Why intranets fail and how to make yours succeed

By Paige Leidig
The intranet industry has evolved and re-created itself in many ways over the years, yet many of the same challenges from 25 years ago persist today. It’s time to let go of these struggles and embrace the advanced AI-powered capabilities available in our digital age!

Intranets have been around for a long time. They developed out of the need for internal computing abilities and knowledge-sharing platforms within organizations. And while they’re still considered knowledge-sharing, the knowledge most share is of questionable value, as it’s often outdated. And this is assuming it can even be found.

Why are intranets failing in such extreme ways? We need to understand the challenges and ways we see leading organizations overcome them.

Reasons why intranets fail

Traditional intranets have left leadership with a tough decision: buying or building. Leadership is left with deciding whether to build one that covers all the capabilities the organization needs today while limiting its scope tomorrow or to buy one that may not have every tiny detail on the company’s wishlist, but it evolves along with the technology.

Many opt for tailor-made option, believing they can create and maintain the holy grail of intranets. This ultimately results in failure for several reasons. 

Here are the top reasons intranets fail and how organizations can overcome these challenges moving forward:

Purpose is unclear

The survey revealed that 57% of intranet practitioners lack knowledge about their intranet’s purpose. Take proactive steps to communicate the purpose of your intranet to employees, emphasizing its role in achieving company goals and supporting their job functions.

Develop a clear and comprehensive intranet strategy that provides guidance to leaders, managers, and employees on utilizing the intranet as an efficient tool. Additionally, address the issue of unclear ownership and governance by establishing cross-functional alignment and ongoing support. Clearly identify the individuals responsible for managing the intranet, ensuring that ownership is attributed appropriately to avoid any confusion or ambiguity.

Employee shrugging

Poor user experience

If your intranet requires user training, it indicates issues that must be addressed. Fixing the intranet is crucial to ensure its usability and user-friendliness. Practitioners should prioritize an intranet design that is intuitive and enables easy navigation. Regrettably, many intranets overlook the user experience (UX), resulting in a cumbersome platform for users to navigate.

While intranets aim to enhance productivity and facilitate tasks such as work completion and file retrieval, they often overlook the needs of employees and leadership. To address this, it is recommended to conduct a focus group at the beginning of the intranet development process to ensure that it meets the specific needs of users. Implementing tools and features that enhance job effectiveness should also be a priority. 

Stale, outdated content

Have you ever encountered a situation where you searched for a file on your intranet and came across a document from 2004? Not only is this frustrating, but it also inundates your intranet with outdated content, turning it into a dumping ground for irrelevant information.

Your company intranet should prioritize easy access to important information such as media files, documentation, and memos. Outdated information is of no use to your staff and hampers their productivity. It is crucial to ensure that all content on your intranet is timely and relevant to users. Take the initiative to archive outdated content and frequently update posts to foster higher employee engagement.

Poor adoption by staff

Forrester’s research reveals that employees consider the intranet their least favorite application, making user adoption challenging. Low adoption rates and potential failure are imminent if employees struggle to understand how to use the intranet effectively. Large organizations face even greater difficulties in achieving intranet adoption due to the monumental task of onboarding numerous employees.

Unfortunately, many companies overlook the importance of providing a comprehensive intranet orientation during employee onboarding. When employees cannot navigate the intranet independently, confusion arises regarding its usage. To ensure the intranet’s success, it is crucial that every employee possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to utilize it efficiently. Empower your employees by offering training sessions and demos that educate them about the intranet’s objectives and demonstrate how to navigate its functionalities.

Lack of personalization

When employees in the San Francisco office are shown lunch menus for the London office, the organization’s ability to connect and align the workforce is compromised. Providing irrelevant information based on an employee’s profile or location undermines the intranet’s effectiveness.

To strengthen employee engagement, your intranet should deliver a personalized experience by displaying content that is relevant to each individual’s interests, location, and job roles on their news feeds.

Ineffective search functionality

Imagine if Google failed to provide accurate search results. You would quickly lose trust in its reliability. The same principle applies to your intranet.

It is essential to have robust search functionalities that enable employees to find the information they need easily. Employees’ motivation to use the intranet will decline if they struggle to locate documentation and other relevant materials. A poorly functioning search feature on the intranet leads to decreased engagement levels and eventual failure.

A nervous female office worker with her legs on her desk and her laptop in her lap having a hard day.

Complicated navigation

If employees struggle with navigating the intranet, their likelihood of using it decreases. Intranets with complex navigation will fail, as employees find them difficult to use and lose interest. An excessively complicated employee experience contributes to high turnover rates, with only 13% of employees fully satisfied.

Employees shouldn’t have to grapple with intranet navigation while trying to understand its usage. This decreases productivity, as employees spend more time navigating the intranet than fulfilling their roles. Moreover, they become less engaged with the intranet if they struggle to find their way around it.

Difficulty collaborating

The intranet’s success hinges on effective collaboration among employees. If employees cannot collaborate efficiently through the intranet, it will fail to serve its purpose. The intranet is intended to enhance collaboration, but this can only be achieved if employees receive proper guidance and access to user-friendly communication and team-building features.

Poor communication of tasks

Clear expectations are crucial for the success of intranets. When users log into the intranet and require clarification on their tasks, confusion, and overlapping responsibilities can arise. Managers must ensure that all employees clearly understand their deliverables and can work towards common goals. Intranets can only thrive when tasks are effectively communicated and everyone is aligned.

Business processes are not consolidated

Avoid overwhelming employees when they log into the intranet. The intranet’s purpose is to enhance productivity by integrating all the programs employees use for their work. Consolidate project management, accounting, and quality control tasks within the intranet to save time and increase productivity. A social intranet with integrated tools and streamlined processes can also result in cost savings for the organization.

Organization deficit

Poor intranet organization can hinder productivity. Ensure that the intranet always displays the most relevant information to employees. Searching for a vast amount of information before finding what they need can demotivate employees and decrease engagement. Delegate intranet organization and involve employees in the process to create a sense of community and active participation.

Multiple sources of truth

Make the intranet the central hub of your company. All relevant information should be easily accessible on the intranet. Navigating between different sources of information like CRM software, external drives, and cloud applications can divert attention from the intranet, reducing the need to log into it and causing its failure.

In our survey, 16 percent of organizations cited multiple sources of truth contributing to intranet failure. Ensure that only accurate information is available on the intranet. Encourage all interaction and knowledge sharing to take place within the intranet, promoting employee engagement, collaboration, and productivity.

Communication is a challenge

The intranet presents an opportunity for more effective communication across the organization. While other communication routes like email exist, employees often find them ineffective. A well-designed intranet can enhance communication between teams and throughout the organization. Consider the intranet’s design when choosing a platform to ensure it facilitates better employee communication. 

Executives are not engaged in the process

Merely having executive “buy-in” is not enough. Surprisingly, less than 34% of executives communicate the vision and strategy more frequently than once a quarter. Continuous engagement from executives is crucial for the success of intranets. They must consistently communicate and reinforce the vision and strategy to drive intranet adoption and effectiveness.

woman looking away from laptop, disinterested

Technical resource dependency

In the past, organizations relied heavily on a single SharePoint administrator. However, technological advancements have made intranet management and ownership distribution much easier, eliminating bottlenecks. Intranets fail when technical difficulties, such as frequent downtimes, occur. These glitches can significantly impact daily processes, causing delays in projects and communication until the technical team resolves the issue. Unfortunately, many companies experience frequent intranet downtimes. Having a technically robust intranet that remains operational and supports your organization throughout the workday is crucial.

People get too comfortable

As leadership and staff become accustomed to using the intranet, there is a risk of complacency. Intranet administration may be neglected because everything appears to be running smoothly. However, ensuring the continued functionality of your company’s intranet is a responsibility that should be taken seriously.

Content lacks quality

Over time, the company intranet accumulates substantial information, leading to redundant content. It is essential to ensure that the content shared on the intranet is of high quality. Not only should it be relevant to user needs, but it should also be well-written and engaging. The best intranets thrive on quality content presented through the news feed, documentation, or updates.

You’re not posting current company news and announcements

Many intranet news feeds neglect to share current company news and instead contain outdated content, creating a communication gap that leaves employees uninformed about important activities. Company announcements, events, achievements, and scheduled maintenance should be posted on the intranet to prevent underperformance.

If HR and Internal Communications are overwhelmed, you can delegate the task of updating current news to designated employees and alleviate the administrative burden of keeping the intranet updated with the latest happenings.

Most intranets don’t integrate with tools

Organizations already rely on essential tools to accomplish daily tasks. However, many intranets lack seamless integration with these tools, primarily because workplace tools emerged after intranets were already established, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. For an intranet to fulfill its purpose effectively, it must integrate with the existing tools and provide similar functionalities. Having everything in one place simplifies workflows and enhances productivity.

Failed deployment

Many organizations try to reinvent the wheel when deploying an intranet, often leading to unsuccessful outcomes. Research by Nielsen Norman in 2018 revealed that the average time for organizations to build and deploy an intranet was 1.2 years. One reason for this is the tendency to overload the intranet with excessive features and functionalities. When the intranet becomes too complex, users may find navigating difficult and unenjoyable, resulting in deployment challenges.

Traditional intranets, which were mere content repositories, are no longer effective. Modern companies require an equally modern intranet that offers flexible options to engage an increasingly hybrid workforce. Simpplr, a modern intranet solution, can help your company overcome these common intranet challenges.

With Simpplr, you can deploy an intranet that suits your organization and is beloved by your staff. It’s designed with these challenges in mind, offering unique features and functionalities to build a future-ready digital workspace. Book a demo to experience Simpplr and discover how it can enhance your employee engagement at scale.

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