Secrets of award-winning intranets

From Sydney come takeaways from the Intranet Innovation awards, which this year highlighted mobile applications as a hot topic.

The Intranet Innovation Awards show where leading-edge intranets are now, and where other intranets are likely to follow in the next 18 months. At the current forefront are mobile and social media, with intranet design close behind.

The awards program, organized by Step Two Designs based in Sydney, has been running for seven years. These global awards celebrate innovation in the intranet space and uniquely reward selected functions, design elements, or approaches on an intranet, rather than the platform as a whole.

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I have the pleasure of reading all the entries that come in from all over the globe, and seeing which submissions most impress the judges. This year there were several key takeaways for internal communicators:

1. You should be thinking about mobility

Up to now, mobile intranets have been slow to take off, but this year’s winners showed how mobile can help drive employee engagement and even increasing visits to company news.

Platinum award winner Barclays has introduced MyZone, a mobile intranet aimed at staff in retail branches. Previously these employees have not even had their own email accounts, but they now have a rich intranet environment accessible from their own smartphone or tablet.

MyZone has product information, HR details, a video channel, local branch information, an ideation tool, a preview of customer-facing apps, aggregated Twitter feeds and more.

MyZone has been a huge success and has revolutionized communications in the branches at Barclays. It’s widely acknowledged as contributing to a 22 percent rise in branch staff engagement over six months.

Another winner, Coca-Cola Enterprises‘ mobile iConnect intranet, delivers both company news (in multiple languages) and also key HR processes such as the ability to view pay slips and book annual leave. What’s fascinating about CCE’s new “intranet in your pocket” is that since it launched, views of global news has risen by an impressive 50 percent.

These news items are viewed as important by the IC function for engagement and helping to drive a one-company culture. They are a tantalizing glimpse that mobile may be the perfect medium for viewing company news items.

2. Everyone can be a publisher

As social media tools become more common, internal communication has entailed developing skills related to community management and curating content rather than creating it.

The 2013 Awards shows that social media continues to march, and that tools are no longer considered innovative but rather are becoming “business as usual.”

Last year we had many entries that presented the introduction of enterprise social networks or even commenting as an innovation. This year, social tools have become assumed, and the focus is on embedding them into key processes.

3. Publishing news on the AMP’s Hub is made easier by a custom form

One winner where social media has been integrated into a key internal communications process is at the Australian financial services provider AMP.

In the company’s new iteration of its intranet The Hub (based on SharePoint 2010 and Newsgator) anybody in the company can publish a news item and target it to a particular group. The only exception is all-staff announcements.

Content management is made easy through a custom forms which can target content to groups based on location, service line, employee type, and role.

Although the “everyone is a publisher” model might not work at all companies, it will be interesting to see how AMP’s social spin on news pans out.

4. External is blurring with internal

More than ever before, intranets are also relaying what’s happening in the outside world. In particular, intranets are integrating external communications into the home page, for example Twitter feeds.

These not only give employees insights into external messages going out, but where there is interaction and conversations, it also highlights customer perceptions.

This is best reflected in commended entry Disney Consumer Products, which places an integrated news feed from its Facebook pages right on the intranet home page. This delivers key insights into reactions to new Disney products and channels.

If you want more detail, 19 case studies of leading intranets illustrated by many screenshots are available in the Intranet Innovation Awards report for 2013.

Steve Bynghall @bynghall, is a London-based consultant and writer specialising in intranets, collaboration and knowledge management. He is the founder of his own consultancy Two Hives Ltd, and works extensively for the Digital Workplace Group and Step Two Designs. He coordinates the Intranet Innovation Awards and he wrote this article for All Things IC, where a version of this article first appeared.

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