Why Intranets Fail Reason #1: The purpose isn’t clear or purposeful

By Simpplr Research
We’re kicking off our Why Intranets Fail with Reason #1: The purpose isn’t clear or purposeful.
Simpplr Research conducted an extensive research project to better understand why intranets have been failing for the past two decades. Among our research, purpose was a driving factor of intranet failure. In fact, our survey showed 25 percent of respondents believed their intranet failed because its purpose wasn’t clear, and 19 percent said that intranet wasn’t purposeful, suggesting it didn’t significantly support business objectives. Read our previous post to learn more about our Simpplr Survey Research initiative and highlights. Among respondents working with active intranet programs, 57 percent of the surveyed practitioners said they don’t have clearly articulated goals. Another 23 percent said they have a charter, but not everyone follows it. Simpplr Why Intranets Fail - intranet goals and purpose

What does having a clearly defined purpose for your intranet mean?

Let’s take a step back and think about what purpose means. Purpose is the reason for which something exists. It’s simple - people don’t use things when they don’t understand the point. So if you don’t know the reason why your intranet exists, it’s highly likely that you also don’t know how or when to use it. In contrast, when there is a clearly defined purpose, employees and leadership will use the intranet with intent. They will seek out and use the intranet time and time again because they’ll know exactly what to expect on the intranet and the reasons to use the intranet. Lack of purpose creates confusion and the intranet eventually morphs into what we call a “Frankenstein portal” with implicit competing objectives.

Ok, what does it mean to be purposeful?

A simple and effective way to evaluate is asking yourself, “If the intranet disappears, is the business adversely affected?” Every project needs to endure business stress -- changing priorities, people coming and going, budget cuts, and so forth. Lunch menus and happy hour photos are nice to have, but do not link to business value and do not stand the test of time. When you structure your intranet strategy, define your purpose with a mutually exclusive value proposition. Defining an intranet as a tool to deliver content and enable collaboration confuses tactics with outcomes especially when we live in a world where there are many tools that exclusively focus on those things (chat, email, and so forth).

Here’s an example of what a clearly defined intranet purpose looks like:

Our intranet is our company’s virtual corporate headquarters. Its purpose is to connect and align our distributed workforce, so we have a unified and transparent cultural identity. This makes sure everyone is on the same page with critical information and employees are less likely to leave.

How to define your intranet’s purpose

First, align your organization on the intranet’s purpose. Get your stakeholders and leadership team involved and clearly define and agree on what it is and what it isn’t. This will set the foundation for an effective intranet strategy. Be sure to separate intent (connect and align employees) from desired outcomes (such as increased productivity and lower turnover) while you’re formulating your purpose. Second, get your cross-functional governance team to agree on one common objective. A single mutual objective will help with alignment and decision-making when it comes to designing your intranet strategy. In addition, this focuses all stakeholders, gives your intranet a purpose, and prevents it from becoming the “Frankenstein portal” mentioned earlier. Third, map the intranet to strategic initiatives. Go beyond saying you want to improve culture and engagement. These are great ideas, but we’ve seen companies who map their intranet to strategic initiatives (such as dealing with mergers, dealing with hyper growth and onboarding, connecting distributed locations, tying to strategic initiatives like new product launches) come out more successfully because they are tied to a very specific purpose from the beginning. Last but not least, stress-test whether your defined intranet purpose is clear enough to stand the test of time. Continue to ask yourself how your business is adversely affected without your intranet. Developing this habit will eventually become second nature and will set your intranet up for success in the long-term.

Communicate your purpose and make it clear

Once you have successfully defined your intranet purpose, make it clear across your organization. This should be precise and succinct enough so that every employee will understand your charter. To learn more about why intranets fail, Simpplr Research has published both an infographic and a whitepaper you can download.
Avoid intranet failure! Read our Why Intranet Fails blog series:
Why Intranets Fail Reason #2: Unclear ownership and governance Why Intranets Fail Reason #3: Executives aren’t engaged in the process Why Intranets Fail Reason #4: Build or buy your intranet to avoid deployment failure Why Intranets Fail Reason #5: The intranet gatekeeper’s approach Why Intranets Fail Reason #6: Intranet becomes a content dumping ground Why Intranets Fail Reason #7: Multiple sources of truth Why Intranets Fail Reason #8: Users complain that content simply isn’t relevant Why Intranets Fail Reason #9: Poor user interface and information architecture


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