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There is no best intranet product

Indoor winners' podium, but all three children are on the 'Number 1' podium. Only legs shown.

There is no best intranet product

There is no single, best intranet product on the market today. While some intranet and employee experience platforms may work smoother, look nicer, and / or be more fully featured than others, that doesn’t make them “the best”. Why? Because the best intranet product is the one that meets the needs of your business.

How to identify your needs

Your digital workplace delivers a variety of services to your business. We illustrate this as a town plan, as your digital workplace landscape is likely full of tools / buildings and supporting infrastructure to make the services work effectively.

The digital workplace as a city, showing five services and five management activities.
The digital workplace as a city, showing five services and five management activities.

No intranet will deliver all of these, it’s therefore the job of an intranet strategy to articulate the intranet’s role in delivering some of these services. It helps to ‘map’ where the intranet will play a role or not, which is shown in the below illustration. This map provides one of the starting points for selecting the right product solution, as the features on offer from a product should align as closely as possible with your map. The best product is therefore the one that best aligns with your map.

Additionally, while your business needs may be similar to the needs of other people reading this article, your priorities and culture are different. Priorities and culture therefore combine to make your intranet strategy unique. So how can one intranet match all businesses? It can’t; however, they all have strengths and the best for you is one that best aligns with your strategy.

This diagram shows where the intranet will play the main role (blue), will be aligned to / facilitate (purple), or play no role (grey) in a service.

Our reports (and scoring)

We have reviewed digital workplace tools for years, where we have assessed and scored the tools against business scenarios, such as ‘internal communication’ or ‘mobile and frontline support’. The scores give an indication of which products serve those scenarios the best; the temptation is to look at who has scored the highest overall or has the largest average score. We caution against this, instead you should consider which business scenarios best match against your map and needs.

Indoor winners' podium, but all three children are on the 'Number 1' podium. Only legs shown.

The temptation is to look at who has scored the highest overall or has the largest average score. We caution against this.

Then look at the scores for those scenarios and read through which are the highest scoring in those areas, so you can easily identify what capabilities will matter most to you. In the above mapped example, you may interrogate the associated scenarios for ‘communicate & engage’ and ‘find & share’. Only two or three scenarios may therefore matter to you, allowing you to ignore the rest and focus on the products that will best meet your needs.

Awards to pay attention to

There are plenty of product and customer awards across the industry, many of which give a good steer on which products might be the best fit for you. Those associated with real case studies are best, as you can see how businesses are applying product capabilities that you could take inspiration from. Other awards are based on the number of reviews and associated scores on websites. As with anything similar, like Glassdoor or TripAdvisor, it’s worth taking these awards with a pinch of salt as there are many factors that can influence these results.

Intangibles (non-functional, non-technical) considerations

There are intangible considerations when deciding on the best intranet for your needs, some of which you will be able to find guidance about while others will only come from experience with a vendor.

The first is the customer service and support a vendor offers existing clients. This is particularly telling, as it shows whether they’re more concerned about winning new business than solving issues. This isn’t a nice position to find yourself in, so it’s worth speaking to as many existing customers as you can. I don’t just mean those nominated by the vendor either, try to go to events or chat informally with people in the industry. We’ve even got a ‘voice of the customer’ section in our reports to highlight what real customers really think about working with the vendor, which offers a good starting point.

Sometimes vendors focus on developing new functionality or capabilities, so ignore the older parts of their offering. When you speak to existing customers, ask what they don’t like about the product and whether they feel the vendor updates things frequently enough for their taste.

Finally, the culture of the vendor will make a big difference to how well you work with them. You will be contracted to the vendor for several years so need to make sure you can work with them. You’ll get a sense of their culture during your informal contact with them, here are some questions to consider:

  • Have they done some basic homework on your business? For example, can they talk with you about what your users do or what you sell?
  • Have they gone to effort to tailor a demo for you? For example, have they taken branding from your website to apply to example site they’re showing?
  • Are they speaking to you as appropriate for you and your business? For example, some businesses are very formal whereas other might be more relaxed, does their tone suit you?
  • How tenacious are they? For example, do they constantly get in touch asking for an update even when you’ve said it’ll be months before anything happens?

Trust your instincts and don’t settle – if you’re unsure, then keep probing with questions or walk away.

Colour swatches goin from green through blue into purple.

How to choose the best intranet software

There are four phases to selecting the best product for your business needs:

  1. Strategy
  2. Requirements
  3. Product and vendor research
  4. RfP and product selection

We’ve written a complete guide for those of you wishing to do this yourself. However, ClearBox is often asked to help document strategy, requirements and help with selecting the right product so please do get in touch if we can be of service.

Report cover. Free.

Of course, when you know what you’re looking for please take a look at our free guide to the best intranet and employee experience platforms on the market, or download it right now.

Suzie Robinson

I've always worked with intranets, and have practical experience with all aspects of intranet management, including research, implementation, governance, and strategy. My roots are in internal communication and I focus on employee experience and engagement.

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