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Modern Intranet Buyer's Guide: Choosing the Right Fit for Your Organization

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Building an intranet is never as simple as standing up a site and walking away. As your organization thinks about its intranet implementation, you’ve likely had conversations about content management, ownership and governance, mobility, and more. What you might not have discussed though, is the range of intranet configurations that are available and the features that are necessary for your particular needs.

All intranets are not created equal. Each option has its own benefits, but with keeping your particular business-cases in mind, you can certainly find the one that meets your expectations. Whether you choose an intranet-in-a-box, a custom digital workplace, or a scalable option in between is up to you. We’re here to provide insight into the three separate options that we see in the industry, and some insight into which one might be right for you.



  • Standard intranet features and functions

  • Quick deployment of the templated “in the box” approach 

  • One-size-fits-all look, feel, structure, information architecture, and content types

  • Adherence to provided templates makes for very limited design opportunity

  • Difficult to expand beyond what comes in the box

Definition: An intranet site with standard functions and features like an employee directory, company calendar, and news feed. It includes some basic branding (company colors and logo).

Benefits: An intranet-in-a-box provides the fastest time-to-value of the options described here. It’s a standard implementation that you can spin up quickly, and for a very reasonable price.

Who should use it: A standard intranet is a good fit for organizations who are looking to satisfy a very specific need (such as reducing email volume by delivering company-wide communications in a single location) and who want to get up and running very quickly.

A word of caution: The issue that intranet-in-a-box customers typically run into is that once they get to the edges of what the product can deliver and start pushing the boundaries, it starts to fall apart. So, if you’re thinking about expanding your intranet capabilities in the future, an intranet-in-a-box might not be a good fit for you in the long term.

Otterbein University

Otterbein University In 2016, Otterbein University sought to improve their faculty and student intranet built on SharePoint Online. The university required a system where content updates are easily managed and maintained by department shareholders, without reliance on the IT department. Furthermore, timely campus information and apps needed to be accessible on mobile devices for students, staff and faculty who often work in a deskless capacity. In early 2017, Otterbein University used Akumina’s out-of-the-box templates and decoupled approach to launch a mobile-first, university-branded site that allows rapid, effortless updates by designated non-technical constituents on the front end, and IT admin-managed security and permissions on the backend using SharePoint and Active Directory.


Employee Experience Platforms

  • Starts from a strong foundation of best-in-breed information architecture, features, and functions
  • Included all the capabilities of the intranet-in-a-box plus many of the collaboration and communications advancements your organization needs
  • Built on a scalable platform that gets you up and running quickly, but doesn’t limit you in any way
  • Designed specifically to the needs of your brand and your design style using a Design-Led-Thinking methodology
  • No design limitations whatsoever



What is it: An enhanced version of an intranet-in-a-box, which includes a best-in-breed information architecture, the features and functions of an intranetin-a-box, plus the added value of a personalized design and a scalable platform that can grow with your business.

Who should use it: An employee experience platform is a step up from an intranet-in-a-box. It’s a good fit for organizations who want to deliver a personalized intranet experience to their users and who value the design flexibility that allows them to deliver a branded user interface. Employee experience platform customers often view their initial deployment as a stepping stone to a more robust solution, and can even eventually build out a custom digital workplace-style implementation.

Church's Chicken

Church’s Chicken The team at Church’s Chicken was on a mission to create a more engaging intranet site for their employees. Their outdated SharePoint implementation was bland and lackluster. Implementing the Akumina employee experience platform allowed them to build upon their existing O365 implementation to create a fully-branded, redesigned intranet site that saw adoption and engagement skyrocket. The final solution was a new, modern intranet platform that is easily accessible to all users on any device. It features Team Church’s branding, including bold colors, logos, photos, and font. The team also focused on organizing content with a well-executed user experience for staff and employees to easily get to the information most relevant to them. End users feel engaged with the ability to interact with one another through Church’s Chatter and have a stronger sense of belonging to the brand. The new Team Church’s has been more efficient and user-friendly increasing productivity and improving employee satisfaction.

Want to learn more about Church's Chicken's intranet experience?  Download the case study today. 


Custom Digital Workspace

  • Starts from a blank canvas but with guidance from a strong foundation and best practices
  • Includes all the capabilities of the intranet-in-a-box, collaboration and communications advancements, plus several third-party integrations to create a seamless single pane of glass experience
  • Designed specifically to the needs of your organization, without limitation
  • Integrated across your entire stack
  • Organization-specific content types and information architecture
  • Advanced search capabilities that go beyond what is possible out of the box


What is it: A built-from-scratch system with custom information architecture and content types, unlimited design capabilities, more than 200 features and functions, and full tech stack integration.

Who should use it: The best candidates for a custom digital workplace are enterprise organizations who don’t want a one-size-fits-all intranet, and who have a significant amount of time and funding to build a full platform from a blank canvas. For these organizations, the ends justify the means. Custom digital workplaces provide organizations with all the functionality and features that they need, the personalized content and design that they want, and integrations for all the applications that they use.

A word of caution: Fully custom digital workplaces are expensive and can be time-consuming. If you’re leery of the financial or time commitment, you might consider implementing an employee experience platform and scaling upward to a more custom build in the future.


GSK was focused on improving employee engagement and productivity by delivering a cutting-edge, mobile-first digital hub to support their more than 130,000 global employees. With the Akumina platform, GSK built a hub that pulls data from Active Directory and uses machine learning to surface content, links, and data from third-party systems that is relevant to individual users based on business unit, role, location, and behavior (applications frequently used, documents frequently used, types of content most consumed, and more).

All of the content displayed in the GSK hub is available in multiple languages to accommodate GSK’s global workforce, and users have the flexibility to change the language with a simple click. The employee hub drives productivity offering seamless integration with multiple back-end systems to reduce the number of applications and clicks employees make to perform day-to-day tasks associated with their job.

Want to learn more about GSK's platform?  Download the case study today.

Our Recommendation

You can’t go wrong with an Employee Experience Platform.

Though a product (intranet-in-a-box) can get you up and running quickly and provide a decent number of common templated features, the issue lies in the limitations it levies on an organization who wants to go beyond what fits in the box.

Conversely, a custom digital workplace provides the ability to start from what is essentially a ball of clay. You can mold it and form it and use it to create anything you want; the issue you have is that you don’t start from anything – it’s just a raw piece of clay. Without foundational elements and out of the box capabilities, you can build your platform to your specific needs, but everything needs to be created from scratch.

An Employee Experience Platform sits squarely in the middle of both a product and a custom digital workplace, delivering a strong foundation and immense out-of-the-box capabilities while simultaneously providing a scalable and extensible platform that will mature and grow with your needs and requirements for years to come. It won’t box you in.


Where Akumina Fits In

Ultimately, the Akumina software platform is exactly what you need it to be. As a product (intranet-in-a-box), our foundation site can deliver a straightforward and intuitive design. As a platform, you begin with our foundation site and add as many design features as you want so that you have a personalized, collaborative site that is fully branded to meet your expectations.

Akumina combines the best features of each option in one unified solution. Using a decoupled approach that allows you to configure management apps and presentation widgets separately, Akumina’s platform creates personalized experiences for your entire workforce from your C-suite, through your knowledge workers, and to your deskless staff. Whether delivering a quick return on interest with hundreds of out-of-the-box components or tying into the back-end platform for a more in-depth, custom build, Akumina delivers the right option for each organization’s modern workplace initiative.

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