X

A Brilliant Guide To Intranet Platform Selection

POSTED ON 
June 12, 2024

Choosing an intranet platform can be daunting. These days, internal comms pros have so many options and considerations to keep in mind.

Intranets have become a core component of workplace communication ecosystems since they enable employees to build connections and empower their work.

That’s why it's crucial to choose the solution that best fits the needs of your organization. However, decision-makers can quickly become overwhelmed by the slew of options .

That's where we come in. Consider this blog your starting point as you set forth on your intranet journey. Here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind when taking on this task.

Understanding Your Intranet Needs

When you're thinking about what good looks like, we’re firm believers that all intranets should be:

  • Customizable, with accessible design in mind
  • An important source of employee engagement metrics
  • Search-optimized with solid governance in place
  • Simple to navigate and provide a streamlined “front door” to other tools
  • Visually dynamic and mobile-ready

Keep in mind, the criteria above are table stakes. You’ll need to consider several other factors for your organization when doing your research.

Assessing Organizational Requirements

Shocker: You must evaluate your organizational needs. Start by engaging with key stakeholders to learn more about their needs and preferences.

Ask questions like: What are the specific departmental requirements? How will the solution support broader company goals? By doing this, you include stakeholders from the start, which gives you an advantage when looking to gain their buy-in during decision-making time.

Next, look at your current processes and systems to identify the key pain points and ways a new solution could help streamline operations and improve efficiency.

Finally, you’ll want to consider your longer-term organizational strategy. The right solution for your company will be one that can scale through transformation and growth.  

User Analysis

Understanding your employee base is a necessary step to ensure your intranet is accessible and user-friendly. Be sure to consider technical skill levels, demographics, and work environments in your research. Accessibility standards, user testing and feedback will all help in creating an inclusive experience for your employees.

Feature Requirements

To help meet organizational needs, work to identify the essential features you are looking for in your solution. Here are some features to watch for:

  • Collaboration
    Look for discussion forums, chat functionality and project management tools to help facilitate collaboration.
  • Content Management
    Capabilities including document storage, version control and easy content publishing will help streamline content management processes.
  • Search Functions
    Advanced search options like tagging and filtering will be instrumental in ensuring users find what they need efficiently.
  • Customization
    Customizable dashboards and user interfaces are a few ways to keep your intranet on brand.
  • Analytics and Reporting
    Features that provide user engagement and content performance insights will help drive your intranet strategy.
  • Security
    User access controls, encryption and compliance with relevant regulations (GDPR, SOC2, HIPPA) will go a long way in protecting sensitive employee information.

To help narrow down your list of providers, we recommend breaking down your essential features into tiers:

  • Gateway to Entry: These are criteria any potential platform vendor MUST meet before you agree to schedule a sales or demo call.
  • Critical: The platform must have these things for short-list consideration.
  • Important/Nice-to-Have: The platform should accommodate these features in the future and may require additional development or integration with another product.

Exploring Available Intranet Solutions

Once you’ve determined what your essential needs are, it’s time to start exploring providers. You can start narrowing down your provider list by first determining what type of solution you’re looking for. You should connect with your IT department to learn what’s possible and identify what’s essential.

Here are some types of intranet solutions you’ll find:

  • Cloud-Based Solutions
    Cloud solutions are hosted on the provider’s servers and are accessible via the internet. These are great for organizations looking for a scalable, flexible solution with minimal IT maintenance.
  • On-Premises Solutions
    On-premises intranets are hosted on an organization's servers allowing for more control over data and security. For organizations with specific compliance requirements or a desire to manage their infrastructure, this is a great option.
  • Hybrid Solutions
    Hybrid solutions marry the best of both on-premises and cloud-based by allowing critical data to be stored on-site, while also leveraging the cloud for additional flexibility.


As you’re deciding what solution is best for you, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Implementation & Management ✅
    Proper implementation and management are crucial for ensuring security. On-premises solutions will require more hands-on management from your IT department, while cloud solutions rely on the platform’s security procedures.
  • Compliance Requirements ✅
    Total control over data and storage make on-premises platforms the preferred solution for companies with strict compliance or regulatory requirements.
  • IT Resources ✅
    Cloud-based solutions are great for companies with smaller IT teams or limited resources with maintenance and security being handled by the provider.
  • Business Continuity ✅
    Redundancy and disaster recover capabilities give cloud-based intranets a leg-up in providing better business continuity than their on-premises counterparts.  

Technical Considerations

THINK ABOUT INTEGRATION

Adding a new system to your organization's technology landscape is disruptive enough. Make your (and IT’s!) lives easier by making sure the intranet solution plays nicely with the software and systems you’re already using including HR systems (HRIS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, project management tools and email providers.

CONSIDER SCALABILITY

Investing in an intranet is a big commitment, so you want a platform that is going to be with you for the long-haul. Flexible user management and adaptable infrastructures will provide the flexibility you need as your organization grows. Modular features or add-ons that can be activated as needed are a great way to evolve your system over time.

Be sure to ask your vendor if it has conducted performance and load testing and enquire about how the platform does during spikes in usage. Lastly, be sure your vendor is implementing continuous improvements and updates.

VALIDATE SECURITY

Intranets house monumental amounts of company and employee information which is why security is key. Your intranet solution must employ data encryption to protect your data. Implementing granular access controls will help keep sensitive information secure and curb the risk of internal breaches.

From a regulatory standpoint, be sure to verify that your platform complies with relevant regulations and industry standards. Your solution should undergo routine security audits and talk to your vendor about developing an incident response plan to mitigate and address breaches.  

Budgeting and Resource Allocation

Intranets are a big investment that must be viewed holistically. It’s important to look at not only the initial investment, but ongoing costs as well. Setup costs (licensing, hardware, initial fees), customization fees, employee training and ongoing maintenance, including updates, tech support and vendor services can add up. You’ll also want to account for scalability – the future costs you will potentially incur should you need to uplevel your system to accommodate for organizational growth.

When thinking about the potential return-on-investment (ROI) from deploying a new intranet, we recommend looking at four key factors:

  1. Productivity: Analyze the impact improved communication, collaboration and streamlined processes will have on employee productivity.
  2. Cost Savings: Identify ways the intranet will reduce costs across the business. You can use estimated time-saved as one metric for cost savings.
  3. Employee Engagement: Consider how the intranet can improve employee satisfaction and engagement, which in turn can reduce turnover and boost cost savings.
  4. Operational Efficiency: Assess how the intranet can assist in operational efficiency, which will ultimately lead to faster decision-making.

Evaluation Strategies

DEMOS

Before you buy a car, you take it for a test drive. The same rule applies when it comes to purchasing an intranet solution. Plan to do a vendor demo with all the platforms on your short-list. Same as entering a car dealership, come armed with your tiered features list and questions.

18 Questions To EvaluatE Intranet Vendors

For our fellow communication pros out there, these are some questions we recommend having in your back pocket:

Publishing

  1. Can the platform target news/updates to certain groups of employees based on data from the HRIS/SSO/AD? (Department, employment type, location, etc.)
  2. Is the content management interface optimized for efficient multi-channel publishing? Can you schedule multi-channel campaigns? (e.g., mobile news feed, newsletters, emails, etc.)
  3. Does the platform allow for visual customization and branding?
  4. What about multimedia? (e.g., video/photo embedding)
  5. Does the platform allow you to schedule posts/emails?
  6. Can admins post on behalf of others? (ghost publishing)
  7. Is there an Editorial Calendar that is either built in or integrated with the platform?

Implementation

  1. Do you have an in-house team? Or do you use third-party vendors?
  2. Do you provide templates, user guides, and/or training as part of your implementation package?

User Experience

  1. Does the platform include a personalized newsfeed on the enduser’s homepage with news from groups they belong to?
  2. Does the platform support language localization or translation?
  3. Does the platform integrate with Google calendar? Slack? Microsoft 365?

Measurement

  1. What metrics and analytics are available?
  2. What are the reporting capabilities?

Governance

  1. What is your data retention policy?
  2. Will contributors/admins be able to set content expiration dates and review content before it expires?
  3. Can you explain the content approval workflow for your platform? (e.g., editing, versioning, reviewing, final production)
  4. Are contributors/admins able to see content creation and revision history? Are there audit trails that allow users to go back to previous content versions?

Trials

In addition to demos, product trials are a great way to gain some hands-on experience and evaluate the core functionalities of the tool to determine how they align with your organizational needs.

As you’re exploring, be sure to create some real-world scenarios based on your company’s process and workflows to understand how the tool handles different tasks and potentially surface any issues. Talk to users across different departments during your trial period – ask for insights on how the tool performed against their specific departmental needs in addition to general feedback.

Assessing Vendor Support

Support during your trial period will provide you with a sense of what to expect should you become a customer. As with most technology these days, things can go awry, so assessing vendor support is crucial during the evaluation stage.

Start by reviewing their support channels and availability – for organizations with a global presence, 24/7 support is going to be key. Inquire about average response times for support requests and whether they will provide you with a dedicated account manager. Review their service level agreements (SLAs) to understand their service guarantees, including uptime, performance metrics and penalties for failure to meet standards. Look for training and onboarding services for your employees, including tutorials and webinars. And finally, look at what others say by reading customer reviews and testimonials.

Making The Decision

If you’ve made it to this step, congratulations! You’ve done your homework and you’re ready to select your intranet platform. This is usually the part where people say, one of the hardest parts is over.

Spoiler Alert: You’ve got a bit more to do. The intranet rollout will demand a lot of strategy and care, but you’re almost there.

Creating a decision matrix is a great way to help compare options. Start by identifying your provider finalists and the key criteria your provider must have to fit your organizational needs such as cost, scalability, user experience, integration and vendor support.

Assess each platform against the outlined features making note of whether it or not the solution has the feature and any other relevant notes.

Sample Platform Matrix

To make this process more objective you can assign weights to your outlined criteria and rate each platform on a scale from 1 (lowest rating) to 5 (highest rating) based on how well it meets your needs.

Calculate the weighted average (criteria weight x rating) for each feature and add them up to calculate the platform’s total score. Generally, the platform with the highest score will be the one best suited to fit your needs.

Sample Platform Matrix (with Ratings)

Make sure you are collaborating with key stakeholders throughout the decision-making process and that all feedback and inputs are taken into consideration and documented. You’ll give them a sense of ownership which will go a long way in maintaining buy-in long-term. This will help ensure the platform you select meets the diverse needs of the organization and make implementation and user-adoption much smoother in the long run.

You’ve Reached the Finish Line

The process of selecting an intranet platform for your organization is not easy, and requires a lot of thought, collaboration and resources. But taking the time to conduct due diligence and understand your needs, evaluate organizational requirements, analyze features and evaluate vendors will ensure you make an informed decision.

A successful intranet must not only be a technological fit, but it must seamlessly integrate into your organization’s culture, enhance the employee experience and drive engagement. The selection process is a journey, but Brilliant Ink is here to help you choose a solution that’s right for you.

Sonia Segal-Smith
SENIOR MANAGER, STRATEGY

You might also like

Want To Earn A Great Place To Work Award? Start Here.

Workplace awards can help set your organization apart from competitors and attract top talent. Here’s where to start before you apply to be a Great Place To Work.

Read more
5 Essential Steps To Prepare Your Organization for AI

Internal comms has a major role to play in preparing organizations for AI adoption. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 steps to ensure your org is ready for this seismic shift.

Read more
A Brilliant Guide To Employee Onboarding

Improving employee onboarding can be a major win for internal communicators. You'll boost employee retention, satisfaction, and overall job performance.

Read more