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8 Trends for designing an intranet that’s future fit

Posted by Rob Fellowes in: sharepoint

In the past few years, many companies have started approaching their corporate intranet with a fresh set of eyes. More and more, businesses are realising that you can have all the relevant content and functionality in the world, but if your users are not actively engaged in your intranet, you're fighting a losing battle. Employees need systems which make their jobs easier, not more cumbersome.

8 Trends for designing an intranet that’s future fit

Traditionally, intranets are IT-driven as opposed to user-driven… a veritable 'link-farm' that bombards the user with information that's irrelevant to them as individuals. Content is not targeted to the individual end-user but to the larger workforce as a whole. The result is that users often push back, reluctant to make use of their intranet at all, or use only a small part of it.

Take a moment to consider how effective your current intranet is with the following checklist:

  • Do your employees engage with it?
  • Is the information 100% relevant for the user?
  • Is the information transparent and easy to find?
  • Is the information valuable for the user?

Well done if you got four yeses. If, however, you're thinking of redesigning your intranet, here are a number of trends that have emerged as companies search for new ways to make their intranets more valuable:

1.     User-driven content and functionality

In a move that's been called the 'consumerisation' of the intranet, systems are being designed with the end-user in mind, first and foremost. It's important to give them the power to drive what they want to see, personalising the system to suit their needs. A user is more likely to come back to a page if they have buy-in on what information is displayed. Involve key business champions in the design process to get their ideas on what they value the most.

2.     Aesthetics

One should never underestimate the value of making your intranet attractive from a visual point of view. Functionality is important, but so are good looks.

3.     Up to date content

To give users even more reason to visit, it's important to identify content owners that will keep information up to date on your intranet, as well as include relevant active feeds. This could be stock prices, Facebook feeds or relevant news. Active content in this case does not signify once a week or even once a day, it means multiple times a day. Pro-actively notifying users that new content is available will also entice them back online.

4.     User intuition

What do Facebook and Apple products have in common? They are both functionally intuitive; allowing users to 'self-train'… this is something you should bear in mind during the design process of your intranet. It's a sure fire way to ensure rapid adoption of your system.

5.     Device agnostic

These days, people have come to expect the flexible ability to work remotely. It's important that your intranet can be accessible on the move via your tablet or phone. Imagine if a manager can view an active feed on how their team is performing or communicating whilst outside of the office.

6.     High-end search functionality

At the moment, many intranets are equipped with search functions that aren't sophisticated enough, often leading users down a dead end. If users are looking for something specific, they need to be able to drill down and easily refine their search. Don't forget that this starts with content classification, which forms a critical part of the design process.

7.     Cultural alignment

When designing your intranet, make sure that it's a perfect match for your company culture, as well as your corporate vision and strategy. Ask whether the technology adds value to your company culture and that it's not just tech for tech sake. For instance, if your internal culture has a focus on collaboration, or if collaboration is an enabler to your strategic objectives, why not be bold and throw a corporate activity feed onto the home page? Make sure that this principal is reflected in your intranet design.

8.     Consolidation of information

If you can consolidate key information from multiple systems (legacy and new) into a simplified metric dashboard, you'll be adding immediate value. This will allow users to quickly identify what they're looking for and what's relevant to them.

When redesigning your intranet, ask yourself two questions: "Are we at all times providing the individual end-users with only the information and functionality that is relevant to them?" and "Does this add real business value that is aligned with our corporate culture, strategy and vision?" This should provide you with a starting point to define where your current intranet falls short and what you need to do to fix it. If you're willing to step away from the norms and look at your intranet from the users' perspective, you'll be rewarded with a system that really adds value to your employees' lives.

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