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Why Intranets Fail, and How to Fix Them

Intranets will likely be remembered as one of the biggest failures in corporate IT history. Not because companies were misguided in their goals, but because intranets by and large have simply failed to deliver. Almost every company, from the massive multi-national to the small startup, has tried and failed (and then tried again) at building out an intranet as part of a broader digital workplace strategy. And all of these companies have spent their money, time, and resources with the same result: information is not being updated, the environment lacks features people need, and as a result…nobody uses it. So why do intranets fail, and how do you fix them?

Why intranets fail, and how Beezy can help you fix them

Let’s begin by looking at your most recent intranet efforts. Your team had a vision for a new digital workplace, and a plan to implement. The market is flush with vendors and solutions, all of them clamoring to provide the greatest turn-key solution and services on the market — and you likely purchased what turned out to be more “services” than actual “solution.” But the design was an improvement over your last attempt, it appeared to integrate well with your existing SharePoint sites and content, and your end users seemed to be enthusiastic.

Then you went live, and within weeks the level of engagement on your environment trailed off. What happened with all the initial excitement about a new way to work? Well… it simply turned out to be that people had jobs to do. For individuals, making the site functional took a lot of effort, and core functionality and important conversations were simply not happening on the intranet. People were not ready to pay attention to something new on top of their already busy daily workload.

Employees gravitate toward tools and solutions that help them get their work done. If people are not using your intranet, it may be an indicator that your site is failing to deliver core capabilities.

Failure doesn’t happen overnight, but the pattern is unmistakable. People stop logging in, unless they need to upload a document or want to read the latest blog post from the CEO that is only available from the front page of the intranet. As sites and content begin to age, they stop getting updated…which makes the environment even less functional. In other words, people move on.

However, something changed a few years ago. While every internal communications or HR manager out there was about to give-up on the intranet idea, a wave of new enterprise collaboration capabilities entered the market — with social tools, machine-learning, and advanced features to help teams better communicate, share, and innovate. And even more interesting was the fact that IT and their management teams were not the ones driving this wave: end users were discovering and promoting these tools and capabilities themselves, sometimes outside of the purview of IT.

Employees began to demand that their companies support these new social collaboration capabilities — which caused many management teams to scratch their heads. Why were employees suddenly self-motivated to use these new enterprise collaboration tools and not the formal intranets they had built?

At the root of the issue is one fundamental truth: employees just want to get their work done. Enterprise collaboration provides communication and social collaboration dynamics that allow people to work more efficiently. They also offer more subtle advantages, such as social reputation and gamification features, which have become powerful adoption triggers. Many of the features that have made social networking sites the most heavily trafficked websites on the world wide web have found their way into the intranet ecosystem.

So how can we fix the downward spiral of the aging intranet? How can we move our internal environment from a failed state to an engaging platform that employees love and that provides measurable business value? Because walking away from your intranet is simply not an option. In most organizations, large or small, intranets play an important role in disseminating internal communications, providing a view into important HR policies, giving easy access to business critical tools, and more. Intranets are not a passing fad — they are an important aspect of the modern workplace.

Fortunately, there is a solution emerging from the enterprise collaboration space. Next-generation intranets are beginning to balance formal and informal communications, making the user experience more social and dynamic, tying advanced capabilities to the needs of the business.

The next-generation intranet offers the right mix between opposing concepts:

  • Formal vs. informal collaboration
  • Our Company vs. My Job information
  • Work vs. Fun dynamics

The latest analyst surveys and industry reports show that this move away from the traditional intranet, with its static content and limited range of capabilities, toward a more functional, collaborative and social environment is the direction innovative corporations are heading. Norman Nielsen provides am annual report of the 10 best Intranets, with the majority of winners since 2013 providing these next-generation collaboration capabilities — and SharePoint is powering 70% or more of them.

Intranets fail when they are unable to deliver compelling features that enable people to get more work done, improve communication with partners and peers, and more easily find the content and expertise they need. You can fix this by delivering an intranet experience that does more than post static content.

That’s where Beezy can help. Our award-winning user experience delivers quantifiable business value, improving adoption and engagement across the board. If you are beginning to plan out your next-generation intranet and want to avoid the pitfalls of every other failed environment, let us demonstrate how Beezy is by far the best solution for building a successful intranet. Contact us to schedule your demo today.

Maximo Castagno

Maximo Castagno

Chief Product Officer. I’m a sociologist designing for humans since 1998.

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