Innovate or Die: A Mantra for the Modern-Day Intranet

Since coming onto the scene in 1991, the corporate intranet has not kept pace with its often cooler and more creative cousin, the public facing website. In fact, the intranet is going through a quarter-life crisis. It has a dated, dull reputation and as a result is often put on the bottom of both to do lists and budgets in favor of more enticing projects.

In many companies, however, the intranet is being subjected to an unfair destiny. It’s not treated—that is developed and used—for what it really is meant to and can be: a multichannel portal that stimulates collaboration, engagement, and knowledge-sharing in and across the entire organization. To get there, companies must innovate. New digital developments—from improved content management systems to cool new indoor mapping tools—create a tremendous opportunity for intranets to be more useful, better funded, and moved to the top of to do lists.

Feel ready to innovate? Don’t do so without considering these major critical success factors.


A corporate intranet is only as successful as the people who use it day in and day out. As such, it’s critical to involve them in the intranet development process. Pull user data and observe user activity (known as contextual inquiry or ethnography) to understand what makes your intranet tick—or come to a screeching halt. Focus on the internal groups who rely on the site most for collaboration—often HR, marketing and communications, IT, and product groups. With their insight, you can develop a complete user wish list that reflects the diverse set of needs across remote employees and younger digital natives, and then prioritize the most important and impactful elements.

Business benefits

Many senior execs don’t realize the value in projects such as this: A reliable intranet with easy-to-access information, collaborative tools, social capabilities, and mobile readiness can improve both the top and bottom line. Because of this, it is absolutely critical to show them the benefits.

Work with internal champions to create a business case that explains how an optimized portal can increase communication and employee management, reduce costs as more documents are stored online, bolster productivity and quality, and improve collaboration. In fact, intranets have been proven to save businesses millions of dollars simply by fostering increased organization and productivity. On the softer side, they also boost employee satisfaction and morale. This is especially true in larger companies that have multiple brands, business units, and locations, and can especially benefit from having a central platform through which employees can infuse and activate corporate values and culture.

Technology roadmap

Top-of-the-line intranets are not created overnight or without the help of tools and creative technologists that can bring them to life. To ensure enduring success, develop a strategic roadmap in collaboration with IT. Think about a roadmap that creates a cadence of both quick wins and enhancements that will prove the value-add to the organization immediately and over the longer term. It’s also critical to think (sometimes way) ahead about emerging technologies that may be mainstream—and wanted by users—in the months and years to come.

At the end of the day, “innovate or die” is not just a mantra for a portal overhaul project, but for any forward-thinking company. In order to be successful, though, businesses need a tool for ensuring teams are empowered to collaborate, share knowledge, and  engage one another. Enter the modern-day intranet.

Mike Stutman is SVP of strategy and innovation at Primacy.

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