An intranet might sound like an outdated concept. That’s not entirely surprising, given that they predate the internet itself. Just as the internet has been incorporated into almost every aspect of our lives, an intranet can be one of the most powerful tools in a modern workplace — especially for organizations with frontline workers.
An intranet provides a space exclusively for your organization to meet your needs and support your employees. Let’s look at exactly what an intranet is, why it’s so powerful, and what you need to look for to best support your frontline teams.
What is an intranet?
An intranet is a local, private network that’s only accessible to members of your organization. It’s a space for you and your employees to share information openly amongst yourselves without worrying about how it might appear to suppliers, customers, or the public.
As a restricted network, an intranet is the perfect way to share sensitive or proprietary documents and data between the staff who need them.
This definition covers the role of a traditional intranet, but it falls far short of what a modern intranet offers. Modern intranets also play a significant role in facilitating internal communication across your organization and driving collaboration.
We especially see this with frontline organizations, where modern intranets help to build connections between staff who don’t see or speak to each other on a regular basis.
Frontline workers can easily become isolated. Traditional intranets can exacerbate feelings of isolation, while a modern intranet helps to protect staff against this risk
Intranets represent a safe, secure space for staff to engage with each other and with management. It’s an exclusively internal tool and plays no role in sales, recruitment, or any public-facing task.
An intranet should contain all of the information and tools employees need to do their jobs. These include the ability to contact internal company infrastructure such as HR and payroll, collaboration tools, and record-keeping software.
What is an intranet vs an internet vs an extranet?
It’s easy to become confused about the differences between an intranet, an extranet, and an internet. From a technological perspective, they’re very similar. The main difference between them is who can access them and what they are intended to achieve.
All three use internet technologies and protocols to allow people to share information online.
- An intranet is only available to employees of your organization, or possibly to contractors working on your behalf. It’s highly restricted and is only intended for internal use.
- An extranet is an extension of an intranet. It’s still not available to the general public, but access is wider than just your own employees. Typically, an extranet allows a subsection of your intranet to be accessed by customers, clients, suppliers, or partners.
- The internet is a global network of interconnected computers and servers which can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. It is largely unrestricted and is not controlled by your organization.
In fact, we've covered the differences and similarities between an intranet, an extranet, and an internet here.
Advantages and disadvantages of traditional intranets
Traditional intranets have been popular with organizations because they serve some workers well. Other members of staff, particularly frontline staff, haven’t benefited from them in the same. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of traditional intranets.
- Secure storage for sensitive information
- Knowledge-sharing (but only for some staff)
- Information can be hard to find
- Unlikely to be supported on mobile devices
- Low uptake amongst staff, especially younger or frontline workers
- Can be hard to update
Let’s look at these in a little more detail.
Traditional intranet advantages
Secure storage for sensitive information
One of the main uses for company intranets has been as a secure space to store information and documents. As a restricted environment, managers can be sure that sensitive data is kept safe whilst employees have easy access to protocols and guidance to help them do their jobs.
Communication and knowledge-sharing
A good intranet will also make it easier for desk-based employees to communicate with each other. That is, after all, the point. An intranet provides a secure space away from customers and the wider public for coworkers to share their thoughts and experiences.
For a traditional intranet, most (or even all) of this communication is structured and formalized. Employees may be able to write posts or articles which are then handed to managers to be posted onto the intranet.
Making it easier for employees to communicate encourages knowledge sharing and helps organizations to share best practice. Outstanding employees might be asked to produce guides or advice for their colleagues which can be shared on the company intranet.
The top-down control of a traditional intranet ensures that only best practice and approved processes are disseminated across your organization.
Importantly, a company intranet is remarkably cost-effective. A traditional intranet has low implementation costs and the best examples are typically quick and easy to administer. An effective intranet is simple to update and allows users to be added (and removed) without fuss.
Despite these advantages, a traditional company intranet isn’t a panacea. They often come with similar limitations and frustrations.
Traditional intranet disadvantages
Information can be hard to find
Company intranets typically grow organically with an organization and information is added on an ad hoc basis. However sensible or intuitive it might seem to the person making an update, information can often end up buried or difficult to locate.
This isn’t just true of announcements or similar time-sensitive information. Even documents that staff will be expected to reference regularly can be located several layers deep in an intranet, becoming a minor but frequent irritation.
Frontline workers can be especially impacted by hard-to-locate data. These employees may have unreliable internet access or trying to find essential information on a cellphone. When information is held on a traditional intranet, poor signal can become a genuine roadblock for frontline workers.
Unlikely to be mobile supported
Older traditional intranets are rarely mobile supported. They certainly won’t be mobile-first. This puts them firmly on the back foot when it comes to the way organizations work today. Especially organizations with frontline employees — they will struggle to access a traditional intranet while they’re working, if they can at all.
Documents and information can be poorly-sized and difficult to read on mobile devices. Intranet pages can be unnecessarily complex, making them difficult to load. Pages might also refresh frequently, preventing frontline workers from pre-loading essential information when they anticipate poor connectivity.
Low uptake amongst staff
This brings us to another disadvantage of traditional intranets. They’re only useful if people use them - and they don’t.
Traditional intranets often have very low user adoption but not because employees don’t want or need the information they contain. It’s because they’re not a good fit for how staff are working.
For example, frontline workers might choose to screenshot essential information rather than access it via their intranet. This represents a security risk for organizations and is inefficient, at best.
Healthcare staff might be tempted to postpone making notes until they return to the office due to the difficulties of updating documents on a traditional intranet, leading to incomplete record-keeping.
Employee engagement and adoption rates are much higher when organizations move away from a traditional intranet approach. With help from Blink, Care Synergy achieved 97% adoption.
Intranets are only useful when they’re being used. Unfortunately, traditional intranet models are falling down at this step when they don’t adequately meet the needs of employees.
Can be hard to update
Finally, although the best traditional intranets are cost-effective and easy to administer, many company intranets don’t meet this standard. Far too many are slow, unresponsive, and frustrating for administrators and users alike.
Many traditional intranets are decades-old and are no longer fit-for-purpose, especially for a younger workforce who (rightly) have higher expectations of their workplace tools.
Modern intranet advantages
Modern websites have come a very long way since those created in the 1990s. The modern intranet has done the same. A modern intranet is designed to meet the evolving needs of organizations in today’s fast paced and technology-driven work environments.
These advanced, digitized versions really capitalize on the strengths of an intranet, whilst overcoming many of the disadvantages of the traditional model. They’re focused on the user experience and meeting the full range of staff needs.
The difference between a traditional intranet and a modern, alternative one can be dramatic. For example, where a traditional intranet facilitates communication between co-workers, a modern intranet supercharges it.
Modern intranets take inspiration from social media
One of the biggest innovations driving this difference is the emphasis on social features. A modern intranet incorporates all of the familiar aspects of a social media experience. With the inclusion of comments and likes, users have meaningful conversations with co-workers and build trust and rapport.
Employee engagement is ensured through the use of news feeds. The Blink feed is a great example. Our feed offers managers nuanced control, allowing you to ensure that employees see essential information and set the priority of particular posts.
If you have information your employees absolutely need to read and absorb, you can require that they read and acknowledge it before moving on. This gives leaders the control and certainty they need.
Blink’s feed is just as popular with staff as it recreates the social media feed they enjoy socially. Employees receive a familiar and intuitive user experience while managers gain confidence in their ability to share information.
Providing employees with a familiar experience is one reason that the Blink feed has such high engagement rates amongst workers. When staff feel comfortable and confident with an interface, they’re more likely to want to engage with it.
Modern intranets are mobile-first
A modern intranet is also optimized for modern working practices. In all cases a modern intranet will be mobile accessible and supported. Market leaders, such as those provided by Blink, are mobile-first.
Your frontline workers face greater technological challenges than desk-based workers. A mobile-first approach to your company intranet prioritizes their needs and focuses on solving their problems. Pages are quick to load. Documents are easy to find. Information is easy to read.
This helps frontline workers feel valued and included. Inclusive workplaces where employees feel valued benefit from improved engagement, productivity, and even staff retention. Modern intranet software such as Blink can help connect employees from across your organization.
Modern intranets integrate seamlessly with essential tools
A modern intranet is far more than a simple repository of information and how-to’s. It’s the gateway through which your employees access all of the tools they need in their working day. The best integrate seamlessly with these tools.
Blink’s Hub is a great example of this. With Blink, frontline users can access all of the apps and tools they might need throughout the working day, from video conferencing and file storage to HR and employee perks.
We even add new apps every week. If your employees need or use an app we don’t yet integrate with, we’d love to know about it.
This kind of frictionless access to all the resources your staff need is the gold standard for digital employee experiences. It reduces stress, increases employee wellbeing, and improves internal communications.
Modern intranets are customizable
The traditional company intranet is one-size-fits-all. A modern intranet is tailor-made and adjustable. Employees should be able to personalize their intranet experience and customize their content based on their role and their interests.
This might mean being able to prioritize posts from specific individuals or on particular topics. Some staff might want alerts about advancement opportunities whilst others are looking for training resources or are keen to collaborate on a particular problem. Staff should be able to customize their feed to allow for these distinct interests.
Modern intranets offer valuable analytics
With a modern intranet, you can find new layers of internal communication. With detailed analytics and insights, managers and executives can gain a nuanced understanding of their frontline workers, even while they’re out of the office.
Blink’s analytics lets you dig deep into user engagement and understand what information your employees are seeking and how they’re using it. Insights from content popularity can highlight areas for more training or particular difficulties your staff are facing.
Something as simple as seeing when particular tools are used can highlight challenging workloads or other potential risks before your staff reach out for help. This allows you to prevent, rather than cure, potential problems and avoid pitfalls.
How does a modern intranet fit into the digital frontline workplace?
With all these advantages, it’s clear that a modern intranet plays a central and vital role within a digital workplace. Let’s examine the ways that an updated, integrated company intranet can work for frontline organizations and their staff.
Streamlined working environment
The right intranet system provides frontline workers with a central hub for information. Frontline staff are often pressed for time and need information at their fingertips. They don’t have time to search through different platforms repeatedly throughout the day.
Even simple tasks such as entering passwords can become frustrating when they feel unnecessary and redundant. That’s why Blink hub allows frontline users to access all the tools they need with just one login and password.
This gives your frontline workers an efficient and streamlined working experience.
Communication and collaboration
Unlike office-based staff, frontline workers can easily feel isolated. Their main contacts during the working day are clients and service users rather than their coworkers. This makes it difficult to foster a sense of teamwork.
A modern intranet provides opportunities for communication and collaboration through team workspaces, discussion forums, and real time messaging. This provides an essential layer of support and connection for frontline workers.
A traditional office provides easy access to essential business functions such as HR, payroll, and project management teams. A digital frontline workplace needs to replicate this access through the company intranet.
A modern company intranet integrates seamlessly with these essential services, providing frontline workers with the support and infrastructure they need to thrive.
Focus on frontline workers
Unlike traditional intranets, a modern company intranet centers the needs of frontline teams. They are designed with mobile devices in mind, offering clear evidence that frontline workers are at the forefront of decision-making.
Employee engagement is inextricably linked with productivity. A modern intranet is filled with features designed to promote greater engagement, without becoming burdensome. Social feeds, polls, and surveys make it easy for frontline workers to have their say - and to be heard.
One of the greatest challenges of a digital frontline workplace is how to create a coherent company culture. Again, a modern intranet comes to the rescue.
Your intranet is the perfect opportunity to share news about your organization and to reinforce the culture you want to create. Employee success stories, charity partnerships, and other initiatives help to highlight your organization’s values.
Building the right company culture through internal communications isn’t always straightforward. Organizations need to refine their messaging to achieve the results they need. A modern intranet can help here too.
Modern intranet software offers detailed analytics to help you understand your frontline workforce and how they are using the tools and information you’re making available. Great managers can ‘read the room’ in an office but this isn’t possible for frontline workers who are rarely available for casual contact. Analytics can help to fill this gap.
Managers can use these insights into user engagement and activity to improve their strategies and offer more relevant and useful content.
The 10 key benefits of implementing an intranet in a frontline organization
If you’re thinking about implementing a modern intranet in your organization, what differences can you expect to see? Here are the 10 biggest benefits you’ll find from working with a top intranet service provider.
1. Enhanced communication
Your new company intranet will provide a centralized platform to share news, announcements, and updates. As leaders, you’ll be able to get your message to your frontline workers quickly and easily.
This is only the start of your improved communication, though. Top-down, one-way communication is the simplest problem to solve. A modern intranet goes further. It facilitates communication between members of different departments and across different locations.
You can’t force peer-to-peer communication, especially for frontline workers. Intranet service providers such as Blink make conversations between coworkers feel natural and rewarding. Individuals can reach out for support and gain informal networks to complement more formal structures.
2. Improved collaboration
Better communication is a prerequisite for great collaboration, but it’s not sufficient on its own. Services such as Blink go the extra mile to encourage and nurture collaboration and knowledge sharing through effective collaboration tools.
For example, Blink provides simple, easy access to document sharing and real-time shared editing of those documents. This facilitates collaboration within distributed teams, such as frontline workers.
Blink also offers discussion forums, which are the perfect opportunity to invite new staff members to collaborate and become involved.
3. Centralized information
It’s in no one’s interest for your employees to have to hunt for the information they need to do their job. When your frontline staff spend time looking for policies or documents, that’s time they’re not spending delivering their core tasks. This is frustrating for them and wasteful for your organization.
A new, modern intranet gives them all the relevant information, documents, policies, and resources in one place. This eliminates the need to log in to multiple systems, platforms, or tools. Staff are more efficient and feel empowered by their digital tools.
4. Increased productivity
A modern intranet is designed to offer streamlined access to everything your frontline workers need to do their jobs. Given the pressure that many frontline staff are under, this can make a significant difference to their overall productivity.
When your staff use modern intranet software, they have access to a streamlined workflow which improves their efficiency. Eliminating even small delays can have dramatic results when it is consistent throughout the working day and across your frontline workforce.
5. Access anytime, anywhere
Frontline workers spend most, or all, of their working life outside of the traditional office environment. In many cases, they will also need to be available outside of the normal nine to five working day. A modern intranet is designed with these needs in mind.
Your modern intranet will be optimized for use on mobile devices, making it available to your frontline employees when and where they need it.
6. Document management
Document management is essential for accurate record-keeping, easy communication and effective collaboration tools. A modern intranet fulfills all of these needs.
This can be especially important in fields such as healthcare, where frontline workers may have statutory or regulatory requirements for record-keeping. Even in less-regulated fields, managers can rest assured that frontline staff have reliable, easy access to the documents they require.
7. Employee engagement
Employee engagement is essential for productivity, staff retention, and wellbeing. A modern company intranet improves your employee engagement, especially amongst frontline workers.
Blink offers a range of social features, such as activity feeds, comments, and likes. These recreate the familiar social media landscape and help create a sense of community and teamwork amongst employees. Our dedicated News Feed can be personalized to help employees feel engaged and empowered.
8. Employee onboarding and training
Employee onboarding is your opportunity to start new team members off as you’d like them to go on. Hosting your onboarding materials on your modern intranet allows new hires to become familiar with the platform and cements its place as a focal part of their working day.
Organizations can expand this effect by including other training resources and e-learning modules on their intranet. Frontline workers can use these tools to problem-solve and to take responsibility for their own professional development.
9. Analytics and insights
One of the biggest changes that managers will notice with a modern intranet is the volume and range of analytics information that is suddenly available to them.
Blink’s customers can gather insights into how and when users engage with posts and other information on their modern intranet. This makes it easy to identify the most popular content and to adjust their messaging to improve the intranet over time.
These analytics can go far beyond just seeing how many employees like a particular post. It offers a detailed insight into how and when your staff use their intranet, which can help you to understand the challenges they face - and how to overcome them.
10. Cost savings
Introducing a modern intranet to your organization comes with a cost, but it also leads to significant savings. Often these savings will far outstrip the price of the service.
Paper-based communication is costly, both in terms of materials and the staff time required to send out information. Using an intranet eliminates the need for physical paperwork and therefore removes these costs.
An intranet is also easily-adapted, giving organizations an opportunity to experiment and streamline processes. Managers can change procedures and ask frontline workers for their own suggestions for how to improve efficiency and save costs.
What is an intranet?
An intranet is a private and secure network exclusively used by members of a specific organization. It functions as an internal website and helps members of the organization to connect with each other and share information.
Your organization has full control over your intranet software and content. A modern intranet will make space for peer-to-peer engagement between your workers, but your organization retains full editorial control at all times.
What are the key benefits of implementing an intranet?
Having a company intranet brings significant benefits for your organization and your employees.
Your employees are able to find all of the information and tools they need to job quickly and easily. Having this single point of reference can reduce uncertainty and stress. It also helps frontline workers, in particular, to feel part of a team.
These benefits for individual workers bring organization-wide benefits. When employees are able to communicate easily with each other, knowledge and best practices will spread freely among staff.
This leads to effective problem-solving, improved collaboration, and increased productivity. A company intranet can even include staff retention and reduce absence through reducing stress and creating a strong, collaborative team culture.
What features should a robust, modern intranet have?
There are several key features that you should expect of modern intranet software. All modern intranets should be optimized for mobile use or, ideally, have a mobile-first design.
They should offer seamless integration with the majority of apps or tools your staff use on a daily basis. At a minimum, they need to offer effective document management and quality collaboration tools.
To promote communication and teamwork, organizations need an intranet with effective social collaboration. Employees should be able to engage meaningfully with coworkers to share ideas and support.
The best modern intranets allow employees to personalize their experience. Managers can set parameters but users should be able to adjust their experience to meet their own needs.