By Tim Eisenhauer, President of Axero Solutions
One of the main objectives for deploying a social intranet is to make life easier for employees and improve productivity. Many companies mistakenly think these changes will happen overnight as soon as the platform is up and running, but this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of reasons why intranets fail, and understanding them up front is critical to ensuring your company’s deployment doesn’t meet the same fate.
While every situation is unique, there are some typical failure threads that extend across all industries and organizations.
Here are the 10 most common and how to avoid them to ensure you get the best value, benefit and ROI from your intranet:
1. Lack of Consideration for User Needs.
Developing a company intranet requires you to think about the needs of your organization. But, user needs often go overlooked during the development process, which can result in an intranet that simply doesn’t get the job done — or perhaps even worse, doesn’t get used.
To prevent your intranet from failing before it even gets off the ground, hold a “focus group” to gather insight into what users are looking for and design the intranet to fit their needs.
2. Failure to Educate Staff.
Getting employees up to speed can be a big challenge, especially in large organizations where companies often don’t take the time to give staff members a tour of the new intranet. An intranet with low adoption rates will never be able to reach peak performance, and it’s a huge wasted opportunity.
Ensuring that every employee knows how to use the intranet to its fullest capacity should be one of the first things you do, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Create some content for them to read about the goals of the intranet, include screenshots to show them what it looks like – or better yet, create a video or a series of videos to explain the different sections of your intranet and their intended usage. The videos need not be professional produced videos; quick screen captures will often do the job.
3. Failure to Consolidate and Stay Organized.
An intranet should be your company’s central hub for productivity. Because employees use numerous programs on a daily basis to get work done, consolidating as many processes as possible within the intranet – like accounting, time-tracking, task management, internal communication, and project management – can help save your organization precious time and money. At the same time, maintaining a clean, uncluttered environment can eliminate the need to waste time searching for what you need. One way to maintain overall organization is to delegate these tasks to one or a few specific employees, whose job is to keep things tidy, answer employees questions, and maintain quality.
4. Ineffective Search Feature.
“Search” is everything in an intranet. Some of today’s social intranet software platforms come with quality search engines that allow for various degrees of customization, but others’ search features are barely usable. If your employees can’t search for a file or document with ease, they’ll quickly become frustrated and engagement rates will fall. Make sure the platform you choose has a robust, integrated search function to avoid failure in this area.
5. Complicated Navigation.
It seems obvious, but navigating an intranet should be instinctual, requiring such little effort that it almost goes unnoticed. But, some intranets suffer from such complicated navigational principles, it renders them nearly useless. Your staff already is already challenged with learning how to incorporate a new intranet into their workday — make sure to choose a platform that doesn’t add to those challenges. Keep in mind that many intranets come with a standard navigation scheme, being able to customize this navigation over time and as you see fit will make a world of a difference.
6. Confusion Over Ownership.
Ownership of the social intranet is an interesting thing. It is possible to effectively place ownership in the hands of the community itself, but this can cause issues if people don’t know where to go when they run into trouble. Often, these challenges surface from a lack of proper attribution. Ownership is sometimes assumed to be in the hands of HR, IT, or Communications, but without any clarification, the confusion can cause an intranet’s performance to suffer. Make it clear who’s responsible and give employees contact information to reach out to someone for help when needed.
7. Failure to Articulate Strategy.
In order to be beneficial, an intranet must serve a number of clear purposes. Great strategy can make even the most mundane intranet platforms shine, but lack thereof will almost always lead to problems. Articulating strategy is important at all levels—for CEOs and managers to remember the goals they’ve set and for staff members to have a strong handle on what they’re working toward. Outlining your intranet strategy in written form is the best method, and the final product should be scrutinized before implementation to make sure it fits the bill.
8. Autopilot Sets In.
Typically, the minute anything in life shifts into autopilot mode, things start falling apart. When people get too comfortable, when things are going well, it becomes easy to fall into a false sense of security, ignoring any responsibilities associated with intranet administration. On the contrary, practicing mindfulness and paying close attention to how your intranet is functioning and performing is a daily responsibility that should never go overlooked.
9. Vital Information is Kept Elsewhere or Not Up to Date.
Your intranet should be the central hub for all shared information—consolidating the scattered data siloes between shared drives, knowledge management software and other digital or physical space is one of the most valuable benefits of launching an intranet in the first place. But, if information is still being stored elsewhere, and documents, data and resources aren’t kept up to date on the intranet platform, what’s the point?
The best practice is to incorporate as many processes as possible into the social intranet and get rid of alternative spaces that hold shared information. Meanwhile, assign specific employees to keep the newsfeed up to date, routinely posting information about company achievements, events, scheduled maintenance, companywide news, and everything in-between. Making your intranet the go-to place for the latest data and company information, employees will virtually be required to go there and use it, ensuring everyone is informed and the platform is widely adopted.
10. Communication is a Challenge.
One of the main goals of an intranet is to streamline communication. But, many make it far too difficult for individuals and groups to communicate, and they still rely on email, which far from ideal. A well-designed communication system incorporated into your intranet can truly streamline collaboration and communication. Choosing a social intranet software platform that makes it easy to communicate, both individually and in groups, is critical to prevent communication breakdown and encourage adoption and routine use of the platform.
As with any new software or initiative, there are always challenges that can get in the way of success. But, when it comes to launching a new social intranet, the good news is that the vast majority of these problems can be avoided with a little bit of work up front.
Understanding why intranets fail and what challenges and features to look for in a platform before you deploy can give your intranet a better chance of success from the beginning.
Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder and president of Axero Solutions. He writes on the subjects of social intranets, employee engagement, business communication, knowledge management, and collaboration. His articles and opinions have been featured in Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, 60 Second Marketer, HR.com, and others.