Why can’t corporate intranets just die already?
My internal and employee comms friends aren’t going to like this post.
Not one bit.
But, before you take my head off about the headline, let’s have an honest discussion about corporate intranets.
You know, those vast wastelands of information that are supposed to serve as a key employee communications channel?
I’m here to say they need to die.
Or, more realistically, they need to change substantially in the next 12 months.
I realize that’s not going to happen. I know corporate American isn’t giving up on the intranet concept yet. But, let’s take a look at the reasons why I think the traditional corporate intranet should (theoretically) go by the wayside (or, start changing in a big, big way):
Most corporate intranets are merely dumping grounds
One of the big challenges of today’s corporate intranet is that it’s becoming a dumping ground for all kinds of information. From org charts to employee announcements to communications templates. You name it, it’s probably on your corporate intranet. Which makes it about the most unusable piece of technology within your organization. How are employees supposed to find *anything* on your intranet? Sure, there’s a search function, but does that really help? Is the information organized in an intuitive way? Is your web team involved in designing an architecture that makes sense for employees? I’m willing to be the answer to those questions is a definitive “no.”
Intranets simply aren’t managed effectively
This one falls on us, as corporate communicators. We’re not doing a good enough job. We do a good job with the “communications” part of the corporate intranet. But, we fail on the technology side. Think about the “user experience” of your intranet. Have you studied how employees use it? Have you surveyed them? When was the last time you studied your statistics and metrics? Have you culled through the entire intranet recently? Do you run information through a filter before posting? All questions seemingly many corporate communicators aren’t asking.
Intranets are typically short on funding
If the organization has to choose between funding an external marketing program, or a corporate intranet function, which way do you think they’re going to lean? I’m not saying we should or can use a lack of funding as a scapegoat, but it’s definitely contributing to the challenges.
Intranets aren’t how employees *really* learn about corporate news
Instead, employees largely learn about corporate news in three ways, in my experience: 1) From their managers, 2) From colleagues, or word-of-mouth, or 3) From email. The real question is this: Why would any employee visit the corporate intranet? What’s the “value proposition?” WIIFM?
What’s more, in many cases, I might argue the corporate intranet does more harm than good. Because it can be such a virtual “eyesore”, and because employees become so frustrated with the “user experience”, it’s my belief the company intranet can actually hurt morale more than it helps it.
So, what’s the solution?
I’m not sure I have a magical fix that makes this all easier. And, I’m also realistic: corporate intranets aren’t really going anywhere.
But, I do think corporate communications can take some steps to make progress within their companies. Consider the following and think about how you might be able to push some of these ideas forward with internal partners (think: IT).
What parts of the intranet are absolutely essential?
Focus on those–and work to lose or minimize everything else. Intranets suck because of massive clutter. Remove 90 percent of the clutter, and I bet the experience improves by 1,000 percent.
Conduct a communications audit on your intranet
Marketing and web teams do this for corporate web sites, right? Why wouldn’t you do the same for your intranet? Basic elements could include: 1) A complete inventory of all intranet content (warning: this may take up to 10 years :), 2) An analysis of said content, 3) Data/statistics over last three months + the last year, 4) Best practices, emerging tools and examples from other brands in similar categories (unlikely to get info on the competitor set here).
Consider external products to help with your shared drive
I’m not saying you replace your shared drive with Dropbox, but couldn’t you complement your shared drive with these kinds of tools? Dropbox and Google Drive come to mind–mostly because they are the tools 95 percent of the rest of us are using. Yet, corporate America continue to block them and use “proprietary” tools.
Note: Photo courtesy of Negative Space.