5 Tips for Driving Intranet Adoption Rates

One of the questions we frequently get asked from customers is:

How can we build and deploy a new corporate intranet that will actually get used?

Many organizations believe in the what I like to call the “field of dreams” approach of “if you build it they will come”, but we know that is not always a practical reality.  Akumina’s experience with thousands of enterprises tells us that this is far from the truth and that most organizations suffer from deploying an intranet that employees don’t use after the initial launch.

In fact, we see it all the time.  An organization spends countless hours strategizing, planning and building the new backbone of productivity for the company – and it is unveiled to the employees in a big and exciting event – and then everyone begins to use the new platform… for a little bit.

At Akumina, we call this the “shiny new toy” effect.   Every day consumers purchase new products that they believe will change the way they ‘do things’ for the better.  What plays out is that most of these ‘shiny new toys’ provide satisfaction initially, but over time, that level of satisfaction drops and the product becomes used less– and in many cases, reverts back to simply doing things the way they used to.

Intranets are no different.  A new intranet gives employees a promise of a more collaborative, more productive, more revolutionary way of doing their job, finding information and interacting with co-workers.  Unfortunately, our experience shows that in many cases that goal is never realized – and – after a [usually short] period of time, employees simply revert to doing things the same way they used to and rendering that new intranet as shelf-ware.

We recently did an intranet launch study with one of our customers who wanted to ensure their new intranet didn’t fall into this trap the way they had with their last ‘new intranet’ deployment 5 years ago.

The chart below depicts two intranet launches for the same organization specifically tracking active use of the tool over the first 4 months of launch.  For the purposes of this research, active use was defined as the percent of employees that logged into / used the intranet on a daily work-day basis.  The blue line depicts their legacy intranet launched on SharePoint 2010 (in 2011) and the red line depicts the organization’s new intranet launch with Akumina and Office 365 (in 2016).


Prior to 2011, this organization did not have a centralized intranet for the entire company – for all intents and purposes, the launch in February 2011 was their first.   The SP2010 launch saw an immediate spike in active use – jumping to 56% of all employees using the tool every day.  Seemingly not bad, right?  The problem was that after countless hours of research, design and building the final product that was launched was actually very basic – supporting only single-stream news articles, basic calendar functions and SharePoint-based-experience document collaboration. Additionally, the site was custom built and extremely ridged.  It could not be easily updated without significant IT intervention, there was no vision or ability for added features and functions without significant investments in time and capital.

Over the next 4 months’ active usage dropped to 17% – and after 2 years under 10%.  The intranet failed to change or enhance the way this company fundamentally did business.

Fast-forward to 2016 – the organization had a very specific goal.  “We cannot fail again”.

So how does a customer like this change ensure success? How do you launch an intranet and keep adoption rates?

At Akumina, we believe the secret-sauce is by delivering above expectations with capabilities that empower the user to be able to do their job better.   A big part of this is the continuous adding of value with a platform that supports the evolution of your intranet for all of you employees.

We’ve broken out the five top features we believe an intranet platform should deliver to ensure your continuously adding value to employees – and we know it works.  If you look at the same customer – while the Akumina-launched intranet saw a similar ‘spike’ in usage at launch – in the 9 months since launch active use has doubled and currently sits at 83%.  That is over eighty-percent of 12,000 employees getting continuous value from the new intranet on Akumina.

Five Must-Haves for Driving Intranet Adoption Rates

1.) Easy to Use & Manage

 Have you ever spent more money on something because it was aesthetically pleasing over another option, but after time you had buyers’ remorse because after the aesthetics faded you realized it didn’t meet all of your needs?

It’s easy to get caught up in the graphical appearance of an intranet platform project.  Wooing your users will make a good first impression but it’s important to ensure you’re always looking at the strategic big picture. Understanding who will is your target audience and who will need to interact with the intranet and your content beyond the pretty interface, this is where the initial development focus should and needs to be spent.

Time after time we hear customers complain that they never reached phase 2+ of the intranet project because too much time after launching phase 1 was trapped in the day-to-day issues of running the new intranet that they didn’t account for because the platform wasn’t intuitive for their people to use.

Employees perform everything today via Apps on their mobile devices and I bet if you asked your employees if they’ve read the manual to any of the apps on their cell phone they’d probably look at you like you had three heads. Yes, that’s right most apps on your cell phone come equipped with documentation on how to use the app. It’s surprising, because for most apps you don’t need instructions – they are intuitive by design. The task your employees perform on the intranet such as adding news articles, finding documents, creating a personalized dashboard, running reports and more should be easy and intuitive to use without needing lots of training or burdening your support team or power users. If not, your employees will quickly find easier ways to complete their job which puts your intranet at risk of not staying relevant and employees shadowing IT with other consumer-like software programs, not protected under your IT infrastructure.

2.) Focus on what will save your employees’ time

One of the core objectives of your intranet should be a focus on providing features that will save your employees’ time.  If an employee finds immediate value out of the intranet they will keep coming back for more. Furthermore, employees will feel valued.  Rather than just throwing another shiny tool with lots of bells and whistle at them, you’ve provided a tool that helps them become more productive in their daily life and at work. 

3.) Front Door to a Digital Workplace

 An intranet should be the front door to your ‘digital workplace’. Employees are required to access multiple applications throughout the day to perform their job. An intranet should reflect this and be the gateway to all the digital intelligence that encompasses your workplace. Choose a platform that can provide direct access or directly integrate into the business systems that span across your organization. Direct integration can create a huge time savings and reduce the support burdens of the complexity of having multiple business systems for users to have to login and be trained on.

4.) Personalized and Contextual

 An intranet should be smart; it should predict what employees want and need and deliver it. Think of a “digital mentor” that can guide and advise employees with whatever task at hand to perform their job more effectively. Just as customers and prospects have a journey, our employees have a journey too. Ensure employees are delivered messages that are relevant to their individual role, goals, location, language, and any other attribute unique to the employee. New employees should receive content that is helpful to on-boarding over a series of weeks while employees with a longer tenure should receive content that helps further their development or keeps them productive within their specific role. Furthermore, ensure you understand how your employees consume content and what’s appropriate for each region – different roles, departments, and locations will have different levels of accessibility (device type, language, image/video rendering) and expectations when it comes to content. If content is not personalized or unique to employees they will not feel a sense of value out of the intranet, everything outside of our work lives is personalized – from the emails you receive, the alerts you have configured, to what advertisements you see, everything is derived from big data.

5.) Relevancy

We talked about personalized content, but let’s not forget about relevant content. Often we hear from end-user’s things like:

“what’s the point of using the intranet if it’s never updated?”

“Oh, you got that document off that intranet – I wouldn’t’ trust that version.”

What is the purpose of the intranet if you can’t trust the content distributed? This goes back to a previous point that the intranet must be easy to manage because if the intranet is too hard to manage or not easy to update with fresh and relevant content, employees will utilize other sources. I don’t think many intranet’s get second chances, if an employee has a difficult time finding something or was burnt by an out of date document they will most likely never go back forcing employees to quickly go back to their old ways of saving docs locally and flooding their peers with questions when the answers could have been provided in a self-sufficient manner via the intranet.

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