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How to Build a World-Class Intranet

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Stuck
Dozens of platforms and thousands of templates later, you’re stuck. You contact the experts and maybe join a meeting or two with one of them, but you still don’t know how to create a world-class intranet. 

Breaking Free
You don’t need to be convinced of the benefits–you’ve read enough case studies that you’re convinced, but you need help determining which features and tools you need and figuring out which of the many platforms you should use. Plus, you’d like some guidance on what mistakes you should avoid during the creation process.

At JourneyTEAM, we’ve helped many, many clients create a thriving intranet that improves communication, increases efficiency, and streamlines business processes. Because creating an intranet is a huge undertaking, we’ve created a list of intranet do’s and don’ts to ensure you create a successful site.

Keep Reading: Case Study Below
You’ll also get a close-up look at Young Living’s intranet that our team helped them build.

Your intranet is the place where everyone in the company accesses vital information

The Point of Your Internal Site

Understanding why intranets exist and how they can benefit your business is an important first step to creating a successful site. 

Essentially, this site is a single place for employees to access vital company information such as:

  • Team members contact information.
  • Company culture resources like updates, news articles, events, and employee recognition.
  • Company information like support videos, documents, quick links, and more.
  • Organization charts.

The most important point of an intranet is to make things easier for your employees. They should be able to log on to this site from any device and get work done. Finding information, collaborating with team members, and complete tasks are just some of the things that should be possible from your intranet. The whole point is giving employees easy access to information so they can meet business goals.

JourneyTEAM_World Class Intranet_3

The Organization of an Intranet

When you think about it, there’s plenty of information that’s going on your intranet, which makes determining what an intranet is confusing. 

At JourneyTEAM, we’ve found that most intranet content falls into one of four buckets:

  1. Organizational communication and content: This is arguably the biggest bucket on your site and perhaps the most important in terms of organization. Employees should be able to look at any piece of information posted on your site and know what’s company-approved content and what’s not. For example, knowledge bases, communities, templates, forms, and calendars may all have information that’s not corporate-approved, but could still be helpful. You’ll want to make it clear what information is coming from higher-ups and what isn’t.
  1. Collaboration: A major reason people may use your intranet is to collaborate with other people. We’re not just talking about instant messaging, chat, or email though. Things like development teams, hosting teams, and network operations are all included in this bucket. These teams should be able to communicate using planners, shared mailboxes, calendars, or Power BI workspaces.
  1. Ad-hoc conversations: This bucket includes things like meetings, group emails, chats, or screen sharing. 
  1. Individual content: Finally, there’s individual content like share files, lists, personal notebooks, calendar items, and emails. 

Intranet Do’s

There are a number of things we at JourneyTEAM have found that make up a good intranet. However, the biggest sign of a strong intranet is if a new hire joined one of your teams, accessed your intranet, and found everything they needed to get work done on this site. 

So let’s dive into some additional intranet do’s. 

Comprehensive Group Identity

An intranet is designed to help employees work towards completing business goals. This is why it’s important to have a strong group identity. There can’t be an ‘us vs. them’ mindset between your employees. If one does exist, your site won’t work. Your site should present a unified, cohesive company that’s working together to achieve business goals.

Improve Productivity, Collaboration, and Sharing

We’ve already discussed this, but employees should be able to use your intranet to complete tasks. If someone has questions about company policies, needs access to documents, or wants to communicate with other employees, they should be able to do it all from your intranet.

Accessibility 

Today’s employees aren’t just working in the office from their company device. They’re working from home, on the road, or in public places from their own devices and even from their phone. You’ll want to ensure that your intranet is accessible from anywhere and from any device. 

Keeps Teams Informed and Connected

Your intranet should be helping your entire organization work towards common business goals. Everyone should be able to use the site to discuss upcoming or current projects, issues, or objectives. Plus, the rest of the company should be able to see teams’ progress, results, or frustrations through a newsfeed or employee recognition.

One Platform

One of the biggest benefits of an intranet is that it eliminates the need for employees to use multiple platforms, tools, or resources to accomplish tasks, share or communicate information, or chat with other colleagues–all of it can be done on the intranet. 

Builds a Community

As you’re creating your site, you’ll want to ensure that it accurately reflects the values and priorities of your organization. Users should feel like they belong to a larger community that’s working towards a shared purpose, mission, or direction. If someone logs onto your site and can’t find any information about company values, something needs to be done.

Popular Features

There’s no shortage of features that you can have on your site, but there are a few popular ones that no site should be without. This includes:

  • Favorite Tools and Pages: Nothing frustrates users more than not being able to find what they’re looking for. Including a ‘favorites’ feature can help relieve some of this frustration as users can favorite frequently used links, pages, or tools. SharePoint, for example, allows users to save items, flag content, and follow pages. All of these are accessible from a top menu bar, saving users time and streamlining work.
  • Personalization: This is one of the most important aspects in today’s workplace. People don’t want to see row after row of information that doesn’t apply to them. Instead, they want to see updates, news, or events that are specific to them. Additional examples of personalized content are my documents, my links, my frequent sites, my save for later, and my recommendations. 

We don’t mean to say you should completely hide other content from users. You can easily have all company information accessible from a blog, news archive, or calendar in case someone goes looking for it. Management portals are also an easy way for higher ups to access sensitive information or documents.

  • Intranet Name: Go beyond the boring, impersonal “SharePoint Intranet” name. Instead, choose something that reflects your company or your values. It should be meaningful to your organization and what’s important to you.
  • Enterprise Search: Essentially, enterprise search is a way for users to search for content from multiple databases with a single search. This type of search makes searching through company networks, repositories, and databases quicker and more secure.

Because enterprise search is sorting through potentially millions of bits of information, it’s important that your content is kept clean. You’ll want to ensure things like documents, white papers, and emails are all appropriately tagged and regularly gone through to ensure users can find what they’re looking for.

  • Scoped Search: Unlike enterprise search, scope search narrows the search to specific places or content. Users will usually see these results through autocomplete or a drop-down menu.
  • Visual Sections: Many successful intranets will further organize content and information using visual sections. For example, some organizations will group personalized content together on the homepage using a similar font and background style while company updates or news appears in a different background and font color. This helps users get a sense of what the company values as well as helps them find information more quickly. 
  • Rails and Drawers: To help users discover content more quickly, include rails and drawers throughout your site. These are boxes that slide in and out of pages and usually contain data analytics, frequently used documents, favorite pages, and quick links. 

No matter the features you choose to include on your site, if it’s not responsive or easy-to-use, your employees are not likely to use it. You’ll want to ensure that they’re able to navigate throughout the site with ease and quickly find what they’re looking for.

Intranet Don’ts

While understanding what your intranet should be is a good starting point, it’s just as important to know what shouldn’t be on your site and what its purpose isn’t. Knowing what these are will help you create a successful world-class intranet.

Inaccessible

We’ve mentioned this already, but it’s important that your site be accessible from anywhere–especially from mobile devices. 

Not Just Document Storage

The intranet is a great place to store company information and documents, but that shouldn’t be the only thing it is. We’ve seen many intranets that are essentially used as a Google Drive and have little to nothing else included. These types of intranets are seldom used by other employees and more often than not, they fail. Content managers or owners need to be looking through content and retiring anything that’s not being used. 

Avoided by Leadership

Management teams and higher ups need to be regularly involved with your site if you want employees to use it as well. This will increase excitement around the site and increase user activity. You’ll also want to ensure there’s a good balance between top-down and bottom-up communication. Everyone should be able to ask questions, comment on posts, or send feedback. A good balance will help to increase productivity and overall customer satisfaction.

Poor Navigation

One of the biggest reasons that intranets fail is due to poor navigation. Users have to be able to find information quickly and easily and if they can’t, they won’t use it. Incorporating search bars, breadcrumbs, and drop-down menus throughout your site can help improve navigation.

Low-Grade Content

Low-grade content is one of the biggest hindrances to your site. Even if you have a large archive, if it’s unhelpful or irrelevant, no one will read it. Like we’ve said before, you’ll want to have writers, editors, and content managers who can oversee the content that’s being published. You should also consider using templates, carefully editing content, and holding frequent training sessions to ensure content is high-quality.

Ineffective Search

Few users will spend the time and effort searching for what they need. Most will turn to the search bar, but if the search capabilities are poor or still don’t produce what the user needs, they’ll abandon the site.

CASE STUDY: Young Living Turns to JourneyTEAM to Build Intranet


Before Gen Miner, Sr. Manager of Employee Experience at Young Living, took over Young Living’s intranet, the site was not under any management or maintenance. Gen stated: “It [the previous intranet] was a place in the house where people just go dump their stuff, kind of like the junk room, and nobody cared about any of the content.” 

“[You have to]… understand the value and need of good
knowledge management. You have to be willing to fight
and to show your ROI and ask for help if you need.”

She knew that improving the site was going to be a huge undertaking, so she turned to JourneyTEAM for help. Using Microsoft SharePoint, we created a platform that was organized, easy-to-use, and informative. 

A Powerful Name
Naming the new site was something Gen was very passionate about. She wanted the name to accurately represent the site’s purpose. Several names were suggested, but in the end, the site was named “The Source”. “We wanted people to know that if you came to The Source, you’re going to find the right stuff,” Gen stated. “And if you didn’t find it in the Source, it’s gossip.”

“One of the top priorities for Young Living
was that the site give everyone a clear visual of the business.”

Clear Objectives
Once a name had been picked, we began discussing the objectives of Young Living’s site. One of the top priorities for Young Living was that the site give everyone a clear visual of the business. “We had our banner which allowed for people to have a visual view right away of everything,” Gen said. We also created a “Need to Know” section that drew users’ attention to new company updates or any other crucial information. This section saved users the time of scrolling through previous posts to find what they needed.

In addition to the ‘Need to Know’ section, we built the following features into the intranet:

  • News and events.
  • My hub, which included everything related to an employee’s perks, benefits, or career.
  • FAQ list.
  • Speakerphone that highlighted new, urgent, or important articles through a notification similar to Facebook.
  • Tool drawer that included a user’s most frequently used tools.
  • Feedback feature that allowed users to leave comments or concerns anywhere on the site that management would be notified of.
  • Trending topics.
  • Integrated Outlook calendar that includes both company and personal events.
  • Employee recognition.
  • Like button.
  • Polls and quizzes.
  • Gallery that features both company pictures and employees using Young Living products.
  • Twitter stream that showcases all tweets from the company.
  • Employee directory that includes the entire organization’s contact information.

Even with so many features on the homepage, users can easily jump between the intranet and other resources. To keep the experience seamless, Young Living used a designated color palette to help users to know they were still using Young Living resources. 

When asked about the undertaking of this site, Gen said:

“Oftentimes, a person in this role doesn’t understand the value and need of good knowledge management. You have to be willing to fight and to show your ROI and ask for help if you need. If you’re not experienced with SharePoint, find someone who can help you – like JourneyTEAM.”

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The Right Guide
She went on to say that redesigning and improving this intranet was a lot of work. “You can’t just create a SharePoint site and say: ‘ok, you did a good job.’ You have to have a team to sustain it and manage it going forward.” At JourneyTEAM, we were able to provide Gen and her team with the exact support they needed. We handled some of the project management and the design while Gen and her team focused on getting employees excited about the new site and testing new features. In the end, Gen and her team identified their shortcomings and came to JourneyTEAM for additional help. We were able to include all the features identified by Gen and her team, despite the site launching three weeks early when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

User Adoption
To encourage people to use the site, Gen allowed users to enter a giveaway if they completed certain tasks on the intranet. “You had to complete 10 steps,” she said. “One step was to find a picture of a zebra, email it to so-and-so, comment on the CEO’s blog, find this in search, use this, etc. By the time they walked through the 10 steps, they touched all the features of what the intranet does. We exposed them to what was possible.” Gen reported that employees at Young Living are enjoying the new site and that user rates are high.

Click HERE to see the full article.

“If you’re not experienced with SharePoint,
find someone who can help you – like JourneyTEAM.”

Let JourneyTEAM Help You Create A Perfect Intranet

Whatever you’re looking to achieve with your intranet, JourneyTEAM is committed to making it happen. No matter what you want your site to look like or the features you’re looking to include, we’re excited to hear about it. We’ve helped numerous clients from a variety of industries to create their perfect intranet. If you’re ready to get to work, contact a JourneyTEAM representative today.

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Article by: Dave Bollard – Head of Marketing | 801-436-6636

JourneyTEAM is an award-winning consulting firm with proven technology and measurable results. They take Microsoft products; Dynamics 365, SharePoint intranet, Office 365, Azure, CRM, GP, NAV, SL, AX, and modify them to work for you. The team has expert level, Microsoft Gold certified consultants that dive deep into the dynamics of your organization and solve complex issues. They have solutions for sales, marketing, productivity, collaboration, analytics, accounting, security and more. www.journeyteam.com

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