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Employee Intranet

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Modern Intranet

Written by
Charlotte McIntyre

Intranets have formed an integral part of the digital workplace experience for around thirty years. Although once the cutting edge of business communication technology, traditional intranets have struggled to keep pace, and the line between “intranets” and “the internet” has continued to blur.

Particularly in the context of remote and hybrid working, the intranet needs a modern upgrade. Ultimately, moving away from traditional intranets towards more flexible and cloud-based employee experience platforms is likely a better modern solution. Here, we’ll look at what you need to do (and not do) in order to ensure that employees get simple access to resources that they need, wherever and whenever they are working. Let’s get started.

Suggested reading: If you want to learn more about the changing nature of work, and the role technology plays in improving outcomes, check out our new eBook — Solving the Employee Experience Crisis.

Do embrace the cloud

Cloud-based workplace solutions enjoy many benefits over on-premise alternatives, one of the most significant being remote access. With 80% of businesses engaging in some form of hybrid working, remote access has never been more important.¹

The private cloud is the obvious modern upgrade to the intranet. It provides a private and secure connection to applications, files and resources. However, the public cloud offers scalability and simplicity, making it an increasingly popular choice. With the public cloud, you avoid the need to invest in any on-premises infrastructure, and can scale up or down on-demand.

Traditionally, private clouds are considered more secure. However, increased security standards in data centres and improved encryption have significantly reduced public cloud security concerns.² Unless you require specific and costly security measures, the public cloud is a safe, reliable and easy way to introduce flexibility to your intranet. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the cloud services market is projected to reach an all-time high of £282 billion in 2022, a 40% increase from 2020 numbers.³

Strategies to help:

It’s important to remember that your intranet is really just a way to connect your employees with resources and applications. The simplicity of upgrading to the cloud depends on the cloud compatibility of other business-critical applications. With 94% of businesses using the cloud in 2022, this transition should be within practical reach. However, you need to remember that your cloud-based intranet isn’t going to be able to provide easy remote access to a legacy application still hosted on-premise.

Don’t overcomplicate access

Access is perhaps the primary limiting factor of traditional corporate intranet solutions. Cloud-based options are part of the answer, making remote access far simpler. However, not all clouds are created equal. Consider the following:

  • VPNs: Most private clouds require you to access systems via a VPN (virtual private network). This improves security at the expense of simplicity. For most businesses, HTTPS encryption provides sufficient security protections, and allows for simpler access.
  • Passwords: Multi-factor authentication is important to modern security practices. However, it should be simple and straightforward, and limit the number of times you need to re-enter passwords during the day, which can negatively impact employee experience and productivity. This is something worth extending to the other applications you’re accessing via your intranet.
  • Tool access: It cannot be stressed enough that your intranet is just a conduit to other resources and applications. These need to be accessible and usable through the cloud for your intranet to provide the remote access you need.
  • It’s also important that your intranet provides clear search functions that make it easy to find and access the right files and applications. This solution should work on mobile and desktop devices, and help simplify the entire experience of work-from-anywhere trends.

    Strategies to help:

    A modern intranet is the foundation of your digital workplace. For hybrid and remote employees, your digital workplace is the environment they engage with every day. You need to consider this wider perspective when investing in upgrades to communication, collaboration and file-sharing technology.

    Do focus on user interface

    The main goal of a digital workplace is to provide a positive environment for employees. User interface should be priority number one, with every step being taken to help people to do their job as easily as possible. For example, SharePoint remains the most common base technology used for intranets. However, layers of modifications to legacy solutions can make them complicated to navigate. Fundamentally, you need to consider what it’s like to use your solution, not just whether or not it functionally works. Think about:

  • Personalisation: You want to keep people focused on what’s important to them. That means providing admins and users with the ability to customise the digital workplace in a way that’s intuitive and productive for them, putting commonly accessed resources within easy reach.
  • Good search features: You need to make it simple to find content, systems and apps, even if users aren’t entirely sure what they’re called. That means smart search functions that can use metadata to cross-check search terms, and then present information-rich results to users.
  • Simple sharing options: Work is collaborative, and your intranet needs to make it simple to share resources, files and assets. Ideally, this should be as simple as a single click. It should also be possible to curate and share folders of information, rather than just single files.
  • Easy updates: You want to provide a notification centre that helps people stay updated on what’s new in the system, and stay on top of changes without getting distracted.
  • The reality is that there’s often no one-size-fits-all system for every employee. A digital workplace should facilitate a high level of personalisation, through things like tile arrangements, theme selection, and advanced dynamic search capabilities. This enables a positive employee experience, which helps to drive employee engagement — check out our article on employee engagement vs employee experience to learn more.

    Strategies to help:

    Whatever system you choose, it’s a good idea to involve the employees who will use these systems every day. Most solutions offer trial periods, during which employees can provide feedback on what they do and don’t like; involving employees in the process helps ensure a sense of engagement, and ensures that the system fits their needs perfectly.

    Don’t get hung up on definitions

    Terms like digital workplace and intranet are often used synonymously, or end up defined in opposition to each other — but it’s important not to limit yourself with strict definitions. The priority should be to provide simple access to the resources employees need, with a focus on creating engaging, consistent employee experiences across the board.

    Historically, intranets have been defined in comparison with the internet, and the public cloud is “the internet”. Realistically, many solutions that provide intranet functionality aren’t technically intranets — they are just private segments of the internet used by businesses.

    The big variable is whether or not you need to host applications. A traditional intranet, or private cloud, might be used to host applications, rather than simply provide access to resources. However, if your business relies primarily on cloud-based SaaS (software-as-a-service), this isn’t really a factor. What you really need to think about is usability, the user interface, and your ability to use that platform to create a positive digital workplace experience for employees.

    Strategies to help:

    An employee experience platform is a great modern alternative to an intranet. This provides an employee-focused digital workplace that emphasises usability and customisation, allowing employees and admins to curate access to critical applications, files and resources. Again, this type of solution relies on the public cloud to host applications, and is ideal for businesses already operating in the cloud. What you get is an intuitive interface that employees can use to access all of those cloud-based applications and resources, wherever they happen to be working that day.

    It might be time to replace your intranet with the internet

    Traditional intranets were built as a secure, controllable and customisable alternative to the internet. But this has really become an obsolete technology for all but the most security-conscious business — think high-security government contracts. If your employees are using the internet as part of their daily operations, you aren’t really gaining anything by restricting access when it comes to other resources.

    We built HulerHub in order to update the traditional intranet with a consumer-grade interface and cloud-based flexibility, in order to create one of the best employee experience platforms on the market. Our customisable displays and unique sharing features provide individuals with access to what they need when they need it. This bridges the gap between technology and people, creating a seamless, consistent user experience for in-office, hybrid and remote employees. If you want to try it out first-hand, get in touch and book a free demo today.

    ¹ Hybrid working is here to stay, managers’ survey reveals | Daily Mail Online

    ² Private vs. public cloud security: Benefits and drawbacks

    ³ Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Grow 18% in 2021

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