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Top 10 Must Haves For Every Good Social Intranet

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.

{drumroll please….}

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# 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!


Wednesday 12th of August 2009

I don't run a good intranet, but I'm glad to see I can tick of many of these basic ideas. Will come back and re-view, thanks.

Joe Schueller

Sunday 7th of June 2009

It feels like you're treating an intranet like it a single thing done by a single person for the benefit of the enterprise.

It seems like the ideal way to get stuck in an infinite loop of the people "in the field" wondering what people "at HQ" do all day (and vice versa).

Intranet websites, teamspaces and groupware have suffered this for a long time, and they never really ended up supplanting e-mail and distribution lists, and we find enterprise after enterprise chasing good money after bad.

Moreover, you're going to ask for a massive investment in design, taxonomy, content management, portal technology, etc, that doesn't really acknowledge that the modern enterprise is essentially going to be a number of free agents banding together in ad-hoc tribes to deliver on initiatives, not a cohesive mass that all is going to want the same information, taxonomy, and interaction. It's far more heterogeneous than that.

I think you NAILED interoperability, and it really is all about the content and interaction. I just think you may be overstating the importance of taxonomy and governance and a single "thing" that is the intranet. It is kind of like calling Twitter a "website." While technically correct, it isn't what it is about.

Sean R. Nicholson

Sunday 7th of June 2009

You make great points and I actually agree with you. An Intranet is most definitely not a single thing, which is my I include document management, ECM, blogging, KM, my posts. My perspective is that an Intranet is as much of a cloud as the Internet is and each organizations Intranet can be as simple as a group of networked computers and a fileshare or as complex as hundreds of applications operating together, leveraging common interoperability platforms and identity management.

Thanks for the comment! All POV are welcome!


Wednesday 13th of May 2009

Hi there, not sure that this is true, but thanks


Sunday 10th of May 2009

Great! Thank you very much! I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site? Of course, I will add backlink? Regards

Sean R. Nicholson

Monday 11th of May 2009


Thanks for the feedback! You may use pieces of the post as long as you provide a backlink to the original article.


Miguel Wickert

Friday 10th of April 2009


Hello, first timer here- found your site via problogger. I love a clear design. :) I'll look you up on Twitter. Cheers!


Sean R. Nicholson

Friday 10th of April 2009

Welcome Miguel! Hope the content is valuable to you!