How do you decide what the best intranet software is for you?

There is little doubt of the benefits of a modern digital workplace over an aging ineffective legacy intranet. With a solid business case for change in hand, where do you go from here? How do you decide what is the best intranet software for you?

Gartner advises that “Intranet renewal is an ideal opportunity to re-equip and modernize an organization's architecture for the digital workplace.” and Deloitte has seen that with a modern intranet, employee productivity can be increased by 7%, employee satisfaction by 20%, and employee retention by 87%. With a solid business case for change in hand, where do you go from here? How do you decide what is the best intranet software for you? In this post we aim to offer advice, guidance and recommendations to help you plan and make an informed decision. 

Know your business goals

Before you commit to a significant investment of your company’s resources to a migration of a new intranet, it is wise to identify key goals that will benefit your organization from a productivity standpoint that ultimately translate into a measurable return on investment.  Here are some common productivity/efficiency goals companies try to meet: 

  • Creating a central hub- for disparate apps, tools, internal news and communications, documents, and employee collaboration 
  • Ease of use- providing an intuitive tool that allows employees to quickly and easily search for information, documents, and colleagues in order to get their jobs done 
  • Strengthening the company brand internally- reinforcing core values that are expressed externally to customers, internally within the workforce to help deliver the reality of the brand and the quality of service  
  • Communication and collaboration- increasing interaction among employees by incorporating social media-like apps and designs, allowing for real-time discussions and breaking through hierarchical, geographical, functional and divisional boundaries 
  • Increase morale- giving all employees a voice; extending the ability to contribute to all employees regardless of geographical location/language, skill set, or title, and subsequently creating the opportunity for peer-recognition 
  • Unburdening the IT department- selecting an intranet software platform that allows all users with appropriate permissions to create and share content for immediate distribution instead of requiring formal processes and requests to technical staff to manage 
  • Adding mobile capabilities- with the integration of Cloud capabilities, intranets can be device-agnostic and empower staff that spends the majority of their time on the go rather than limit functionality to access on a computer 

It is unlikely that all goals are equal, so prioritize them and then score each intranet software offering against the ability to deliver to your requirements.

Cloud or on-Premise Intranet?

It is imperative to decide the type of intranet software that is best suited for your company whether that would be in-house or in the “cloud.” 80% of the Fortune 500 is on the Microsoft Cloud (Microsoft), and one of the main reasons for that is Microsoft’s 99.99% guarantee for uptime and security.  The Cloud can significantly reduce operating expenses by partially or completely outsourcing the IT department, and it allows for access to data anytime, anywhere from any device.

Many legacy intranets are on-premise solutions because that used to be the only option. Cloud isn’t necessarily right for everyone at this time – some people still listen to vinyl records after all! There might be internal politics or legacy investments that are influencing the use of on-premise technology. Try to remove all but the functional factors from the decision-making process – you want the best intranet, not the one that saves management face, or allows IT to maintain headcount and have organizational influence for example.

Have a clear idea of your intranet budget and its structure

There are a variety of different cost-structures for investments in intranet platforms.  For example, an organization may commit to an upfront capital expense for a project-based intranet, which becomes proprietary once paid.  Alternatively, an organization could opt for a subscription-based, operating expense model in which licenses are paid for monthly.  When it comes to managed support services, sometimes those are included and sometimes they come as an additional fee.  The same can be said for customizations on top of out-of-the-box solutions, which can significantly add up if not considered beforehand.   

Out-of-the-box intranets can provide a good way of making your budget go further. If you chose an intranet software solution that contains much of what you need out of the box, you are not paying to re-invent the wheel. Limited budget can go further as fewer customizations are required. Smaller and growing organizations can benefit from a pay-as-you-go intranet model. Small and growing organizations can get more function for their dollar when adding users to an intranet solution that is designed to be scalable, giving a linear cost model rather than an on-premise solution that tends to have big changes in costs.

Consider your existing and future tools

Integration with other tools is a very important element to providing an effective solution. What applications does your company use, and can the intranet software/solution integrate with these applications? Are you using Google Apps, or Microsoft’s Office 365 for your base office tools? How will the solution work with the tools that your staff rely on day-to-day? If a solution talks about integration, just how good is the integration?

Selecting a proprietary platform might suit you today, what about when you grow, your business requirements change, or you want to introduce new tools?

Choosing well-adopted and well-supported platforms such as Office 365 and Azure, will ensure that there will be the support to adapt your solution in the future. If the intranet software doesn’t handle your requirements out-of-the-box, then it is a good idea to verify that there is a vibrant community of third-party partners and a solid development framework to build on when required. 

Be realistic about your internal capabilities

Check your requirements against the intranet software’s out-of-the-box capabilities. If a large number are not met and you will need to develop customizations, then validate if that is a viable solution. Does your internal team have the expertise and resources to develop them in an acceptable timeline? 

Once developed, can your team support the solution? What support is offered out-of-the-box and what can you obtain for an additional fee? Remember a successful and well-adopted intranet will need continual support, attention and will need to evolve with your organization and a changing business environment. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of intranet UX

“A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.” Your end-users are used to consumer-grade experiences that look good, are intuitive to use. Your intranet’s user interface needs to help them to be productive from the outset without significant training. Validate the design of the solution and check that it meets your needs and that it can be properly branded to your organization. Intranet software that works on any device is standard, but how good are the mobile user interfaces? The mobile experience needs to be as good, if not better than the desktop experience. Is the mobile access delivered only through mobile browsers, or are there actually mobile apps with which your users can connect? Mobile apps can provide a more native user experience as well as often a richer functional experience. Don’t forget to review the interfaces through the lens of the administrators and content contributors. Creating and adding to the site is vital. If you don’t have a steady stream of new, relevant content then your users will quickly lose interest and user adoption will suffer. 

Summary

You have many considerations to take into account when deciding the best intranet software platform for your organization. Although the decision is not easy, by following the guidance above you should be well placed to make an informed and objective decision that will have positive repercussions for your organization for years to come. In addition, there are now more intranet solutions than ever that offer a holistic approach to the challenge of delivering a modern digital workplace through a tool that is able to meet up to 85%, if not all, of most organizations’ typical intranet requirements out-of-the-box in just a few months. 

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