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Categories: SharePoint;Business
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​Sometimes when we are immersed in doing what we do day to day, we forget about the bigger picture. And if we do that in the world of information technology, we can potentially lose track of the direction we are headed in. Losing track of the direction your industry is headed can be a dangerous thing all for its own reasons but for our purposes let’s focus on the realm of intranets.

The Nielsen Norman Group (www.nngroup.com) are leaders in the user experience field. They conduct research and release reports on user experience. One of their annual reports is the 10 Best Intranets report. Submissions are made to the Nielsen Norman Group and they select the top 10 best intranets of that year based on several criteria. Reviewing reports like these provide great insight into what others out there are doing, especially getting a perspective outside of North America, with winning organizations being from countries like Switzerland, Ireland and Saudi Arabia. I won’t go into the details about each winner and what they specifically did right, you’ll have to read the report for that, but what I will do is share with you what I have taken away from this report.

Why do we need to know this?

Some of you may be wondering, how does this help me doing my job from day to day or designing an intranet? Well here are some of the reasons I have taken time out to research this:

  • Knowledge of upcoming trends for intranets
  • Be able to create solutions that are innovative
  • Provide new suggestions to our clients
  • Better the solution delivery process

What do we need to know?

After running through the report and the winners, there were some commonalities that presented themselves. These are some of the points that are important for us to know:

  • 70% of winners used SharePoint
  • The intranet project team size has doubled!
    • Average team member size is increase up to 18 members (AT&T had 107
  • Inception to launch average creation time is 3.5 years, this year's average is 2.3 years
  • In 2004 4/10 winners used external consultants, this is up to 8/10 last year
    • External consultants are increasingly being used due to
      • Specific skill
      • Add credibility to employee perspective
  • The best intranets involved people from the organization at the inception stage of the intranet (very beginning)
    • Content Owners and Writers were met with early on in order to cut, edit and/or provide feedback for content
    • This gave adequate time for migrating, testing and optimizing content

What’s trending?

From taking a look at the winners and what they built we get a sense of where the trends are headed for intranet development. The following list outlines some of these trends:

  • Mega menus- Heavily customized menus that provide additional navigation cues for end users and enhanced usability features
  • Video channels- Video capabilities providing end users with things like on demand training
  • Focus on personal profile pages for employee directories
  • Personalized homepages
  • Feeds from organization's Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts on home page
  • Using facets/filters for search
  • Actionable links in people search suggestions (that let users email, call, bookmark contact)
  • Only 1 winner had a dedicated mobile version of the intranet (AT&T), this growth has seemed to pause
    • Common Barriers:
      • Data security concerns
      • Difficulty choosing a platform
      • Lack of resource to create design 
      • Uncertainty whether to implement full feature set or a sub set via an app

What lessons can be learned?

There are definitely some things that we learned by reviewing the 10 Best Intranets Report. Here are some important points to note in order to have a successful intranet implementation:

  • Plan to customize SharePoint to get best benefits (bringing in external consultants necessity)
  • Workers need to be educated around collaboration spaces (how and when to use sites)
  • Branding takes time and most often a SharePoint specialist
  • Keep permissions simple
  • Employees need guidance on how to use new features

There are two ways to learn, either by making your own mistakes or learning from others. By studying reports like these we can see what others have done right or wrong and tweak our own methods of doing things. By reviewing and studying these “lessons learned” we have adjusted our project delivery process and methodology to make sure we deliver intranets that are usable, well adopted and innovative.