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What Flavour is Your Intranet?

What Flavour is Your Intranet?

At the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen earlier this year, the ever-popular debate about how much news should feature on your intranet homepage was given another outing. There are other variants such as “who should own the intranet?” and “should we have one intranet or several?”.

Like relatives at Christmas, these pop up periodically, hang around too long and leave you with a headache.

One of the reasons these debates recur is that there is no simple answer: it depends on the flavour of your intranet, the clarity of your vision. Good intranets are distinctive; like flavour they emphasise some elements over others to reflect the strategic priorities of an organisation. Without this, the intranet is bland – a little of everything, but unless you have huge resources, the intranet is unlikely to do anything particularly well. Over time, too, the emphasis might change. So an intranet may inititlaly focus on communication but later move on to emphasise the collaboration element.

Here are some examples:

Organisation Need
Intranet Flavour
Work effectively across silos
Owner: HR IT
  • Use the home page as a dashboard for collaboration activity: forums, blog posts and document updates
  • Put in place easy to use tools that integrate closely with the desktop (document sharing, web conferencing, IM, discussions forums, Wikis)
  • Build a definitive employee directory that includes projects and skills
Reduce operating costs
Owner: Finance
  • Focus on employee self-service tools like expenses, purchasing, travel, payroll, room booking etc.
  • Give easy access from the homepage and show progress for workflows (e.g. “You have 3 items to approve”)
  • Govern design and usability strongly for common interface standards
  • Provide single sign-on
Build a stronger culture – “One Company” initiatives
Owner: Comms Corp Affairs
  • Make the homepage the definite news source
  • Ensure everyone can access intranet as a priority  (i.e. rollout broad before deep)
  • Govern common look and branding strongly
  • Focus on regular news with equal opportunity for everyone to comment
  • Get global-local balance with authors at all levels
Support flexible working
Digital Workplace
Owner: HR
  • Ensure employee self-service works (see “Reduce Operating Costs”)
  • Ensure collaboration is effective (see “Work Effectively Across Silos)
  • Ensure sense of belonging (See “Build a Stronger Culture”)
  • Provide secure access from any machine


So should there be lots of space given over to news on the homepage? If the flavour is ‘Communication’ then yes, but if you have other goals, then it may be time for news to take a back seat.

[This blog post was originally published as an article on the IntraTeam website]

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

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