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Resurrecting your intranet from near-death

Resurrecting your intranet from near-death

Building refurbishmentWe covered the signs of a decaying intranet, and so now let’s look at the many tactical actions you can take to revive an ailing platform.

Actions to take to improve your intranet

Can you refresh the design, the template, the theme (whatever you call it)? Can you go beyond ‘colour and shape’ to focus on making the look of your intranet support the navigation, content readability, and the completion of tasks?

Review the navigation; can you start a fresh and develop IA and menus that support individuals’ needs (rather than departments’) and focus on getting things done? Card sorting, user testing, and best practices can help.

Consider developing processes for reviewing the performance of the search engine, and tweaking it regularly so that search results pages look better and deliver what people expect.

Review your content – this may mean auditing everything to discover just how much you have. Information is an asset, it has a financial cost and value. Work out what can be refreshed, moved, curated, or archived / deleted.

Work out the governance for when to use intranet pages versus when to use files like Word and PDFs. Train intranet contributors as to how to choose. Nobody wishes every link on Wikipedia opened a Word document!

The term ‘social intranet’ may scare some people, but it’s really just about making your intranet a place for people, rather than only for one-way comms and document storage. Your governance might allow official contributors to look after their sections, or could empower everyone to contribute their expertise. You could replace your old intranet with a modern social intranet, or augment it by adding a social layer (ask us for advice about SharePoint’s social features, alternative social CMS, and layers like Jive and Yammer). Some organisations have found that social and mobile additions have encouraged the neglect of the old, cranky, static intranet. I don’t know what to conclude from this, other than people want to be involved with their work and comms, and if the intranet doesn’t support what people want…

Departments may need their own sites / sections, but in two dramatically different ways. First, there’s the content and workflows a department provides for ‘everyone’, to help people get stuff done. This material should be spread around the intranet in the appropriate sections, not hoarded in a ‘departmental’ silo. People shouldn’t need to know who owns a process to learn about or initiate it. Secondly, there’s the ‘in work’ and day-to-day material that’s just for departmental members. This collaborative site can still be visible to others (unless there’s a need for secrecy), but the purpose is to provide tools for the department’s people.

Projects can be managed almost entirely within the intranet. The right tech is needed to provide open private project sites, and workflows should be designed to support the review and approval processes needed. Communities are needed for non-project initiatives – often called ‘communities of practice’, these groups help share and log knowledge, and are important communication hubs for people involved with cross-departmental matters.

Approaching intranet improvement

When heeding the warning signs of an ailing intranet, remember to share the solutions and end-benefits with your stakeholders, not just the problems. Consider the following approaches.


Get a team involved with analysing current use and requirements so you can redesign elements to be more user-focused:

  • Content – must meet a need;
  • Navigation – task-focused, not a recreation of your org chart;
  • Search – configure the way it works and revamp the layout of the results page;
  • Look n feel – layout is an important part of the user-experience;
  • Contributors – train and retrain contributors to focus on what they publish and where they put it, and for what audiences.
  • Revitalise the your governance model and the guidelines you offer contributors.


Have the IT department and ‘the business’ work together to gather requirements (not technical features, but business requirements), and consider ‘who’ takes the lead on decisions and overall ownership. Comms? HR?

  • Get your governance model improved, approved, and communicated. Don’t let ‘the intranet project’ be a ‘project’. This is about new ways of working, not installation of a CMS.


Add layers to provide greater functionality and meet people’s needs and expectations. A social layer (ESN) can add collaborative features that go beyond merely talking with colleagues. Adding such a layer can be a ‘quick fix’ as so many services are available in the cloud, but be aware of governance concerns (see our Four Guiding Principles for Blending Social and Traditional Intranets).  Consider how augmentations might improve home and mobile access to internal people and material – a vital addition perhaps.

Want some help in resurrecting your intranet? We’d love to hear from you – contact us.

Photo credit: Anthony Shemmans

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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