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Have intranets improved in the last 5 years?

Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards

Have intranets improved in the last 5 years?

We’d love to see ClearBox customers and friends enter the Intranet & digital workplace Awards. This guest post by Steve Bynghall explains all.

Have intranets and related digital workplace channels improved over the past five years?

My view gained from managing Step Two’s Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards for the past five years is that intranets have indeed improved.  I’m lucky enough to have seen a high number of entries and I’m convinced that things have moved forward in a positive direction. Yes, there is still a lot of work to do, intranets still have a bad press and there are many which provide little or no value and have a poor user experience. But if the entries we receive are representative of intranets as a whole, then things are on the up.

Has your intranet improved? You have until May 19th to enter the 2017 Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards.

There are many intranet and digital workplace competitions out there now run by agencies, vendors and conferences. Some of them, like Step Two’s Awards, are well-established and have been running for over a decade. We also have a prestigious panel of judges which includes ClearBox’s very own Sam Marshall, James Robertson and other leading consultants and practitioners.

What a great intranet or digital workplace looks like

One of my favourite winners from last year was the employee portal at Swisscom. This not only has a lovely, clean and elegant interface but it also has a very simple navigation centred on three dashboard-style landing pages focused on News (the default page), Work and About Us.

From the Work landing page users can access a dashboard of widgets from different systems and tools including social updates, documents, operational announcements, personal expenses and also ‘Ask the Brain’, an excellent social Q&A capability.

The Swisscom Work landing page. Screenshot appears courtesy of Swisscom and Step Two.
The Swisscom Work landing page. Screenshot appears courtesy of Swisscom and Step Two.

What’s also special about the Swisscom employee portal is that is has been built up through continuous improvement with quarterly releases and a major upgrade every two to three years. There’s also a stable governance model where the strategy is refreshed based on an annual user survey and other data inputs, and with a strategic plan which is aligned to the annual budgeting cycle. This stability not only allows longer term goals to be achieved but also builds trust with stakeholders and users.

ClearBox’s Sam Marshall was one of the judges. He commented “This is an excellent case study of an intranet maturing over regular iterations. Swisscom has steadily simplified the IA, resulting in an elegant, streamlined design.”

Intranets and digital workplaces have improved

Every year I am very impressed by some of the submissions we receive.  It genuinely gets harder to judge. Collectively the winners seem to get stronger each year, but more tellingly the general standard across all entries has improved. When I first started, we would get a proportion of entries which were not that special, but now we get very few of what I would consider ‘average’ submissions.

There is a definite increase in the professionalism of teams submitting entries. There are many good practices adopted in terms of user research, user-centred design, robust governance, change management, content management and so on.  Although there are some areas where we don’t tend to see much improvement (e.g. using analytics effectively), altogether the collective level of expertise and experience of intranet and digital workplace teams is in a better place than it was a few years back.

Intranet capabilities have also definitely expanded. Social features, collaboration, personalisation and mobile-ready are all now usually present from day one, when a few years ago they were aspirational or a milestone on the roadmap without a firm date. The current focus on digital workplace and apps is also emphasising the intranet primarily as a place for getting things done rather than being a vehicle for internal communications.

Design is also stronger, moving towards cleaner, simpler interfaces and moving away from the ‘one stop shop’ clutter of homepages which can be overwhelming from users.

What about you?

We’re hoping that this year’s awards will also continue to show improvement and throw up some examples as good as Swisscom.

If you have a great intranet, app, portal, social network, collaboration platform, or any other internal channel which helps employees, then please consider entering. It’s not only about your platform, but also the use and management of it, so you may have run an impactful campaign on your intranet or mobile app, or delivered brilliant improvements to content management. If you’ve launched or done something great, we want to hear from you!

We have four categories to enter:

  1. Intranet essentials
  2. Social, collaboration and communication
  3. Business, mobile and frontline solutions
  4. Digital workplace.

Entry is completely free and the winners get a lovely glass trophy. We’re accepting entries until Friday May 19th.  Good luck!  If you have any questions please email us on awards@steptwo.com.au – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Article by Steve Bynghall.

Wedge Black

I support ClearBox in everything we do online, and I assist clients that are considering redeveloping or replacing their intranet platform. I worked in global and regional organisations as the intranet manager as part of the comms team, before becoming an intranet consultant. I'm the founder of the Intranet Now annual conference. I’ve tweeted about intranets and comms for fifteen years now.

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