Why do intranets fail?

Every major software project is an investment that carries with it some level of risk. Before you set out, it’s important to understand where it could fall down, and what steps you can take to ensure its success.

The biggest problem for an intranet is poor take-up of the new system. Even the best intranet is pointless if your staff fail to adopt it as their own. There isn’t one simple answer to the challenge of user adoption – but if you get a number of key factors right, then it will help the rest fall into place. Intranets can fall at the first hurdle because they fail to meet the needs of users and of your

Know what you want

You need to start with a very clear picture of what you want. If you’re replacing your intranet with a more modern one, then you might already have a good idea of the features users are crying out for. Either way, it’s vital to define the requirements for your new intranet first. Don’t think in terms of features – your requirements should be the ‘questions’ to which the features of an intranet are the ‘answers’. You can learn how to define your business requirements in our earlier blog post on this topic.

Failing to understand your users’ needs at the beginning can kill an intranet project in the worst possible way: you’ll only know it’s dead in the water once it’s been paid for, built and launched. An intranet should also be an opportunity to solve underlying issues. Users will lose confidence in your new intranet if you replicate existing workarounds or fail to consolidate existing systems. You can help identify intranet issues and needs early on through exercises like a card sort.

Get everyone behind you

Your project will suffer if it lacks support across the business. You should take time to win over unconvinced stakeholders, and resolve political issues around the project. Are IT, Communications and Management all on the same page? Consider what blocks they might put up to introducing such a significant new system, and what you can do to allay their fears. Read more about listening to stakeholders and creating a strong business case for your intranet in our previous blog post.

Do your best to dispel fears over a new system, and encourage people to see it as a useful addition to their working lives, not an imposition. Many users will have strongly-held assumptions about what an intranet is, or what SharePoint can or can’t do. They will be well-meant, and perhaps even based on past experiences, but you should do your best to communicate the fact that a modern intranet is a quite different beast to the horror stories of yore. Read up on how intranets have changed.

Accelerate your intranet

You can avoid many common pitfalls by using a turnkey intranet solution, such as our Kira intranet. There are certain core features that are common to every intranet, and a solution like Kira comes with these features already built and tested.

We find that Kira’s baked-in features cover off most requirements of any new intranet project. We call it an ‘intranet accelerator’, because it significantly reduces the timescales, costs and risks associated with a new intranet. Things like a working intranet search, intuitive navigation and straightforward publishing are difficult to get right in a bespoke system, but come as standard with an intranet accelerator.

Kira speeds you past the road bumps, straight to the point where you can either start using the intranet, or work with us to add any features that are unique to your users’ needs. In fact, with the Office 365 version, Kira Cloud, you can have a fully-featured intranet ready to use in just a few days.

Get everyone involved

Once you get closer to launching your intranet, there are a few more things you can do to avoid failure. Again, the focus should be on ensuring users don’t reject the intranet, by taking steps to involve them before they have access to it. One way is to involve everyone across the business in naming the intranet – they’ll be the ones seeing it every day, after all.

You can also appoint intranet champions – people who know their area of the business well, who can be early adopters of the intranet, and who can drum up interest in it to ensure users are on board. Intranet champions can also help prevent another challenge – lack of adequate employee training. By giving your champions a higher level of training, you can enable them to deliver informal support and supplemental training to their colleagues where needed. The presence of an intranet ‘expert’ in each team is a considerable reassurance to those who might need a little extra help to understand how it works.

Believe in your intranet

A lack of confidence leading to failure isn’t restricted to users, either. The intranet team must have the confidence to shut down the systems that the new intranet has replaced. They can only do this if they’re confident the systems work, and that users have adopted them. Again, user take-up of the system is key at every stage.

Finally, once your intranet’s up and running, and people are using it, you’re on the home straight – right? The fact is, your intranet needs to be regularly tended to if you want it to continue to be a success. A lack of fresh content can reflect poor support across the business, whether that’s a disinterested marketing team or one that continues to use a rival platform, senior staff who don’t want to blog, or users in general who aren’t engaged enough to use social features. That’s why it’s so important to engage users early on, and to keep them engaged.

Find out more about Kira, our world-class enterprise intranet – available on Office 365 and on-premise.

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