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You say ‘everyone’ has access to the intranet; is that true?

You say ‘everyone’ has access to the intranet; is that true?

If you’ve developed your intranet over the years, you may well have focused on providing access to certain groups of people that missed out in the deep past.

Field workers, engineers, factory and shop floor staff, and customer service reps have different work environments, and different needs, to sit-at-desks go-to-meetings knowledge workers.

Providing intranet access to a diverse workforce can be expensive and an IT challenge. But the objective of giving access to 100% of staff isn’t the end of the project, because often it’s only a theoretical solution.

Intranet access Venn sketch

Common quick ways to provide intranet access


Shared computers in key locations across satellite offices, factories, break rooms, and shared spaces.


Home / anywhere access by VPN

Virtual Private Network dongles / two-factor security arrangements provide secure access to the intranet and company emails, usually via your own work laptop.


Home / anywhere access over the Internet

Simply visit the intranet in any browser on any device and log-in with your username and password.


Mobile apps

A company app, dedicated to employee comms and tools, perhaps on a personal phone (and remotely managed?) or on a company smartphone.


Methods such as these are often used alone or combined to provide intranet access to ‘everyone’; but not ‘everyone’ always benefits.

Kiosks, or shared computers, are commonly seen in break rooms and the site office – available to field workers and floor workers on an ad-hoc basis. But, people dislike having to log-in and log-off just to check mail for five minutes, and may want more privacy that having to work in a shared space offers.  People often remain logged in, allowing colleagues to use their account. Some managers police their team members’ online behaviour by only providing a single ‘shared account’ for everyone to use. This seems easy, so nobody complains, but it literally stops people from having their own identity, their own voice, within the digital workplace.

VPNs provide robust security, and everyone understands the need for security. Some organisations, dealing with financial or personal data, must put security above ease-of-use. But many smaller organisations allow employees to access email on their work or personal smartphone without VPN… Larger organisations impose security via mobile device management. Anyway, if you’re a laptop user, you’ve probably used a VPN dongle to ‘get onto the network’ while using Wifi in a cafe or airport. It’s a pain, isn’t it?

Access over the Internet is really big right now. Trust in the cloud is growing and cloud services instantly provide access ‘over the Internet’ with just a username and password (and sometimes two-factor authentication with SMS). For example, if your intranet partly relies relies on SharePoint Online or Office 365, you’re already using the cloud without worrying about security and VPNs. Dropbox for Business, Google Apps for Work, and any ‘software as a service’ (including cloud intranet CMSs) have brought consumer focused software to the enterprise – all with simple user-interfaces and instant access.

Some organisations such as Walmart, Asda, and the Royal Mail provide ‘open intranets’ that can be seen by everyone to some extent. They reason that easy access by staff, many of whom may be shop floor or temporary workers, is what matters most. The site content isn’t that sensitive, so often a staff number is all that is needed to get in. Steve Bynghall did a good case study on Whitbread and their use of an open intranet to engage hotel and restaurant staff.

Dedicated apps can be built for a variety of mobile phones, and usually provide access to corporate information and tools over the Internet once the employee is properly identified. Often, users only have to log on once; we’re all used to our apps knowing who we are forever. Some apps are deployed only to work phones; some are deployed only to personal smartphones if mobile device management is possible; some organisations allow deployment to personal devices without extra security. They may ask employees to password lock their phone, but there’s no enforcement… What’s right for your organisation?


So, you’re sure everyone has access to the intranet…

Considering the cost and work involved with providing suitable solutions to access challenges, it’s tempting to claim 100% success after such an IT project. But, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your organisation provide an individual computing device to every employee?
  2. Does everyone have a personal log-in to the intranet?
  3. If some people don’t have a work email address, are they allowed to log-in using a personal email address or other ID?
  4. Do kiosk users have the time to sit and log-on with their personal ID?
  5. Could VPN be used just for folk dealing with sensitive material?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all the above then that’s a great start.

But if there are any barriers to access then we have to accept that we’re falling short on 100% access levels.

The base metric of ‘percentage of employees with intranet access’ is not a key performance indictor (KPI) of success; basic access is merely the foundation.

The real value, once everyone has access, is providing content and tools that help these diverse participants do their jobs. The intranet shouldn’t just be about comms and content, it should be a place for people, collaboration, and getting things done. This means focusing on what your workforce truly needs in order to provide online services that enable better business.



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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