30th Jun 2020
3 Min Read

World Changers - Explore the trend: ‘Born Again Intranets’

IC & Engagement

When we released our first World Changers report earlier this year, we could never have imagined the colossal challenges lurking just around the corner. But many of the trends we highlighted in the report went on to have even more resonance than predicted, as COVID-19 shifted the way we live and work.

For our Explore the trend interview series, I asked head of digital Tony Stewart where our new world of remote collaboration has put us. Pre-pandemic, organisations might have been looking to shelve their intranet, but is there now a renewed need? And, in the giant Enterprise Social Network experiment we’re enduring, is there still a place for the intranet and its static information spiderwebs?

Tony, when we looked at intranets for World Changers at the start of the year, we were in a very different place. Remind us about the intranet landscape back then.

For many organisations, there wasn’t much of a digital strategy in place and channel ratification wasn’t a priority. Businesses were making do with incumbent platforms, regardless of whether or not they were genuinely useful to employees.

Many have intranets, but without a clear purpose, it’s almost impossible to know if your intranet is really doing what you want it to – and ‘page views’ won’t tell you that either! As such, I observed a certain laissez-faire attitude towards older intranets that had become bloated, unwieldy repositories rather than the enabling, useful tools they have the potential to be.

Pre-pandemic, do you think intranets were on the way out?

I don’t think it’s fair to say intranets were phasing out. But IC teams were asking better questions about what their organisations actually needed to communicate and collaborate.

It turns out, that solution isn’t always a ‘traditional’ intranet.

Enterprise Social Networks, such as Workplace and Yammer, as well as platforms such as Slack, Lark and Zoom, have created more dimensions. That means businesses have a lot more choice and so can be more specific about their desired solution. The intranet still has its place, but it’s often just one part of a much larger digital suite.

"So internally, it is kind of lazy to dump content on your intranet and expect people to go through often painful login procedures and seek it out."

Are intranets a lazy tool for internal communications?

Any tool can be perceived as lazy if it’s not used properly, or to its strengths. Intranets can be a great tool for organisations, but we shouldn’t expect them to be a one-size-fits-all platform.

Today, people expect information to find them, and be presented in the way they prefer. So internally, it is kind of lazy to dump content on your intranet and expect people to go through often painful login procedures and seek it out. People are busy, and many may not consider what you are trying to communicate as important. We need to make access painless, mobile and instant.

How do you think COVID-19 has changed expectations of the digital workplace?

Now that many businesses are working almost exclusively digitally, the pandemic has shone a very bright light on the business case for online tools. Tools that allow us to communicate and collaborate wherever we are, share ideas, discussions and decisions virtually in order to keep projects running and the bottom line healthy.

If you didn’t have a digital strategy for communications and collaboration before, then you really, really should have one now!

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of real-time updates for employees. IC teams are looking at their platforms and thinking about how they use them to deliver the breaking news while deploying regular messages that keep people informed, safe, engaged and happy. In turn, employees need to know how the tools can help them do their jobs in new and constantly evolving conditions.

Digital tools can help us collaborate, create touchpoints with colleagues and maintain our culture, which we need to happen more remotely than ever before. One of the big trends that has emerged is the importance of community. This has always been the case of course, but communities are massively impacted by distance. And a functioning digital workplace can bridge that distance as we’ve seen with many of our clients.

With so much focus now on digital transformation, where will budgets be better spent

COVID-19 has rocked the boat big time. But it gives communicators a fantastic opportunity to look at marrying up the needs of their organisations and the preferences of their audiences to create a digital workplace that’s fit for the future.

Getting your digital strategy right is absolutely crucial now. Let’s avoid ‘digital for digital sake’ and invest in some up-front thinking on what our business, and our people really need.

Will the intranet still have a place?

Absolutely, but it has to be part of an integrated, well thought-out plan. It’s not a sticking plaster that will solve all your digital needs if it’s not part of a considered strategy for comms and collaboration. The digital shakeup we’ve all experienced in the last few months may well be our best chance to really give digital the attention it deserves.

We can use this opportunity to really take advantage of what true digital transformation can do for our organisations, for IC teams and for every employee.

Discover this and nine other World Changers topics in our 2020 World Changers report.

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