What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?

It may not be an age-old question, but it's certainly one that puzzles a lot of people. What exactly is the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace? Unily has taken this opportunity to define the two and explain why you need both an intranet and a digital workplace platform to get the best out of your employees.

Intranets vs. the digital workplace

Many people believe that the terms intranet and digital workplace are interchangeable. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

To put it plainly, an intranet can be a part of your digital workplace, but your digital workplace isn’t a part of your intranet. A digital workplace is the wider umbrella that encompasses all the digital tools your enterprise uses. It began life as a sort of catch-all term for email, word processors, and fledgling internet applications, but has since evolved into a key facet of modern business.

There are virtually no businesses left that don’t have a digital workplace in one way or another, but what many still lack is a platform upon which a holistic and robust digital workplace can be built. Whether it’s self-built or out-of-the-box, turnkey or bespoke, a comprehensive digital workplace platform has become a prerequisite of modern work, demanded by employees and required for operational efficiency.

Depending on the business case and your enterprise’s unique requirements, different solutions may apply. If you need to tie together all your digital tools under one roof, you need a digital workplace platform. If you need an outward face of your broader digital workplace, a kind of digital entry-point for employees, you need an intranet solution.

The key takeaway from all of this? In today’s modern world of work, your enterprise needs both.

What is an intranet?

"An internal network for sharing information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services within an organization, typically accessed by a web-based application."

Intranet definition

However, as is the case with all technology, this definition is always changing. Where once an intranet was just a repository of links to other resources, a modern intranet is a powerful digital hub – incorporating everything from native video to artificial intelligence - that acts as a comprehensive one-stop shop for all users.

Unily customers use their intranet for all manner of purposes: an engaging communications platform, a bulletin board for employee recognition, a driver of efficiency and productivity, a space for open collaboration. A modern intranet can be any and all of these things, adaptable to meet the unique needs of your enterprise and configurable to utilize the latest cutting-edge features and integrations.

Intranet Software

With an increased number of remote workers and a vast choice of digital tools available for use, it’s getting more challenging to unite your enterprise's people, technology, and knowledge. Savvy leaders are increasingly looking to modern intranet software to unlock their workforce's fullest potential.

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A digital newsroom

An intranet should be your employee’s go-to source of information and updates. A balance of corporate communications and stories from within your organization meet on your intranet, employing content targeting to give users a snapshot of what’s going on. As a single source of truth for your workforce, a modern intranet represents the focal point for employee engagement.

A communications platform

Intranets can integrate with elements of your wider digital workplace to build a holistic center for communication. Intranet social networking tools and broadcast centers, for example, extend the reach of messages and encourage two-way communication across multiple channels. Social feeds provide quick updates and create a space for open interaction, while broadcast centers distribute messages to your user base through multiple channels, including email, targeted digital displays, and push notifications, tracking the reach and engagement with messages.

Social intranets bring people together

A space for collaboration

As a hub for all employee needs, a modern intranet doubles as a place where your people can connect and collaborate with one another. Removing physical boundaries and limitations to teamwork, features like people directories, enterprise search, and integrations with other applications from your digital workplace make collaborating on projects seamless and straightforward. Regardless of location or department, employees can take to your intranet to locate people with specific experience and connect with the expertise they need.

People directories connect people

A driver of employee productivity

A go-to hub for tools, resources, and information makes it easy for employees to find what they need, when they need it. Optimize routes to applications with apps and tools directories and customizable widgets allowing users to pin their most used tools streamline access, making day-to-day tasks more efficient. By saving your employees' time, intranets save your enterprise money.

easily find apps and tools

What makes a digital workplace different?

An intranet is another string in the bow of the broader digital workplace.

Where intranet technology continues to advance, bringing ever more nuanced and useful features to the fingertips of employees, digital workplace strategies have developed to incorporate new ways of leveraging these technologies. Bringing together digital tools and building it around the employee experience, digital workplaces offer practical ways of boosting employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

Learn everything you need to know about a digital workplace.

The Digital Workplace

With an increased number of remote workers, sometimes scattered across the globe, and a vast choice of technology available to use, it’s getting more challenging to unite your enterprise's people, technology, and knowledge. Silos rise between teams and a multi-platform approach eats away at productivity gains. It becomes frustrating for all workers to be held back by inefficient technology and processes, when technology should really be the enabler of potential in the workplace. So what does an effective digital workplace look like?

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It is more difficult to nail down a concrete definition of the digital workplace. No-one really knows when the term was first coined, and what exactly prompted its creation. Some say it originated in around 2009 as people looked beyond intranets to the future of work, but others report IBM using the term since 2003.

To offer a broad definition, a digital workplace is:

"The digital workplace is the collection of all the digital tools and systems used by an organization that enable employees to do their jobs."

Digital workplace definition

As the digital workplace evolves to incorporate more aspects of the modern enterprise, this definition becomes more fluid. Today, the digital workplace lives at the intersection of people, enterprises, and tools. It is perhaps more valuable, then, to define what constitutes a great digital workplace:

"A great digital workplace consists of a holistic set of tools, platforms, and environments for work, delivered in a coherent, intuitively usable, and productive way."


This strikes upon the critical role a digital workplace plays in shaping the employee experience and your employer brand. By offering cutting-edge digital experiences, your enterprise’s employee value proposition is greatly enhanced, allowing you to attract a higher caliber of talent.

Find out if a digital workplace platform is the right solution for your business

Evaluating the digital workplace market can be a bit of a jargon minefield. To discuss the value a digital workplace solution can bring your enterprise in plain English, speak to a Unily expert today.

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