Our free 733-page report reviews 33 of the best intranet and employee experience platforms on the market. Each of our full reviews assesses against ten business scenarios, which we’ve formed from our experiences working with clients and as practitioners ourselves. I’ve collated some of the results and best examples from our second scenario: Mobile and frontline support.
We have assessed each intranet via a bespoke demo with the vendor, in-depth conversations, robust scoring criteria, and rigorous fact-checking. Our scenarios are recognisable real-world business priorities, and you will want to consider which are the most important to your organisation before making a decision about your technology options.
What ‘Scenario 2: Mobile and frontline support’ covers
People often need to access information or check updates away from their desk (or have a role that is entirely deskless). We asked intranet vendors to show us how their product made it easier to deliver an engaging experience on devices such as mobiles, tablets and on shared screens. We were particularly interested in ways vendors addressed the often-challenging needs of frontline workers, either with dedicated features or through careful design approaches.
A note about dedicated frontline tools
It’s important to note that there are dedicated frontline tools in a category we call Employee Mobile Apps, which we have reviewed separately. These apps are designed with a mobile-first mindset and often offer a more focussed, lighter experience when compared to more comprehensive (and possibly expansive) intranets. As always, consider what is most appropriate for people in different parts of your business and explore the technology solutions that will best meet their needs.
Ease of accessing the intranet (and app)
Not every frontline worker is on a central database, or if they are their personal contact details may not be captured. This can make granting them access to any business tool challenging. Some vendors have developed comprehensive options for such situations. For example, some products offer scannable QR codes to help get people enrolled, which might be via a line manager’s phone or on a poster on a noticeboard. Alternatively, paper codes via payslips are another option for those not on a central database.
One particularly nice example was from Akumina, which provides a sign-up form with background workflow to grant initial access. This could be to check credentials against a database, or to pass the request to an individual to approve. It can even be tied into a new starter process, where a candidate fills in their initial information via a form and they gain access to the intranet (and app) once HR and IT have approved everything.
Once people have the app, we would expect the log-on process to be simple. We’re pleased to see many vendors make use of biometric features on phones, with re-authentication frequency (forced log out) often in the hands of IT (respecting whatever security policies are in place).
The user experience on mobile
Some people are app adepts – they use their mobiles a lot and so will inevitably compare the mobile intranet experience with consumer apps like Instagram and Amazon. Some others are less enthusiastic about apps and such, and will need a simple intranet experience and guidance. It’s incredibly important that the desktop experience translates into a recognisable mobile experience for both types of people.
Providing people with familiar formats is one way intranet products approach this challenge, such as by presenting a timeline of activity to users on a home page. This is something Haiilo offers on desktop, and it translates very well to mobile. Similarly, products like Communifire and Happeo present content within a series of ‘spaces’ that mirrors experiences on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. In Happeo, ‘pages’ are for more formal or reference materials, whereas ‘channels’ can provide social or community areas.
Offering people different ways to consume content has been on internal communicators’ minds for a long time, and mobile arguably offers more options than desktop. As long as the content is well produced, people may choose to watch a quick video on their break or listen to a podcast on their mobile while doing other things. For example, Staffbase offers ways for people to listen to company podcasts and react or comment in the same place. This keeps conversations together, as well as enabling the podcast creator to engage colleagues, such as by answering questions.
Of course, the level of responsiveness to button-pressing and the smoothness of the interface are important aspects. Branding, too, is important to the user experience as it can be jarring for people to download and start using a tool that feels unfamiliar. LumApps is one example where logos, fonts, icons, and colours can be adapted to business style guides, while keeping a good amount of white space and providing a responsive interface.
Overall, we found that most intranet app solutions offered a pleasant user experience with some being comparable to consumer-oriented apps. There were occasions where this wasn’t the case, however, and we’ve highlighted those instances in the reviews.
Mobile features dedicated to the frontline
While hybrid working means that many desk workers are still commuting or working from home, mobile solutions are generally far more beneficial to the frontline. An intranet system that offers a good mobile version or app is important when businesses want a single platform for all employees, rather than multiple business tools designed for different user types. With this in mind, we wanted to see what features the leading intranets offered to mobile users on the frontline. Some products offer mobile solutions meant only for frontline workers, but many rely on their general core features.
There are multiple tools across the digital workplace that fulfil different needs; these can include expenses via HR systems, collaboration tools like MS Teams, or a helpdesk for IT issues. ‘Business integrations’ is a scenario on its own, but we saw some excellent mobile approaches that removed much of the effort of completing business tasks for frontline users. One example is Firstup, which provides a chatbot interface with integrated tools. Selecting a ‘request time off’ command opens a series of prompts that will be shared with the person’s line manager on completion. The ‘current pay statement’ command reveals how much they’ve earned in that pay cycle. People don’t care what tool they’re using behind the scenes (in the example screenshot it’s ADP payroll), they simply want to complete their tasks quickly, at a time that suits them.
While end users don’t care about the system, so long as the interface is easy to use, of course the IT and information security teams do! Shadow tech, such as WhatsApp or other messaging services, are therefore potentially problematic. Platforms like LiveTiles Reach offer built-in chat and posting features. Replacing consumer shadow tech with official apps and channels saves employees from having to share their personal phone number with colleagues. Plus, official apps provide better information management and protection, considering sensitive company information, on personal and company devices.
Products, like Unily, go further, allowing employees to share approved content into their personal social networks (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn). We’ve seen more social media teams request employee advocacy tools in recent years, as they appreciate the additional reach and authentic voice that employees can lend to their marcomms. It also helps keep colleagues engaged with content, knowing they can share good news or industry information with their personal contacts across the web.
Admin controls and design on mobile
Some platforms simply provide ‘an intranet on your mobile phone’, which we don’t feel is always the right way to approach things. Intranets provide a broad and deep set of tools and experiences, including communications features, integrations, enterprise search, collaboration tools, and more. However, users (particularly frontline users who have specific needs) expect a light and lean approach when using apps or other mobile solutions.
Simplifying navigation and design is one approach, where the product adapts what is displayed based on the device type that’s accessing it. Interact provides a nice example of adaptable navigation and home page design, where widgets and menu options across the site can be hidden from mobile users. This reduces the noise on the app, helping people see what’s important.
Omnia provides a similar approach; the whole design is simplified for mobile users. Whereas the desktop provides multiple web parts on the home page, offering content from across the intranet, on mobile, admins may choose to provide only a dashboard of buttons to commonly used features and a feed of activities. By providing admins with the tools to hone the mobile experience to their users’ needs, these products give the power back to those who know what staff need.
Overview of scores for Scenario 2
Overall, most intranet and employee experience platforms will provide some sort of mobile experience. Many are effective, well thought-through, and would be invaluable to all users (including the frontline). The quality does vary however, more so here than in some other scenarios, so it’s worth identifying how important a mobile experience is to your users and carefully build your shortlist.
There is no, single, best product – there is only the product that best meets your needs, and it may end up being one of the lower scoring ones in this mobile scenario if it performs well in priority scenarios. We’ve just updated our report so now is the perfect time to download it (for free) to see everything I’ve shared here.Download
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See more scores and screenshots in our previous article about Microsoft integrations.