Death to the Intranet!

by Zoe Kelleher on 18 December 2017

Slow, antiquated, laughable, annoying, pointless. There are few things about which we have complete unanimity in the Webcredible office but one thing we do agree on is intranets. Specifically, company intranets which, aside from being described as any or all of those five words, are on the whole not fit for purpose.

Forgetting about internal teams

How is it that in a society in which connectivity is all and where we build meaningful links among people we're never going to meet, we can't seem to create internal systems with purpose? The answer, we believe, is simple - in an office environment, we've forgotten to fulfil the needs of the most essential customer of all. Us!

We've become so consumed by making external interfaces easy to use and ever-more responsive that the much-maligned intranet has been left to wither and die.

Businesses have become so bogged down in making more money from selling that they've failed to nourish their own teams, preferring to lumber them with old-fashioned technology and CMS systems held together with sticky tape.

However, there's no point in developing shiny new user experiences for customers without offering the same service to staff. Not simply because it represents a benevolent gesture from those with their hands on the levers of power. But because real power today lies in the hands of the new recruits – millennials.

A well-structured, user-centric internal system can align teams and really help knowledge sharing and improved ways of working

Enter the millennials

The brightest and the best want to play with the smartest systems just as they want to be associated with the companies that reflect their values. Thus, if an intranet user experience is poor, this can be a factor that helps encourage them to go somewhere else. There are 2.4 billion people in the world aged under 30 and 40% of most workforces are, broadly, in that millennial age group. Deloitte estimates that 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials by 2025. And they're demanding people!

Millennials are also driven by loyalty as much as brand advocates are. Customers want compelling interfaces that make the purchase decision faster and simpler to make. That's our UX claim to fame here at Webcredible. We believe our work increases people's love of a brand.

Farewell intranet, say hello to staff tools

Staff want the same thing when they're at work as to when at home – interfaces that they actually want to use. Fail to give them that and you might lose the battle to hire the brightest talents. We map the customer experience with extraordinary precision, harvest huge sets of data and use those findings to maximise profits and minimise negativity. So why aren't we mapping the employee experience?

At Webcredible, we sense a change in this status quo. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time and money in preserving and optimising these shattered intranets, more companies are coming to us to revamp them and supply their staff with the tools in which they can do their jobs more efficiently. We're clearly on the cusp of a seismic change in company priorities – the internal is becoming as essential as the external.

A good user experience can keep staff enthused, engaged and connected, provide greater focus and ensure that staff are more goal-driven. It can also break down the damaging siloed mentality that restricts companies from truly collaborating. A well-structured, user-centric internal system can align teams and really help knowledge sharing and improved ways of working.

A shift in the employer-employee balance of power

It used to be that the real power lay with companies, as they were able to influence consumers. Digital disruption has flipped that relationship – consumers are in control and businesses are embroiled in an increasingly competitive battle for their loyalty. It's the same scenario for employers.

They used to be in control but now the cream of the crop are demanding their needs are satisfied by businesses desperate for their skills. A few years ago, it was all about offering free bagels, sleep pods and table tennis. Today, the smartest companies know they need to offer staff something more meaningful – a better user experience that makes their job easier but also enthuses them, trains and educates them at the same time.

Nasty interfaces, outdated designs and slow responsiveness are as big a turn-off today's employees as they are to today's customers. Internal efficiencies and back-end facilitation are the natural next step once you're happy with your external-facing systems

Death to the intranet!

In actual fact, maybe the word intranet needs to die. Perhaps it represents a psychological barrier to more effective workplace strategies, better return on investment and bringing products to market quicker. Since we focus so much on external facing applications, we should redesign these internal systems along similar lines, map out the user experience, test it and then update it.

Best of all, let's measure employees' happiness before and after a UX transformation of internal tools. I think we already know what the results will be...

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