The intranet emerged in the early 90s as a private network accessible to an organisation’s staff, providing a wide range of information and services from the organisation’s internal IT systems.
This was seen as an important business portal to deliver tools, e.g. collaboration (to facilitate working in groups and teleconferencing) or sophisticated corporate directories, sales and customer relationship management tools, project management etc., to advance productivity. But twenty-three years later, through various changes in employee engagement, work practices and emerging technology, the signs are showing that mobile is fast displacing the traditional intranet.
Why the intranet is outdated
As well as employee engagement habits, companies embracing the cloud, mobile apps, enterprise social, big data and analytics, have also played a part. The entire strategy of the traditional intranet is now misguided as companies spend massive amounts of money, time, and manpower to create these platforms that fail to deliver. Once live, people log in for the first week or two, but then there is the inevitable decline in usage. As people stop frequenting the platform, core content within the intranet become outdated or forgotten, making the environment even less functional.
Improving productivity and supporting engagement are key strategic goals for the modern digital workplace. The problem is that most intranets fail to deliver what people want and need to get their work done. As a result, end users are rapidly moving toward consumer-based tools and services that are accessible through work and personal devices. If the intranet cannot deliver the features they want and allow them to work where they want, and with the devices they want, end users will stop using it. At its core, an intranet portal is nothing more than a publishing portal, displaying push information to its business users such as news, procedures and other formal content. Mobile apps of today provide a more broader output. After all, apps already exist for news publishing (communication channels), social networks (enterprise social), creating and editing documents (document collaboration) and just about everything else (application functionality).
There’s an app for everything
From a change perspective, it’s largely accepted wisdom to identify the mobile experience as a primary factor affecting the design of next-generation intranets. The whole concept of targeted, specific apps for every targeted, specific action isn’t new — it echoes single-use applications built in the ancient days of terminals and client-server architecture — but it represents a significant shift from the concept of the intranet portal which has companies have treated as a website. In an era of collaboration, enterprise apps offer an accessible streamlined tool that allows employees easier engagement to get tasks done on accessible platform whilst being collaborating.
Responsive designs are more popular than ever
The alternative to the app-driven internal experience has been responsive design. Most of the intranet redesigns we see today include at least some elements of responsiveness and others are explicitly driven by it. The concise mobile platforms — which have already passed the desktop in popularity among consumers — have become the primary means by which an overwhelming number of users are accustomed to accessing information. When that happens in the consumer marketplace, the shift in the enterprise is not too far behind.
The users are changing
When people are used to doing things one way, you have to give them an easier and accessible way to do those things if you want them to embrace a change. When it comes to accessing information, people are used to calling up apps at the touch of a fingertip and won’t readily go back to browser-based search-and-scroll.
Slowly the intranet is going to disappear. What business users want at the end of the day are productivity tools to make their lives easier, efficient, fun and more productive. Whilst businesses are looking to provide push information through publishing and tools that enable a wide selection of collaboration tools and modern publishing sites and pages.
The end goal is providing a seamless experience to the business users. All this is accessible through apps and getting the job done without the boundaries and restrictions of an intranet portal. At Pocket App, we believe business objectives are met with greater efficiency through enterprise apps and we help businesses transform their processes through the design and implementation of mobile solutions, helping from first steps to deployment.
Paul Swaddle, Chairman and Co-founder of Pocket App