10 steps to improve your intranet

Get to know your colleagues, obsess over design, prioritize brevity and take your time crafting a network that will benefit people.

Is your intranet a thriving, informative hub, or is it a neglected wasteland?

The goal here is to empower you with all the tools you need to build a better intranet. Consider these 10 ideas to create a thriving hub:

1. Know your neighbor.

Most leaders would confidently say they know their employees and colleagues, until you ask specific questions such as:

  • What percentage of your users are millennials?
  • How many use mobile devices to check email or peruse the intranet?
  • How many employees are Baby Boomers with teenagers?

Asking these sorts of questions can shed light on how users work and what experience they might have navigating certain technologies. Building a successful intranet is less about technology and more about change.

It’s often about getting users to do things differently, which is why it’s crucial to get to know your colleagues. Find out what they need, what frustrates them and how they like to work.

Here’s an idea to get you started: Reach out to the youngest employees in your company, and ask them what changes they’d like to see. What’s broken? If they had their way, how would things be done? Rest assured, they’ll tell you.

2. Reorganize, refresh and rewrite with design in mind.

How you structure and organize your content determines how easily (or not) your users can find what they seek. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of poor design when it comes to navigating intranets.

Just as on any other website, if users don’t quickly find what they’re looking for, they’ll bail. Here are four practical strategies to better organize your intranet content:

  • Mega-menus
    Rather than have so many top-level navigation items, try adding a few action-oriented menu items with several drill-down options.
    intranet mega menu
  • Task-oriented grouping
    Many intranets are organized by department. This is an old way of thinking. How many of you work exclusively with your own department, with no overlap? Ditch the org chart, and start thinking about tasks instead of departments.
  • Action-oriented labels
    This tactic relates more to links that are on pages, rather than navigation items, but you can provoke desired behaviors through action-oriented language.

    action oriented labels

  • Promoted areas
    Every intranet platform today can promote popular links or areas, yet many never use this functionality. Make your most popular sections highly visible and easy to find.

3. Avoid the isolated silo.

Today, we all rely on multiple applications to complete our tasks, which can be cumbersome if they’re not integrated. Is your intranet yet another application for your users to wrangle, or is it a seamless bridge between groups that fosters communication and collaboration? The most successful organizations use their intranet to connect islands of information.

To make your intranet more useful, explore using real-time data from other systems to give people better insight for faster decision making. According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 46 percent of SharePoint users have no integration with other systems, creating information silos.

4. Rethink communication and training.

Everyone’s bombarded with information, so it’s important to consistently “prepare and proclaim” messaging about your intranet adoption.

prepare and proclaim - intranet training and communication

5. Less is more.

Think quality over quantity. Consider these ABC’s of keeping your intranet simple and clear:

  • Attention span (A new employee should be able to visit any page on your intranet and know exactly where to click next within three seconds.)
  • Bite-size delivery
  • Consistency

6. Manage your ROT.

ROT stands for redundant, outdated, trivial. Cut the fluff, trim the fat, and delete every bit of inconsequential content or clutter.

7. Give users a voice.

Everyone wants to be heard. Consistently solicit feedback, and make it easy to offer suggestions. Your people probably have great ideas, but they might not share them if they have to submit a helpdesk ticket or email intranethelp@company.com. Consider adopting some type of instant chat function.

To get the ball rolling, send a quick survey asking your users for three things your intranet should start doing and three things it should stop doing.

8. Loosen up.

Establishing intranet governance is important, but many adopt an inflexible approach. That can harm employee engagement.

Applying a more balanced governance to an intranet can increase buy-in and participation. Consider being “flexible at the edges and rigid at the core:”

sharepoint intranet governance

9. Keep one hand on the wheel.

We see many well-built, well-planned intranets fail. The culprit is almost always a “set it and forget it” mentality. Once the intranet is in place, many move on to the next project.

Organizations must work hard toward continuous improvement and responsive changes. One idea is to establish a steering committee, made up of people from different departments, who can keep hands on the wheel of your intranet. AIIM research asserts that having a multi-departmental steering committee increases intranet success by as much as 30 percent.

10. Think evolution, not revolution.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can guarantee your intranet won’t be, either. Many companies want to build an intranet quickly, without much thought for where they want to end up or how they will measure success.

Slow down, plan, and strategize. Prioritize, build, and then refine. Consider this: Nielsen Norman Group holds an intranet design contest each year, sharing what goes into the winning intranets. The average time spent on a winning intranet design was more than 17 months this year.

Take it one day at a time, one task at a time. Small steps add up to big wins.

If you have other tips, please share them in the comments.

Geoff Ables is the founder of C5 Insight. A version of this post first appeared on C5 Insight’s blog.


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