Okay Intranet fans, here it is…the completely unofficial list of must have functionality for every Intranet.
**Please note that we reserve the right to update this list and expand it beyond 10 based on the great feedback and comments we will undoubtedly receive.
# 10) Application Interoperability – There’s nothing like a good Intranet mashup. Being able to search for a user and see not only who they are (from the HR application), what they are working on (from the Project Management application), and where they are located (From HR + Google Maps) is pretty cool, not to mention that it brings relevant information to the user on a single page. Look for creative ways to mash up your applications and streamline information gathering. Remember that good mashup also leverage a “simpler sign-on” schema so that users don’t have to login over and over to see data in different applications.
#9) A Clean Design – Lot of functionality is good, but be sure to spend time up front determining what should be on the front page and what can be moved to secondary pages. Your users should be able to find content quickly and easily. Spend some time watching how your users physically navigate the Intranet and strive toward reducing the number of clicks they have to make to locate the information they are looking for. Need help creating a design? Bring in a consultant from the outside to provide an objective point of view.
#8) A Good Name – I always love hearing people refer to the Intranet by it’s given name, rather than “the Intranet”. Creative names allow folks to create an identity for the Intranet that gives it a life of its own. If you don’t have a name for your Intranet, try holding a company-wide contest to come up with names and then have your company vote on it. Your even more likely to get strong buy in if the name is chosen by your organization as opposed to being assigned by a developer with a Star Wars fetish.
#7) A Strong Navigation Taxonomy – Yes….it’s a Google kinda world, so folks like to find content through search, but when they find that content, they also like to see where they are in the navigation, using a folder taxonomy or breadcrumbs, so they can find other content that is similar in nature AND know how to get back to the content in the future.
#6) Personalization – Users need to be able to customize pieces of the Intranet. Whether it’s their weather, stock quote, news headlines, horoscope or other content, allow them to make the Intranet more useful to them as an information source. Also, by allowing users to relocate portlets or widgets, they can create a design that meets the way they work. Need a good source for personalized information? Look to subscription information providers such as YellowBrix.
#5) A Good Rich Text Editor – Nothing helps an Intranet grow more than content, so making the creation of content easy is important. A good WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editor is important. Don’t forget to make sure your editor has a spell check. I speak from experience on this one (ahem…Plumtree/BEA/Oracle WebCenter)
#4) Governance – No need to go into full-blown lockdown mode, but governance is a good thing for any organization. It keeps your Intranet from becoming the wild, wild west and ensures that the content created has meaning and is relevant. Some areas of the Intranet (WIKIs, forums, etc… ) can be looser than others, but your governance strategy should be flexible enough to accommodate for these different needs.
#3) A Strong Collaboration Toolset – User created content will drive your Intranet page views through the roof. A good, spirited conversation about the latest product or marketing campaign can help spread the word about what your organization is doing and can drive new innovations. Try adding an “Idea Center” to your Intranet and challenge your employees to come up with new ways to do business. Products like user-driven blogs, forums, and WIKIS can turn your readers into contributors growing your content exponentially. Daily polls can also be used for gathering user sentiment on a corporate topic, or just for a little fun.
#2) A Federated Search Engine – Again, it’s a Google kinda world, so make sure your search works and it can talk to other applications. No one likes to have to search 10 different places for information, so leverage tools like Google appliances or federated search engines like FAST or Autonomy to bring all of your content together into one search. If you haven’t ever seen a demo of one of these “meaning” based search engines, give them a call and ask for one. You’ll be amazed at what modern search engines can do.
#1) Meaningful Content – The best design, the coolest name, even a great governance strategy…they’re nothing without meaningful content. If your users don’t find value in your Intranet, they won’t adopt its use. In addition (and I can’t stress this enough), the content MUST be timely and accurate.
The only thing worse than no information is bad information…Your employees will act using bad information because they don’t know it’s inaccurate. There’s nothing worse than a sales rep sharing an outdated rate sheet or a customer service rep providing an inaccurate solution to a problem. To avoid this, be sure your Intranet content is up-to-date and reviewed frequently.
There you have it, Intranet fans! 10 must haves for any good Intranet.
Accessibility – Everyone needs to be able to use your Intranet. Ensuring that your pages comply with the accessibility guidelines will ensure that folks with disabilities can read or hear the content. Thanks to Russell @theparallaxview for the suggestion
Have input? We’d love to hear any additions, suggestions, or constructive criticism in your comments!