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How to build the perfect intranet—or fix an ineffective one

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The intranet is the foundation of your company’s digital workplace. If you don’t have an intranet—or you have one that is essentially unused—you know that it’s time to put a solution in place. After all, there is no better way to build a company culture that increases employee satisfaction, drives empowerment and optimizes productivity.

You’re reading this article because you have questions about launching or relaunching your company’s intranet: Where do I start? What considerations should I focus on? And, maybe most important, how do I get our employees to care about it and activity engage with it?

To create an intranet that becomes an essential part of your employees’ daily experience, you need to approach the project in the right way from the beginning. You’ll need to consider your employees’ needs, focus on engagement and storytelling, and employ the right tool set to facilitate creating and updating the site.

The good news is that many organizations already have many pieces in place for establishing a powerful intranet. After all, building an effective internal communications platform isn’t new; it’s essentially brand storytelling. They just need some guidance and the right tools to put it all together.

At Brightspot, we’ve worked side by side with the communications teams at some of the world’s best-known corporate brands to see how they manage campaigns and brand news. We’ve sat in the newsrooms of some of the world’s largest media publishers to watch how they curate hundreds of daily stories and engage their audience. Those lessons have led us to develop our best-in-class CMS, Brightspot in a way that allows companies to create a distinctive intranet site that is unique to their organization and employee needs while also working in harmony with their corporate site.

Whether you're creating an intranet from scratch or transforming an outdated one, follow these steps to get started right.

Intranet tip #1. Listen to your employees

Employees are at the heart of your intranet project, so it’s important to seek out their input and feedback often as you proceed through design and build-out. It’s essential that you understand what they're seeking or missing. What frustrates them in their daily work lives? What tools and information do they want access to? Talk to leaders throughout your company to learn what they need to more effectively engage and motivate their teams.

Remember that your organization’s employees are your most important stakeholders, and they have the potential to be your most passionate brand evangelists. As such, they want to feel appreciated and know that they have a voice in the company. Employees who feel valued and heard become empowered and, in turn, more engaged and more productive.

Intranet tip #2. Focus on what’s important

A first step should be laying out the essential elements of an intranet for your organization. Employee feedback should play a big part in this process. There are many things your intranet can do, including promoting organizational culture, inspiring and engaging staff through your company’s mission work, facilitating communication, providing access to benefits and other HR information, and nurturing an employee’s career growth via one-to-one marketing.

To effectively engage all of your stakeholders and empower them to contribute content back to the experience, executive leaders should feel comfortable easily updating the intranet with information and perspectives in a timely fashion. Similarly, colleagues should have access to a variety of storytelling types, including articles, live blogs, live streams, galleries, videos, press releases and more. Editorially curated pages and sections that showcase employee-generated content as well as viewpoints of the leadership team create a powerful brand storytelling vehicle that your entire workforce will rely on to access and share important information both internally and with your external partners.

Intranet tip #3. Who does what, when and where

A well-managed intranet thrives on clear guidelines regarding who can and should access and update which parts of it. First and foremost, employees expect a secure environment through which sensitive information is delivered. Next, make it easy and efficient for employees to access the content they need via a single-entry point where all employees can get the information they rely on to start each workday. Then, personalize roles and permissions based on specific employee needs and functions, therefore delivering an intranet experience that is relevant to specific roles throughout the company.

By creating an effective intranet governance model, you help set expectations for each person involved to avoid working at cross-purposes, posting misinformation or accidentally allowing unauthorized access to sensitive information. Brightspot has robust authentication, permissioning and personalization capabilities to make sure each user interacts with the system in the most effective and appropriate way.

Intranet tip #4. Take stock of your content

Take stock of what content you have, either on your existing intranet or in other places around your company. Look at the quality, relevance and age of this content. Create a database to identify who “owns” each piece and where it’s stored. Flag content that needs updating, can be combined with other pieces or should be retired. Identify any gaps that need to be addressed and brainstorm ideas for filling them.

When conducting your audit, keep in mind that once your new intranet launches, the overall content experience will be paramount. As is the case with external communications, when communicating with employees via your intranet, it’s essential to: be timely (share news and stories with your employees first); remain authentic (speak in a unified and consistent company voice); publish efficiently (reach the right people, with the right information, at the right time); and distribute effectively (allow access from anywhere your employees are, on whatever device is important to them).

Intranet tip #5. Move thoughtfully but quickly

Once you've established your requirements and objectives, defined roles and responsibilities, and mapped out your content, make it a priority to move from concept to implementation quickly. You’ve got momentum, so keep it going. Give employees sneak peeks of the new intranet as you develop it to provide reassurance and generate enthusiasm. By the time the site is ready for prime time, your staff should be not just ready to accept it but eager to use it.

Intranet tip #6. Don’t do this alone

Great intranets are rarely created solely in-house. As a complex, multi-stakeholder project, an intranet overhaul tends to draw many opinions and press various levers of office politics. Take advantage of an outside intranet consultant with targeted expertise and a best-in-class platform.

Conclusion: How Brightspot can revolutionize your corporate intranet

Brightspot has spent more than a decade partnering with hundreds of customers—many of whom have been underwhelmed by the stagnant, outdated intranets they had in place. After learning about pain points associated with these portals and discussing ways to transform them into essential and engaging platforms that are used by employees each day, we have developed a suite of pre-built content types and templates to support intranet needs out-of-the-box.

Brightspot’s powerful intranet platform integrates with your other software and services, requires minimal involvement from your IT department, and comes with all the preconfigured templates and components needed to engage your workforce and increase productivity. The following features help set Brightspot’s intranet solution apart:

  • Seamless authentication with your existing systems and single sign-on
  • Employee profile templates, in which both public and private user profiles are supported
  • Powerful and flexible personalization and permissions
  • A variety of content types, such as articles, galleries, videos, press releases and images
  • Powerful federated search, allowing busy editors to find exactly what they’re looking for, without having to ever leave the CMS
  • Flexible storytelling templates, including article, listicle, gallery and live blog

Once you have your intranet up and running, your goal should be to make updating and maintaining it as straightforward as possible. Like good corporate sites, intranet sites are populated with constantly changing content scaffolded on a solid framework. It will take work to make sure your intranet content is fresh and relevant each day.

Fortunately, using the right tools can make the process easy. In addition to the set of features outlined above, Brightspot also comes with a team of expert advisors who will guide you through this step-by-step approach to creating and maintaining this business-critical tool in the most timely, cost-effective manner.

Your corporate intranet has the potential to be the backbone of your digital workplace, providing valuable information that’s relevant to your entire employee base and fostering meaningful and inspiring company-wide collaboration. When you’re ready to engage your workforce and accelerate productivity with a new or reimagined intranet, consider a flexible, cost-effective, out-of-the-box platform like Brightspot.


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