A conversation between Jake Weaver, CEO of Codesigned, and Alison Davis, CEO of Davis & Company.
Alison: Hi, Jake. Can you believe that it’s been six months since we sat down and talked about the role of an intranet in internal communication?
Jake: Seems like a lifetime.
Alison: Well, everything’s changed in just a few frantic weeks.
Jake: Frantic is a good word for how it’s felt to both leaders and communicators. They were used to operating at a measured pace, then suddenly there’s been an urgent need to communicate right now . . . and to make sure everyone in the organization receives information in real time.
Alison: I know that one challenge has been gathering and preparing that information.
Jake: Of course. But there’s another issue: People in some organizations were surprised at how clunky and slow their intranets turned out to be.
Alison: What do you mean?
Jake: Many companies have been limping along with outdated platforms that are difficult to use. Before all this happened, those platforms were just inconvenient. But when the COVID-19 crisis hit, it became impossible to communicate quickly and completely using old technology.
Alison: I like the word “completely.” One issue that I’ve been raising for years is there are still employees in many organizations who don’t have easy access to information. People in such roles as manufacturing, transportation, retail, distribution, maintenance—they don’t sit at a desk, so it’s hard for them to be connected.
Jake: And in a crisis like this one, that lack of access creates serious problems.
Alison: So what’s your advice?
Jake: It’s time for every organization to pull the plug on their old platform and build a modern intranet.
Alison: What do you mean by “modern”?
Jake: An intranet should be as attractive and user-friendly as your internet. The goal is an experience that’s easy and intuitive.
Alison: And of course, as you mentioned earlier, a key success factor is having the content employees need. That starts with information that’s current, useful and relevant.
Jake: Absolutely. And then you have to go deeper—to make sure employees can find information they need to do their jobs every day.
Alison: Critical content has to be organized and packaged in a way that employees prefer.
Jake: And you need to build the core applications your employees want. In most organizations, that wish list includes a calendar, a social network and the ability to participate by commenting, liking and posting.
Alison: Of course, all of this needs to be accessible via mobile devices, so that everyone in the organization can access all this good stuff.
Jake: Whenever and wherever they are working.
Alison: That all sounds good, but I know what communicators and IT people are thinking: Building such an intranet is a monumental undertaking.
Jake: It doesn’t have to be. When an organization decides it’s time to revamp its intranet, the effort often stalls because everyone wants everything to be perfect and complete. But the reality is that a platform like SharePoint allows you to build a core, then keep adding and improving as you go.
Alison: As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good.
Jake: That’s right. My advice is to think of your intranet as a food truck, not a 200-seat restaurant. You can serve lunch to employees—so you satisfy their hunger for content—while you’re still figuring out your dinner menu.
Alison: One thing I’ve learned is that an intranet is never finished; it’s always a work in progress. That’s why you need to make sure you set up a system and a team to keep your site fresh.
Jake: It takes effort, for sure. But it’s worthwhile. In today’s complex organizations, an intranet is the best way to give employees the information they need to work productively.
Thanks to Alison Davis at Davis & Company for joining in this conversation.