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What makes an Intranet Intelligent?

Thoughts on the difference makers for a quality intranet

I have set up dozens of intranets for customers and clients. I have seen both success, failure, and everything in between. In this post, I want to quickly reflect on some of the qualities of an intelligent intranet that can be the difference between thriving and stagnating.

In an organization, the intranet is the natural home for a number of things, like announcements, knowledge articles, process documents, etc.

Full credit for the original Where Work Gets Done image goes to Brad Grissom and his original post that you can read here.

But, as I say in my digital employee experience webinar, just because you have an intranet doesn’t mean it’s intelligent.

Consult the Oracle

So what makes an intranet “intelligent”? I decided to pose this question to ChatGPT, the latest AI advancement that is all the rage – or rather, I consulted the Oracle. It provided a solid response, based on all of the available standard definitions that are out there. Here’s what it returned.

An intranet can be made “intelligent” through the use of various features and technologies that enhance its functionality and usability. Some examples of features that can make an intranet more intelligent include:

• Search functionality that allows users to easily locate information and resources within the intranet
• Personalization and customization options that allow users to tailor the intranet to their specific needs and preferences
• Integration with other systems and tools, such as project management software or social media platforms, to facilitate collaboration and communication
• Use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to provide recommendations, insights, or automated tasks
• Responsive design and mobile access to ensure that the intranet can be accessed and used easily on a wide range of devices

Overall, an intelligent intranet is one that is designed to be user-friendly, efficient, and effective at meeting the needs of its users.

Dig a little deeper

The above is a wonderful synopsis of the technologies and concepts employed to create the necessary foundation for a digital employee experience within your intranet. It also implies some of the hooks and smarts that become necessary to keep people interested and find it valuable. This is where I really want to focus and dig a little deeper into the qualities of an intranet that will separate yours from the ones that fail. This is where it’s more about “the way” we use the intranet, as content producers and coordinators, that makes all of this powerful technology and design shine forth.

Our definition

When I host intranet workshops and webinars, I try to get customers to align on a definition of an intelligent intranet. Aligning on a simple definition should allow us to rally around what’s most important. Here’s what we have found to be the most successful:

A web-based portal meant for the broad-based distribution of information featuring authoritative content.

This definition implies certain qualities and features of your intranet that, if followed, should provide success in the future.

Qualities of an Intelligent Intranet

These implied qualities are:

• Transparent and Open
• Constant change
• Single source of truth
• Follows proper web design conventions and principles
• First place to start

Transparent and Open

Your intranet should be intended for everyone in the organization to participate. It should bring people together across department lines. This implies that information is more easily findable, not tucked away.

Constant Change

Employees need reasons to keep checking in. If I see the same content every day, I’m going to quit looking. This is where most intranets fall off just as they begin. You need a cadence and healthy habits that you build among your content creators. SharePoint news can be a great weapon to help your creators in the fight to catch and keep eyes.

Single Source of Truth

Healthy habits again are key. Proper maintenance and naming of documents will ensure that the AI behind SharePoint search is working to its full potential. This will make your intranet the first place that users should check for the correct information they need on any given day.

Follows Proper Web Design Conventions and Principles

This is why we recommend SharePoint and also why we recommend not deviating too far in the implementation of your intranet. Sure, you may want to have some uniqueness to set your intranet apart from others, and we can help with that, but we can’t stress enough what a mistake it would be to go with an “intranet-in-a-box” versus sticking with the battle-tested SharePoint product. It is updated weekly and is constantly focused on being mobile and employee-centric.

First Place to Start

We don’t want using the intranet to feel like a burden, but a delight. Leverage new things as they arrive to keep SharePoint feeling fresh (like Viva Connections), and add some “pop” where you can to take users out of that “day-to-day” feel. Make this truly feel like the home for news, information, and being a part of something bigger.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a call to action.


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