5 Interviews on Intranets and Trends for 2014


Read the answers of three commonly asked questions about Intranets from 5 experts in the field.

We asked our partners with expertise in building CMS Intranets to answer the following:

  1. What pitfalls do you usually encounter when developing an Intranet for a client?
  2. What are the main reasons given for poor user adoption and how do you think adoption could be improved? 
  3. What do you consider to be the main Intranet trend for the coming year(s)?

Our interviewees are Kentico Gold partners with Intranet competencies. They are based in five different countries and cater to clients in various industries who range from mid- to enterprise-sized. Their clients include Ageas (Insurance), Kapsch (IT), VIRO (Engineering) and many more. 

What pitfalls do you usually encounter when developing an Intranet for a client?

Brian McKeiver (@mcbeev)BizStream, MI, USA 

The biggest pitfall I see for organizations developing an intranet is trying to run before walking. Sometimes, organizations are really concerned with the technical details of making the intranet work. For example, they worry about single sign-on components, document storage capacity, and integration with line of business applications. Companies might be better served by first surveying employees to see what tools they most need.

In my experience, the sooner you get employee feedback, the better the intranet implementation. Intranet managers should also perform a content inventory and determine what content should be highlighted on the site. 
Simon Budd (@sb_tellonline), Tellonline, United Kingdom 

Pitfalls in development are typically around gaining understanding of how a business operates in detail. An intranet can cover every aspect of a business’ operation. Understanding exactly how it works, how it should works and the nuances found in every organisation take time and skill to unravel.
Even once this is understood there are a number of areas where you need to tread carefully: Office politics are often played out during an intranet development; busy managers sometimes do not dedicate enough time to the planning of an intranet (and these are people that often need the tools more than most!); and buy-in of ALL staff is often not given enough time and resource.
Daren Hawes, Web Design Magic, Australia 

Typically planning and adoption – No one knows what an Intranet can do and some people find it hard to understand how it can help their organization. Management sometimes cannot justify lengthy planning sessions so it typically the balance between planning and development that is tricky.

With the ultimate goal of adoption, we really need to involve not only the management team, but also the end users. We typically hold workshops to discuss the organizations problems and suggest ways an Intranet can assist mitigating some of these problems returning value to the organization. Once documented and designed we all understand what we are building and how the new Intranet can assist their organization.
Markus de Haan (@_makkus), Datacon, The Netherlands 

Current WCM tools already offer a lot of out-of-the-box functionality that can be delivered quickly. But though intranets usually come with HR systems included, successful integration with other (business) applications can be a challenge. The main pitfall to avoid is choosing the wrong intranet platform. The tool should fit the defined goals of the intranet. Anything over engineered can actually hinder a project by making it inefficient in publishing new information. 
Franz Pikal (@franz_pikal) & Hans-Peter Zillner (@hpzillner), CSS team, Austria 
The Intranet is more than posting news
Some of our clients think that an intranet is all about posting news. Many don’t consider the difficult and important company-wide issues that can arise, like enterprise document management and search, single sign-on or meta-directories, and, as a result, the project scope grows and additional departments and experts have to be involved.
Content migration and content author resources
A lot of clients underestimate the time and resources required to either migrate content from an existing intranet or to produce new content. This often leads to a delay in launch or even to an empty intranet. And an empty intranet is simply a dead intranet.
Blindly enabling features without having goals in mind
Customers often want to activate every single feature provided by the underlying CMS platform – just for the sake of it and without fulfilling specific needs. This “just because we can” attitude leads to confused and disgruntled users.
No clear line between areas for collaboration and editorial content
Lots of intranets nowadays have areas for top-down communication (like news) and areas meant for collaboration between peers (like project portals). The result of not separating these areas (in terms of security, approval workflows and enforcement of layout) is a fragmented intranet. This fragmentation effects navigation and search. After a while, users simply won’t be able to find the information they are looking for.


What are the main reasons given for poor user adoption? And how do you think adoption could be improved? 

Brian McKeiver (@mcbeev)BizStream, MI, USA 

Intranet user adoption is generally a business issue, not a technical one. If adoption is poor, it’s likely because implementation was rushed or not well planned. One of the worst things you can do is just throw an intranet on any platform, and hope users just start using it because it exists. At launch, companies may see a burst of intranet use. But, as time goes on, if there’s no plan behind the information architecture and no push from leadership to use the intranet as the primary tool for collaboration, news, and document storage, adoption rates decline.

You’ll end up with a cluttered and confused mess of content. For a company’s intranet to be successful, leadership has to insist on usage and the site has to be managed by someone with clear direction on content and information architecture.
Simon Budd (@sb_tellonline), Tellonline, United Kingdom 

The more the intranet becomes the hub of a user’s operations, the more it will be used. If an intranet is not woven into an employee’s daily routines, it is unlikely to be effective.
  • When you log in to your PC, the intranet portal page should be there with up to date, helpful information
  • Valuable information presented in a way that feels friendly. The tone of an intranet should be that of a fellow employee to help create camaraderie and nurture engagement
  • There should be business tools to help people to do their jobs. Project areas are a great example of this.
  • Internal marketing and communications should use the intranet as a way of enforcing as “the place to be”
  • Projects of this nature needs champions throughout the organisation. Without people in different parts of the company “owning” the intranet it is more difficult to get pan-organisation buy-in
Daren Hawes, Web Design Magic, Australia 

There are many reasons relating to poor adoption. Primarily if the Intranet is hard to use or offers no value to the end user then why would they use it? Another issue is “know how” – if the end user does not know how to use the intranet properly in an efficient way, they are likely to not adopt the system and avoid using it. Training and self-help or support is key. We try to use video or screen captures for our self-help training and provide senior users with full training sessions.
Markus de Haan (@_makkus), Datacon, The Netherlands 

The main reasons for poor user adoption are: lack of user involvement in the definition phase and lack of relevant content and functionality. Intranet content should always be relevant, up to date, added regularly, and easy to access.

An intranet should be the central gateway for all information, not exclusively for resources, and should replace alternative sharing options (such as network drives). If it doesn’t, information in the organization may become scattered, which will negatively impact user adoption, user access to information, and internal communications.
Franz Pikal (@franz_pikal) & Hans-Peter Zillner (@hpzillner), CSS team, Austria 
No relevant content
There is a lot you can do wrong when it comes to content. It could be that nobody generates content for the intranet, the system can’t grab it from another system, or – worse – people do produce content but it’s irrelevant or out of date. To avoid this, clients have to think about content author resources, responsibilities and processes at a very early stage of the intranet project.
Not involving all relevant groups 
The intranet is (usually) for every employee. Gathering requirements only from one department (usually the one responsible for the project) leads to a lot of blind spots and missing requirements in the concept. We try to get our clients to think about all the different user groups in the requirement phase and to talk to all relevant departments to avoid such problems.
Poor navigation or search
Navigation and search are the only ways for users to access information. Well-structured navigation and content, as well as high quality search results, enable people to quickly accomplish their tasks. But keep in mind that a good concept for desktop browsers is not necessarily the optimal solutions for mobile clients.
No match between company culture and requested features
Some marketing departments request fancy communication features that enable bottom-up or peer-to-peer communication. But quite often the company culture favors top-down communication and discourages people from open communication.



What do you consider to be the main Intranet trend for the coming year(s)?

Brian McKeiver (@mcbeev), BizStream, MI, USA 

At BizStream we have been building intranets since 2001.Year after year technology continues to evolve and get better. It has always amazed me how different trends affect the way that we build and use intranets.

A newer trend, Enterprise Social, is rapidly gaining steam and will continue to do so in the coming years. You’ll see more organizations increasing social collaboration within their own networks and applications. Private social networks, such as Yammer, are becoming more ingrained in the workplace.

I’m a huge fan of Enterprise Social because it lets teams efficiently share with and follow other team members without deluging their email. But you still need a good platform to build this type of collaboration on, like the Kentico CMS Intranet solution. We have integrated both Yammer and Kentico together and are happy with the results.
Simon Budd (@sb_tellonline), Tellonline, United Kingdom 

The trend is definitely a movement toward using the tools and technology found in CXM solutions. The ability to personalize user experience and increase the automation of communications is as invaluable in an intranet scenario as that on a website.
Daren Hawes, Web Design Magic, Australia 

Businesses of all sizes will understand the benefits of an Intranet. Though till now it seems that only large organizations have intranets, with affordable out-of-the-box solutions, more and more businesses will leverage the technology and reap the benefits. At the same time, more customer-experience oriented features now only really being used for public-facing websites, will find their way onto intranets. 
Markus de Haan (@_makkus), Datacon, The Netherlands 

The latest main trend has been cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service) adoption. Organizations are not just opting for out-of-the-box SaaS instead of on-premise or heavily customized applications, but are using the cloud as part of their infrastructure strategy; using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to remove the burden of hardware support and upgrades.

This leads to a scenario in which companies are using a mixture of existing on-premise applications, applications on an IaaS level, and SaaS. An example of this is where sales/customer information is stored within a SaaS application (such as SalesForce), an HR application is located on an IaaS infrastructure, and project information is located in an on-premise application. So a main trend or challenge for intranets in the coming years would be to overcome issues with integrating these.
Franz Pikal (@franz_pikal) & Hans-Peter Zillner (@hpzillner), CSS team, Austria 

In our experience there are three big trends:

Mobile Client Access - Nowadays people are used to accessing information and communicating using their smartphones and tablets. The corporate intranet is no exception to this trend. Therefore you should consider a responsive design approach when planning a new intranet. Of course there are security issues and policies that should be discussed with the company’s IT department.
Social Media Features- Especially young employees spend a lot of their online life on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Social features within the intranet give employees tools they are not only used to, but are also happy to use. When it suits the company culture, such tools can enrich internal communication. 
Enhanced Personalization and Targeting- To avoid the infamous information overload, it is important to give people the right information at the right time. It is a key factor for success and can be supported by implementing personalization (where the user decides what is important for him or her) and targeting (where the system knows the user’s profile and therefore preselects information).


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Petr Passinger

Petr is the Senior Business Analyst, responsible for the mapping and optimization of the sales funnel and revenue cycle leveraging the Kentico Customer Experience Management solution for online marketing activities.