Whether you’re starting fresh or migrating an existing system, building an intranet is no small task. The good news is that gone are the days when building sites and portals was a complex project achieved only by teams of elite developers. Especially with modern intranets, it's easier than ever to build and implement a successful platform.

Historically, intranets were costly and time-consuming, dreaded by all involved. The architecture was confusing, the technology wasn’t consumer friendly, and deciding which content to migrate over from a legacy service was a slog. 

Don't get bogged down by your intranet implementation project!

However, where old, custom, or migrated intranets would take anywhere from 8 to 48 months to deploy, and demanded devoted teams, modern intranets have much faster implementation times. The fast and lightweight approach doesn't stop at the intranet software itself. It also involves an agile approach and mindset to create value within days or week and not months or years.

How to Optimize the Process of Building an Intranet

1. Identify Your Purpose

People use intranets for a host of reasons, and to achieve different business goals. In the mid-90s, for example, they were simple, go-to internal web pages for links and resources with the goal of improving internal organization. 

These days, business owners demand much more from their intranets—for example with employee journey mapping—and there are many more benefits. 

The latest iteration of intranets, known as "Employee Experience Intranets," serve businesses four key benefits, particularly as they relate to the lasting effects of COVID-19.

These include:

  1. Keeping All (Even Dispersed) Employees Engaged
  2. Creating a Trusted Employer Brand
  3. Supporting Knowledge Management & Productivity
  4. Improving the Employee Experience

These points alone show that modern intranets have a specific target in mind: the employee. So, if persona-based intranets are the future, the purpose of your intranet must be to prioritize employees.

Employee-centric content is the right direction for today's intranets.
Employee-centric content is the right direction for today's intranets.

2. Building an Intranet Means First Building a Business Case

Any major intranet investment requires a clear business case. Without a clear value proposition, it’s easy to lose focus in the planning process and stumble when pitching to the boardroom

COVID-19 was a wake-up call for organizations that suddenly found themselves in need of a fast and effective way to get vital information to their unexpectedly dispersed workforces. This will ultimately also change the business case discussion because intranets are:

  • A vital part of a fast way to reach every employee with internal updates.
  • Provide a consistent and authoritative resource to keep everyone on the same page.
Covid And The Need For Internal Communication
Amongst many other things, Covid-19 was a stress test for internal communications. Employees expected fast, honest, and frequent updates, but The Edelman Trust Index showed less than 30% of CEO's managed to live up to the high expectations.

The latest entrants to the intranet space—or Employee Experience Intranets—occupy the sweet spot of simplicity and collaboration between “social intranets” and products like Microsoft’s Sharepoint. Such modern, mobile intranets feature real-time communication capabilities such as push notifications, making the immediate reception of important information possible anytime and anywhere. Push boosts employee app engagement by 88 percent, and 65 percent of users return to an app when push is enabled.

Intranet Example 1
Example of an Employee Experience Intranet from Staffbase

In other words, collaboration and teamwork are no longer a core task and requirement of modern intranets.

It’s also not a bad idea to audit the digital workplace systems you already have in place. Given that the best modern intranet software is especially focused on communications, we advise you to run a communications audit fairly early on in the decision-making process. You can find our guidelines for such an audit here.

3. Migrate Your Content — and Use This Opportunity to Clean Up

When new intranet products require migrating content from legacy infrastructure, some businesses make the mistake of considering all content on their current system equally valuable. This leads to the ill-informed conclusion that when building an intranet, one should migrate all existing content to the new system.  

This is very inefficient, no matter how advanced of an intranet product you’re using.

Instead, consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do some serious spring cleaning. Because searchability is an essential function of intranet usability, clearing out the junk and clutter of an older platform is actually one of the greatest opportunities to improve usage.

Intranet migration
By failing to organize transferred knowledge, companies risk poor adoption and bloating that defeats the intent of the original plan or redesign.

By failing to organize transferred knowledge, companies risk poor adoption and bloating that defeats the intent of the original plan or redesign.

To avoid this…

4. Integrate the Company Brand and Make It an Internally Trusted and Reliable Source of Truth

The brand is among the most important aspects of a company, evident in everything they do. From the website to the letterhead, a reminder of it should be present everywhere. 

Internal Branding Call Out Image A@2x
Image courtesy of Bailey Brand Consulting

The intranet is no exception, as internal branding is crucial to the success of a company. Brands create trust. A well thought-out internal branding strategy can strengthen this trust and turn employees into brand ambassadors. The intranet is a central platform that must capitalize in particular on internal branding. This will help orient employees, create emotional loyalty, and augment the external brand.

Don't compromise on reach
Example of a branded mobile app: the branding will not just appear in the app store but also with every look at their phone, every push notification, and whenever employees use it.

So, when your deciding on something as seemingly trivial as choosing logos, color schemes, and names for your intranet, don’t skimp.

Consider the image below. How many different brand names and fonts can you identify? Even something as simple as a single letter can have deep brand implications. 

Staffbase Brand Recognition

5. Develop a Launch Strategy and Get Creative

Building an intranet and launching it into an organization can present a number of challenges, although the benefits of a successful launch make it all worthwhile. A well-planned and executed launch ensures users:

  • Are excited and engaged
  • Are informed about what is happening, and when
  • Understand the value of their new intranet
  • Know what the intranet is used for, and how it will impact and improve their day-to-day roles
  • Adopt and continue to engage with the intranet from day one and beyond
Let video star in your internal communications strategy
Great content is a magic ingredient for a successful launch strategy. Don't assume the new technology platform will be sufficient enough to "wow" your employees. Use storytelling, pictures, videos, or podcasts to show everyone that the new intranet is on another level.
Launch Material 1
A classic strategy for launch events: merchandize, posters or raffles. Don't underestimate their power and effectiveness.

One more idea for a sparkling launch delivered by Staffbase: "Joyful Animations." Animations are easy to add to any article and will automatically play when an employee opens a post—no graphic design or coding skills needed. So, it’s simple to put a festive touch on your launch messages!

Read more about modern intranets: