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Why intranet maturity is a crucial step on your path to a digital workplace

By  Ndagi Job Goshi, General Manager, Liferay Africa 

Over the past year or so, digital transformation has accelerated at an unprecedented rate. Companies that were previously taking a gradual approach to the process, suddenly had to do things all at once. This has been especially evident in the working environment. Companies that once insisted on bodies at desks in the office and physical meetings have quickly had to get used to the idea of the digital workplace.

Digital workplaces seek to reframe technology requirements in the context of business value and employee experience. Moreover, they embrace emerging technology that drives engagement and helps companies respond to changes in working styles. Before any organisation can hope to achieve a fully digital workplace, however, it needs to ensure that it’s achieved maturity when it comes to its company intranet.

In order to understand what that looks like, it’s important to understand how company intranets have evolved.

A history and evolution  

The first intranets date back to the 1990s and took off as companies recognised the value of moving employee collaboration, document management, and communication into digital tools such as email, shared document repositories, video conferencing and much more.

The most simple intranets primarily facilitate one-way, downward communication from the company leaders down to its employees. Quick to build and easy to use, this basic corporate communication channel is very useful in delivering information to employees; however, many of these intranet point solutions tend to be rigid and lack the necessary features and customisation modern-day employees need in order to do their work well.

Later intranets took things a step further. Building on top of basic communication functions, intranets in this evolutionary stage facilitate departmental and interdepartmental collaboration with features such as knowledge bases, blogs and document management.

Employees don’t necessarily use the intranet to do work tasks, but rather to collaborate and discuss their work with colleagues. This can boost employee engagement and morale. However, in trying to achieve these functionalities, organisations might leverage multiple tools and thus may struggle integrating all their different systems to work together seamlessly.

More advanced forms of intranet, which take organisations towards achieving digital workplaces, allow for the streamlining of processes including onboarding, performing product development, responding to work tickets, and troubleshooting. Beyond that, they can personalise knowledge delivery and content based on interests and past behaviour, automate tasks through machine learning-powered tools such as auto-tagging or auto-processing of work items, measure employee engagement, and alert stakeholders of bottlenecks in business processes in real-time.

Achieving maturity 

Any organisation hoping to achieve this level of maturity requires proactive leadership and a clear vision for effective execution. There is no one correct organisational structure for governing intranet programs, so leaders instead must make their decisions based on what will benefit their unique company and workforce. What’s ultimately critical is that leaders focus on leading and encouraging change instead of lagging behind technological advancements and employee expectations.

There are, however, some general guidelines which you can adhere to:

  1. Map out a strategy 

Start by creating a digital workspace vision and establishing clearly defined goals. Consult all necessary parties such as IT, sales, marketing, finance, legal and HR to gather insight to take into account input from all relevant parties in order to establish reasonable and agreed upon goals.

  1. Emphasising employee experience 

A fully matured intranet tool is centred around employee experiences, so here are some important points to consider:

  1. What are the key organisational drivers for your employees?
  2. How do people in your organisation conduct their work?
  3. What are employees’ biggest frustrations in their daily work experience?
  4. What does your corporate culture need in order to increase employee satisfaction?

Ultimately, these topics should still be relevant in the future, no matter how work might change.

  1. Finding the Tools

Using the insights gathered from the first two steps, implement technological tools that help execute your strategy and meet your team’s needs. While there may already be existing intranet technology in place, you will need tools that include ML/AI functionalities, robust features for enhancing employee experiences and powerful analytical capabilities. The solutions you add must not only be flexible to enable your organisation to evolve and scale, but also be able to integrate and connect with other, even newer, technologies as you continue to add to your digital workplace. Don’t shift your strategy to match your technologies but rather make sure the technology aligns with your vision first.

  1. Monitoring intranet usage and gather post-implementation feedback

Send surveys and gather feedback from the team to see if any adjustments to either the strategy or technology are needed. This step should be continuous, as employee expectations and work trends will change, requiring improvements, reassessments of strategy and addition or removal of tools.

An important part of a whole 

Ultimately, evolved, mature intranets are an important step on the path towards a fully digital workplace. And as digital transformation continues to create new business models, organisations will need to foster workplace environments that enable employees to confidently take advantage of new technology and trends.

The pace of change we’ve seen over the last year or so is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, meaning that it’s imperative that organisations optimise the employee experience, including developing worker personas, identifying pain points and reorienting stakeholders to be customer-led.

Doing this will lead to happier, more loyal employees who consistently provide optimal service to your customers. Failing to do so will see your organisation left behind at a time when it cannot afford to be.

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