5 Reasons Why Settling for an Intranet is Costing You Execution

Retail Communications
May 21, 2020
Zipline Staff Contribution

When it comes to store communications, no sentence makes us cringe more than: “we use an intranet for that.”

Sure, you painstakingly moved all of your reference materials over to that single folder hierarchy. You spent weeks customizing that image carousel on the homepage. Your field teams now know exactly where to go to get the latest information. Theoretically, your stores now have access to the latest version of the truth.

But your so-called “one-stop-shop?” It’s actually… a flop.

Simply put, intranets are not built for daily communication and task management. They were born out of a need for a work team document repository. And while they’re ubiquitous across every professional industry, an old school, document-based intranet isn’t where a busy store leader wants to spend valuable time, hunting for that one nugget of info to complete a task. Don’t believe us? Here are five reasons why settling for an intranet is hurting your store execution:

1. Intranets are difficult to navigate and customize.

SharePoint (the most common intranet platform according to the Nielson Norman Group) requires an average of 7-10 highly trained developers not only for construction but for ongoing maintenance, which means these intranets rarely evolve over time. When those technical experts are reallocated or leave the company, their skills and knowledge base go with them. Additional time and resources ($$$) are then spent bringing in a third-party support team and acclimating them to the pre-existing set up.

What about when the intranet content team asks for better functionality, or a fresh design? A common complaint among SharePoint intranet teams is that even simple requests get stuck in a log jam. Technical expertise and time required behind the scenes can result in prolonged completion times. We live in a fast paced world. We crave quick fixes and improvements because the next issue is knocking at the door needing answers.

2. Intranets lack intuition and mobile optimization.

Not only is a SharePoint intranet a behemoth preventing most content owners from doing their own heavy lifting, but the content structure isn’t particularly intuitive for the audience either. Research shows that the technology employees use on a daily basis (think Facebook, Instagram, or Google) influences their perspective on how to get things done. When tools they use outside of work are simple and easy to use, but the company intranet requires computer access and still isn’t easy to use or intuitive for work tasks, they begin to discount it as a go-to resource.

It’s a given that every organization wants everyone using the most current information to do their jobs. Many employees do have daily access to a computer. But there is an ever growing population of decentralized and remote workers who rely on mobile, and possibly even personal devices. SharePoint intranets, many of which originated before mobile apps were an expectation, struggle to adapt to the necessary mobile configurations for handheld devices. Signing in can be a multi-step process; couple that with excessive scrolling and swiping just to see a page of content and users quickly lose interest. And it doesn’t help that companies have only recently deemed mobile design as necessary.

3. Intranets have lackluster audience targeting and accountability.

Target audience parameters can be established in SharePoint so audiences only see what pertains to their role. But do you always know ahead of time exactly who needs a new communication or piece of information? Permissions for any SharePoint user group is configured behind the scenes based on a predetermined governance plan. Again, the expertise to securely make changes, preventing inadvertent access to anyone outside of established parameters calls SharePoint developers/administrators into play. Can your comms timeline always accommodate another layer of help and additional time to make it happen? (Spoiler alert: No it can’t.)

Let’s assume your target audience did receive a pertinent message or task. How do you then know they completed it? Most intranets lack an easy tracking process to verify who read a message or completed a task. Sure, forms could be developed for work teams to check off and submit when a task was done, or an analytic query could be requested from the IT support team… But when that data becomes available, will you have time to digest it and pass your assessments along to the chains of command? (Spoiler alert: No you won’t.) Any delay before getting even those answers allows behaviors to click along unchanged.

4. Intranets encourage work-arounds (and can put you at risk.)

Your store teams are more tech-savvy than you give them credit for. With all of this going on behind the scenes of a SharePoint intranet, guess who’s getting things done with other resources? Yup, those folks. And before you say “that’s great, they’re thinking outside the box to do their job”, you might want to consider what business information they have access to.

Intranets were designed to provide confidential company information in a secure, protected environment. What if well-meaning ambitious employees share data via friendlier and faster apps or tools they access elsewhere, without benefit of security parameters or tracking? This isn’t to suggest your store teams would purposefully put your company at risk, but the ambitious people companies rely on may seek a path with less resistance and find outside tools to get work done.

5. Intranets create culture roadblocks.

People crave two-way communication not only in their personal life, but on the job as well. The intuitive nature of social tools allow just about anyone to see what others are interested in and to respond easily. This builds community based on common interests or needed knowledge. Most SharePoint intranets do not have the flash and fun that social tools offer users at every post or reaction. Allowing the voice of the people an audience lends dramatically to a company’s culture, moving it beyond just the corporate branded look and typically dry, info only content.

GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com reports that the regular remote workforce has grown 173% since 2005. That’s 11% faster than the traditional workforce. Studies have shown remote personnel require more attention-grabbing effects to be drawn in. They seek information and points of contact that grab their attention. Going forward, companies would do well to prioritize a format where all employees, regardless of their physical location, can access information for the business function, but more importantly to participate in its vibrant culture.

Edward Ford of Verizon believes our workforce craves “snackable” content, easily accessible with a quick hit. Let them get in and get out. Create digestible information that’s easy to access, and keep it fresh. Today’s market offers many viable platforms that offer a far more flexible and agile environment for doing just that.

Why suffer with yesterday’s technology when today’s market offers far more flexible and agile solutions. If you’re ready to say goodbye to your intranet, contact us to learn more about how we can help with a modern, mobile solution that your employees will love.