The Intranet has evolved from a communication tool used predominantly by HR to circulate internal company memos and the like to a collaboration space where employees can share ideas, content and skills, writes PETER REID of Intervate.
The word ‘intranet’ tends to bring to mind boring internal communications sites, used mainly by HR and marketing to disseminate documents and newsletters. This traditionally push strategy has relegated intranets to the back burner for many organisations. However, as the world and the workplace has become increasingly social, the intranet is undergoing an evolution into a collaboration space for the sharing of content, ideas and skills. The intranet of the future will change the way people use the tool, focusing on design and the user experience (UX), and creating an almost ‘app-like’ interface that engages employees through interaction and interactivity.
In order to cater to the needs of a changing workforce, the way intranets are used needs to change as well. Employees today demand a rich user experience that enables them to communicate, collaborate, share ideas, gain access to expert skills and more. This is a complete shift from the push strategy of the traditional intranet to a pull strategy, creating an intranet that makes people want to use it. The focus of the intranet of the future needs to be the user, not the CEO, and thus the design and the user experience are of the utmost importance. Departmental intranets have also become out-dated – the intranet should be a centralised portal for all internal organisational communications. Ultimately, the intranet should be a self-service portal that provides convenience for users, allowing them to log time, apply for leave, find relevant corporate information, collaborate on tasks and more.
In future, the intranet will need to cater to the requirements of Gen Y and Millennial users – those who have grown up using sophisticated mobile and social communications tools. This shift is driven by a number of different factors, including increasing consumerisation and the demand for a consistent experience on personal and work-related devices. Ultimately, users want access to a friendly experience, not simply a functional one, which not only requires a focus on UX, but also a deep understanding of the user and their needs, wants and requirements.
One of the biggest evolutions of the intranet is the increase in social features, such as mobile chat and instant messaging services. Social tools such as tagging, sharing and liking content are part of creating the user experience, and are fast becoming standard features in many business applications. The intranet should be no different. In addition, mobility needs to be supported through responsive design and a ‘mobile first’ development ethos, while ensuring secure access from various end-point devices.
As previously mentioned, the intranet of the future needs to have an emphasis on design and UX. The key toward ensuring user adoption of intranets is to make the interface and the experience familiar – incorporating social elements, elements of the web, and the ease of use and intuitive functionality of apps are all essential. This should include more sophisticated search and filtering. Consumers are used to the Google interface, and intranet search should provide similar functionality to enable users to find the content they require quickly and easily.
Intranets need to be consumer focused, and the province of the users themselves. Employees, and not heads of department, should dictate the nature of the content and the future strategy of the intranet. The more social and interactive the intranet, the more likely it is to capture end users and their thoughts and result in engaged employees. This concept of ideation enables crowdsourcing of ideas from employees, which is the springboard for driving innovation. Intranets should also include functionality for managing the innovation pipeline, allowing people to rank and endorse ideas, and trace their progress through the system.
Ensuring user adoption is as simple and as complicated as creating the right experience for users. If an intranet is designed correctly from a UX perspective, employees will enjoy using it. Buy-in and adoption rates will be higher, which increases opportunities for engaging and interacting with employees. A well-executed intranet gains loyalty from employees, helps to raise levels of employee satisfaction and trust, and helps to create a culture of innovation if driven by a strong leader.
An end-user focus is critical in achieving this, and throughout the process of building an intranet it is necessary to involve as diverse a user group as possible. This will ensure that their ideas and wants are taken into account, and creates a sense of ownership and involvement once the product is rolled out. An agile approach is also essential. The intranet needs to be a work in progress, an evolving product, which, like apps, is constantly maintained and updated. This all ties back to the UX, which is impossible to get right without an intimate understanding of the user.
The success of an intranet can be judged by how happy people are to use it, whether it empowers them to do their jobs better or faster, whether they are saving time, or can connect with people to enable processes to be completed faster. Functionality should be balanced with design, but ultimately if one aspect needs to be scaled back it should always be functionality. Without good design, users will not use the tool, however additional functionality can always be developed and added at a later date.
The intranet should, at the end of the day, fit the way employees work, deliver what employees want and like, and be tailored to meeting their needs and the maturity of the organisation. The intranet should give employees a tool that makes their lives and their jobs easier. A successful intranet is not an implemented one, but an adopted one that employees enjoy using.
* Peter Reid, SharePoint Solutions Head at Intervate, T-Systems company
Welcome to world of 2099
The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.
Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.
This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.
Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.
As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.
“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”
The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.
“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.
Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com
This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.
Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.
What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.
However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.
As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.
It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.
The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.
To enter the competition follow the steps below:
Competition entry details:
3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.
4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.
5. The competition is only open to South African residents.