster rendering of Intranets on devices of all sizes and bandwidths while at the same time increasing security.

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