Building an Intranet That’s an Integral Part of the Digital Employee Experience Strategy

The Changing Role of the Intranet

It likely comes as no surprise that the intranet’s days of being the single source of organizational news and information are far behind us. There are now dozens of employee applications and work stream collaboration tools battling valiantly to be the go-to resource, which has fundamentally changed how employees work and access information.

*Essential Internal Communication Tools 2021 by StreamGo

These advancements aren’t without their challenges. With so many entry points into the digital workplace, employee communications are more fragmented than ever before, and it’s become harder for employees to find the resources and information they need.

The intranet can be a valuable tool to help you improve this employee experience. But first you need to shift your expectations of the role the intranet can (and should) play in your digital employee experience strategy. Instead of thinking of it as the focal point of the digital workplace, the intranet should be viewed as a single touchpoint among many for providing access to what employees need. It’s employees' needs that should take center stage, with the intranet serving as a vital channel for meeting those needs.

To effectively deliver this kind of modern intranet experience, it’s important to start with a platform that provides the modern features employees expect and require. But that platform should be built with a modern architecture that provides enterprises with the agility and flexibility required to support success today and in the future.

So how do we make that happen?

The Role of the Intranet in Digital Employee Experience (DEX) Strategy

True transformation begins with abandoning the old ways of thinking about the digital workplace and embracing a new strategy that’s better suited to meeting the needs of a modern workforce. This not only includes focusing on employee need as discussed above, but several other factors as well.

A New Approach is Needed

Establishing formal ownership of the digital employee experience is perhaps the most important.

Typically, the concept of “ownership” is relegated to a narrow focus on digital tools or end user computing, but experience has proven that isn’t enough. The digital workplace has become cluttered with a series of individual experiences that don’t work well together because technology decisions are now made in silos based on each department’s unique objectives, projects, and budgets. Establishing formal ownership ensures that a shared vision of the employee experience is developed across the organization and that the intranet is included as part of that vision.

Delivering experiences instead of systems is another important paradigm shift that needs to take place. It’s no longer enough to simply deliver a series of services as a way of addressing the needs of employees. Instead, the focus should be on delivering experiences. Understand what employees really need by identifying the moments that matter to them, conduct user studies to understand how workers interact with the digital workplace, and build out personas to make sure the needs of every type of employee are addressed equally. This change in focus will make it easier to devise a cohesive employee experience strategy and ensure the intranet is designed to carry its weight in the digital workplace.

But then what? Having an appropriate strategy is one thing – what about the technology that supports it all?

Building a Technology Foundation to Support Intranet Success

The checklist for a modern intranet experience is pretty straightforward:
• Delivers targeted communications and information
• Offers anytime access to self-service information and tasks
• Integrates with complex enterprise systems to centralize access and simplify interactions
• Provides a single place for task management
• Delivers an intelligent, personalized experience

But having a platform that can deliver that level of functionality is just the first piece of the puzzle. There are other components that need to be considered if the intranet is going to be capable of supporting the continually evolving needs of employees over the long term.

Support for Multi-channel & Multi-experience

The way users experience the digital world has changed. Not only are there more channels to operate in, technologies like conversational platforms, AI, virtual reality, etc., have added a whole new level of complexity, making it more challenging to create a consistent user experience for employees across those various touchpoints.

“The primary delivery touchpoints for modern intranets are as follows: integrated collections of separate applications, destination sites, employee portals, mobile devices, business applications, collaboration apps, search mechanisms, virtual assistants, activity hubs.”

- Gartner, Traditional Intranets are Dead - Modern Intranets are Alive and Well: Part 2, Gene Phifer, 12 May 2020

Organizations need to be cognizant of the fact that creating multi-experiences isn’t as simple as copying functionality from one channel to another. It’s about adapting experiences to cater to each device or touchpoint and then connecting those experiences across touchpoints to deliver a seamless interaction.

Consider how different teams across your organization work. Where do they spend their time and how are they accessing resources? Some may work mostly in Salesforce while others are largely in Microsoft Teams. How much does mobile access play a part in their day versus web browsers and where is collaboration taking place?

It’s critical to be aware of those differing needs and usage patterns so you can meet employees where they are in the moment. It’s all about providing the holistic, channel-specific experiences that are best suited for employees’ specific needs.

Addressing the Needs of All Employees

Every employee in your organization has different needs and preferences for delivery touchpoints. Some of that is based on choice, but some is driven by the employee’s role (frontline workers have different needs than stationary employees, etc.). Different employees also use a variety of devices as they go about their work day.

Ultimately, individual user experiences need to be designed for all those scenarios. That might mean delivering services on a universal employee app to provide easy mobile access for frontline workers, while offering the same services to stationary employees in a completely different way. while offering the same services to stationary employees in a completely different way.

For those workers, the services might be consolidated in a browser experience that’s integrated with the intranet or an employee hub, or it might have notifications readily available in their preferred collaboration site, such as Slack or Teams.

As this relates to the intranet, Gartner recommends deploying

“a modern intranet that delivers structured access to services by employing touchpoints like employee portals, search, conversational interfaces, and integrations with business applications. Destination sites can also play a role in a modern intranet, when supported correctly.”

- Gartner, Traditional Intranets are Dead - Modern Intranets are Alive and Well: Part 2, Gene Phifer 12 May 2020

Achieving Relentless Focus on Employees’ User Experience

Better digital experiences are the key ingredient to digital workplace success. They make it easier for employees to find the resources and information they need, plus they keep employees engaged and give them more time to focus on high-value work.

A modern intranet can play a key role in this, eliminating the friction and frustration employees endure by helping to unify disparate systems and creating better experiences for legacy applications.

Taking an experience layer approach is key to making this possible.

Digital experience layers separate the user from underlying source systems. They use an open, API-driven architecture to enable users to consume data and information from any number of enterprise systems while giving the organization the power to build the front-end experience in a variety of modalities, from microapps and chatbot conversations to card-based notifications and more.

It’s the best of all worlds, with organizations having the flexibility to control and design experiences that meet employees’ needs, all while maintaining investments in the best-of-breed business applications that keep business running.

The Path Forward

Gartner’s guidance on all of this is characteristically clear:

“The bottom line is that there is no one touchpoint for intranets that fits the needs of every organization. As an application leader responsible for digital workplace applications, you should pick the deployment touchpoints that best suit your culture, business requirements and employee needs. Don’t restrict yourself to a destination site intranet. Instead explore a variety of delivery touchpoints that can meet the needs of all your employees.”

-Gartner, Traditional Intranets are Dead- Modern Intranets are Alive and well: Part 2, Gene Phifer

I think the biggest takeaway from their advice is to not restrict yourself to a destination site intranet - that’s old-school thinking that will hamper the health and growth of your digital workplace. Instead, explore the possibilities your intranet has to offer. The modern workforce has high expectations of their digital experiences and this is the time for the intranet to take a pivotal role in meeting their needs.

Creating a Seamless Unified Experience

Use your intranet to create a unified experience wherever possible, centralizing access to core enterprise systems without tying the experience to any one system. Put it to work helping fulfill employee intent by streamlining historically time-consuming processes. And most importantly, start small.

Creating a modern intranet that supports long-term employee success is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no need to boil the ocean. Huge change is hard to adjust to and even harder to deliver. Set a plan to deliver incremental change and find high-volume, high-impact opportunities to focus on so you can delight employees and build good will.

For more information on evolving your intranet to play a key role in your employee experience strategy, check out the recent presentation I did for Intranet Reloaded.

[social] Evolve your intranet to play a key role webinar

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