Digital transformation has fundamentally changed how business is done. Employees are making significant adjustments to where and how they work and are no longer accustomed to traditional 9–5 office jobs. Companies are seeking out new ways to adapt to the needs of their workforce, including new methods of keeping dispersed workers engaged by looking for creative ways to communicate information with employees.
Historically, intranets have played a relatively minor role in the employee experience. They were primarily reserved for one-way communication from management to employees. Advanced technology has rendered such intranets obsolete, replacing them with dynamic communication tools that can serve as a central meeting place for the entire organization. ￼￼￼￼
The Evolution of the Modern Intranet
￼￼The global internet offers anyone the ability to connect and share information. Modern employee intranets are based on the same premise, with one significant difference: intranets are designed for internal company use with no public access.
The earliest versions of employee intranets housed basic company information, but today’s intranets are far more sophisticated. They can serve as a central portal for employees to access company resources and tools, and many organizations are developing intranets that aid in employee communication and collaboration.
At the turn of the millennium, solutions like SharePoint were rolled out to help with content collaboration. At the time, organizations were starting to use networked drives frequently, so these solutions effectively put an interface on these repositories so organizations could put more context around stored content than a simple file name.
Since this was before SaaS applications, the first intranets ironically were not intra-connected and required a heavy IT lift to launch and maintain. Poor user experience, costly maintenance, and struggles to keep content fresh oftentimes caused employees to abandon these portals and find manual workarounds.
In the early 2000s, as Facebook and LinkedIn started to transform our personal lives, many social enterprise tools sprouted up to bring the same level of social collaboration into the workplace. Many of these capabilities were legitimately game-changing in the enterprise, but as vendors struggled from being a solution in search of problems to solve, organizations in-turn suffered to find a place for the technology.
Many times they simply became yet another point-tool that was used sporadically throughout the organization. Other times, organizations tried to pretzel these social collaboration tools into their corporate intranet platform only to find the user experience was off and they lacked many common-sense features.
Today, the modern intranet is experiencing a renaissance. We recognize that nearly all organizations with more than 500 employees, where it is no longer efficient to communicate in an ad hoc manner, need a digital workplace hub where employees can go to stay informed on all mandatory communications, make sense of and integrate with all of their digital productivity tools, connect with internal experts and coworkers, find fresh up-to-date information, and socially interact across geographical and departmental lines.
The modern intranet took a purpose-built approach to all of these use cases and perfected some of the previous generations’ capabilities. Once viewed as ineffective and redundant, employee intranets have become a critical part of collaboration in the digital workplace. As technology evolved, a generational shift also occurred. A heightened interest in the link between social networking and increasing employee productivity has led to increased investment in social intranets for organizations of all sizes.
Intranets will continue to evolve and change. Artificial intelligence and better APIs could mean a more interactive experience, but they are like the glue that holds it all together. No matter what the future brings, intranets will always rely on providing an excellent user experience and increasing employee engagement. They will continue to be both a relevant and fundamental part of the workplace as we know it. Even small organizations can benefit from the establishment of a secure, searchable, and centralized knowledge base. Have you adopted a modern intranet at your organization?