We live in an age where technology is not just progressing; it's sprinting. Innovation is reshaping the landscape of the digital world at breakneck speed. When we think we've reached a peak, the next wave of change comes crashing in, pushing boundaries and reinventing norms. This tempo used to be fast, but the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has shot us into hyperdrive.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of workplace communication, specifically, the Intranet. Often dismissed as a relic of the past, the humble Intranet has quietly but steadily been keeping pace with technological evolution. Today, it's relevant and an integral part of the digital fabric that weaves businesses together.
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Now, let's dive into
All to answer the question: Does the Intranet still matter in this AI-driven, hyper-speed era of technology? or if you're more visual, watch this video clip from our EX Masterclass.
Let's embark on a little journey back in time. The Intranet, a cornerstone of employee communication experience, has seen quite the evolution over the years.
It started as a static, IT-managed table of content-style pages that only IT could update. This evolved to allow the business to publish and manage the pages themselves. Shifting the accessibility from IT to business led by corporate communications to create and manage pages led to an explosion of Intranet growth and innovation.
What's more, for the first time now that the business was empowered to create pages and content easily, it became important to target information to audiences to help guide the employee navigation journey. This was offset by the introduction (for many) of search, empowering some to find the content and services not easily found via established pages and navigation experiences built by the business with IT support.
Yet over time, to many, this style of the Intranet felt limiting, with its one-way flow and management of information and navigation from leadership and management to employees.
In the next wave, we witnessed some considerable changes. With the introduction of enterprise social, intranets underwent a significant transformation. They became more engaging platforms, encouraging two-way interactions such as comments, interactions such as liking, and content sharing.
Employee participation in story submission became more frequent. The Intranet became a two-way communication tool enabling the corporate communications teams and all employees to engage and participate, not just consume information and services.
The advent of more advanced technology has enabled the Intranet to shift from being a mere repository of content to a personalized, digital workplace hub. We've gone beyond simple interactions and two-way communication to targeted audience experiences. Instead of static content, we have shifted to dynamic content that is more relevant to that employee where possible.
Search was greatly impacted by both technological progress and these changes where even searching had to be personalized to remember your search behavior and adapt results based on not only who you were and what you had access to but what you found useful based on prior search activities. Intranets today support a level of personalization that was inconceivable in its early days.
In previous iterations of the Intranet, it expanded in who could access, impact, and guide its growth. Each time it expanded access and contribution, it increased business impact and value. From IT to business leader enablement with the transitions in the 1.0era, it enabled the links, content, and services to be maintained more easily and became much more relevant for employees.
In the 2.0 era, it expanded from IT, Comms, and HR to business leaders like department heads, regional leaders, and more while empowering employees to consume, signal, provide feedback, and engage further. Not only that, but over time, it became smarter, more dynamic, and more personalized to employees' needs blending more employee choices while driving higher relevance.
There were three remaining challenges with Intranets as we approach the Intranets of today.
· The first challenge was that they remained a 'place to go' and disconnected from the flow of everyday employee work. What we always wanted wasn't an Intranet but the content, services, and more it represents to be available wherever we are working and integrated into our workflow.
· The second challenge was that while employees had ways to engage, they didn't have the same capabilities as leaders or trained communication experts. This challenge was one of empowerment and skills and left a gap in potential latent business value that wasn't realized.
· Lastly, the third challenge was that Intranets could be targeted and personalized but couldn't be predictive. How do we bring the content or service to the employee before they need to go look for it?
All three challenges are being addressed with modern Intranets today (or Intranets 3.0).
One might argue that the defining change in this most recent Intranet cycle was the shift from the user going to the Intranet to the Intranet coming to the user. In recent years, many organizations have begun transitioning to what we classify as Intranet 3.0.This era of intranets engages people in the flow of their work. Rather than being a separate entity, the Intranet has become an integrated part of the digital workplace.
That's a game-changer for corporate communication leaders and human resource support leaders. The conversation is no longer about how we can bring people to our Intranet but rather about identifying valuable content and services and bringing them to the users in the context of their work and in the places they already work. This was made possible by the improvements in personalization, integration, and the underlying technology.
As two quick examples:
· Microsoft Viva Connections empower Intranets to blend through the unified feed and integrated dashboard key services and integration into the Intranet experience while bringing it into prioritized everyday productivity tools like Microsoft Teams.
· Microsoft Viva Topics can bring the Intranet, content, experts, and services into the flow of users' work, whether in Outlook, Teams, SharePoint Sites/Pages, or Office Applications like Microsoft Word. Not only can it do that, but it helps maintain this using AI to dynamically generate and continually make relevant these topic pages while also being interwoven into those experiences employees already use for their work.
AI has brought a new level of dynamism to intranets. AI isn't a novelty anymore; it has real implications for intranet functionality. Features like Microsoft 365's feed, which connects Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, and more, offer a centralized place for users to interact and share, but there are other important things it brings to the table.
With Copilot in SharePoint, employees without the skills to create compelling pages are now empowered to do so from existing documents and resources they already know and have. This doesn't just mean creating sites and pages for employees is easy. Still, it helps beyond great design support by enabling employees who don't have great communication or writing skills to have them courtesy of AI writing assistance and more.
This will empower entirely new growth and value in Intranets in much the same way expanding access and authorship from IT to the business has done.
What's more, experiences like Microsoft Viva Engage Storylines empower people to share their own 'corner' in the same way more formal leadership corners have existed in governed and controlled intranets. While enterprise social has had this capability for sometime, it has never been so integrated where now employees can have the ability to post and reply entirely from Outlook or publish to those who follow them with notifications seamlessly integrated in the Intranet Viva Connections feed, Outlook, Teams, Viva Engage and more.
That isn't the biggest change, though; it's that with Copilot once more in places like Viva Engage it empowers that same set of skills and support which will lead to far more contribution from far more employees than we have previously experienced.
This is perhaps what will eventually transition us to Intranets 4.0 or something beyond. The reality is that today we have a few glances at how this could work in improving the employee experience. Today within Intranets, many have active digital assistants that are there to engage much as Copilot will in helping employees find what they are looking for and bring the right information to them at the right time. The best examples of this are organizations that have adopted Copilot, seeing more usage of Intranet pages, content, and services.
In the example below, a simple chat with Copilot in Teams doesn't just provide information, but using semantic indexing surfaces the right information contextually to the employee. AI doesn't just empower search experiences; it blends them seamlessly (and the Intranet) into the flow of work in a way we haven't seen before.
Imagine being able to have a conversation with the content and information of your organization. That is something possible with Microsoft Viva Topics and Copilot.
As intranets become increasingly dynamic, more opportunities arise for unique, engaging experiences. Consider something as simple as replacing a static list of employees with an interactive organizational chart that is always up to date.
Then consider how that organization chart with Viva Goals, and Viva Topics could automatically show employees' understanding, skills, and priorities. Where they experience that chart can be based on their preferences and preferred way of working. Such a simple feature could revolutionize how staff see and understand the organizational structure.
AI will continue to shape the future of intranets. We've seen what algorithmic recommendation engines can do inside SharePoint, but there's so much more to come. Expect increasingly sophisticated AI capabilities that enhance user experiences and streamline workflows.
For businesses, this evolution means more than just updating the intranet software. It's about embracing a mindset change. It's about re-evaluating the very role of the Intranet in your organization and designing it to align with modern, sustainable practices.
A sustainable modern intranet brings value to the business and its employees. It serves as a hub for the digital workplace, meeting users where they are and delivering pertinent content. It encourages engagement and fosters a sense of community.
If your organization's Intranet doesn't reflect these traits, it may be time for a conversation about transitioning towards these modern intranet patterns. After all, the Intranet is more than just a business tool – it's a part of your company's digital identity, integral to communication, collaboration, and overall productivity.
Keeping up with the changes in intranet technology might seem overwhelming at first. However, remember that every step taken toward improving your Intranet is a step toward creating amore engaging and effective digital workplace. By embracing the change, businesses can ensure they utilize their Intranet to its full potential and enhance their overall productivity.
In conclusion, yes, the Intranet does still matter. With its evolution from a simple, static information board to a dynamic, AI-integrated hub for the digital workplace, its importance has only grown. And as technology continues to advance, intranets will continue to play a crucial role in shaping effective, efficient, and engaging work environments. So, here's to the next iteration of the Intranet - we can't wait to see where it takes us!
Of course, the Intranet is an integral part of providing great a Employee Experience, and as we mentioned earlier, we have recently updated our EX whitepaper with 20+ pages on Microsoft Copilot (AI). If you're looking to improve EX for your organization, we highly recommend you download our free 100+ page whitepaper below.