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5 steps to finding the right company intranet portal

Posted by Hannah Price | 6 min read

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Finding a new company intranet portal can be a gruelling process. There are so many different options, how’re you supposed to know which one to choose? This article’s step-by-step process will set you on the path to intranet success. 

1. Clarify your needs

Generally, a company starts looking for an intranet because they’ve found out that something is lacking in their business. Often, it’s related to one (or more) of these:

  • internal communication;
  • employee engagement; or
  • company culture.

Most companies discover this issue through employee feedback or an employee survey. Though, sometimes they realize that there’s an underlying problem because of:

  • low email open rates;
  • poorly managed document repositories; or
  • costly miscommunications.

It’s at this point that the company jumps into action to find a solution. And rightly so. Unfortunately, this is also when things can start to go wrong.

A lot of companies fall into the trap of creating a list of intranet features that they want, rather than focusing on what they want their intranet to help them achieve. This can be a real problem.

If you start with a list of features that you want, it’s likely that you’ll end up with an extensive toolbox of features…. but they may not actually help you achieve what you intended. Or, you’ll dismiss a potentially great intranet because it was missing one feature with little importance.

By flipping this approach on its head and starting with a list of goals that you want to achieve with your intranet, you’ll be better able to present your use-case to intranet providers. Then they can explain how their product is proven to help companies achieve similar goals.


How you uncover your goals will depend on the size/culture/structure of your company. You may want to survey everyone in your company and then distill their answers into a short list of key requirements.

Or, you could start with a smaller group of individuals that represent a cross-section of your company and clarify your needs from there.

Either way, it’s critical that your leadership team is onboard from the get-go. They’ll be able to lend key insights, ask pertinent question, and clarify any budget restraints.

2. Choose the right person to research

Once you’ve established your needs, it’s time to browse the internet for potential intranets. It’s vitally important that you choose the right person for this task.

A lot of the time, the person who’s in charge of resolving the issue (such as poor internal communication) finds a junior colleague to complete the research for possible intranet solutions. For example, the head of Communications asks a communications assistant.

Although a junior person may have a bit more time on their hands to get the research done, we would highly recommend against this approach.

A new or junior person will have a limited understanding of the underlying problems that need to be resolved, the bigger picture internal communication goals, or the limit on budget.

Giving them a list of features and requirements to complete their research will, more often than not, lead to wasted hours of research. These are a few of the problems we’ve seen:

  • They’ll dismiss intranet providers that could be perfect for your company simply because they don’t have one item on their checklist.

  • They don’t understand the intricate collaboration needs of the wider company.

  • When they present all of the gathered information to a senior team member, that person regularly decides that an intranet is a “nice to have” and they may loop back to the solution some time in the future.

Instead, we recommend:

1. Choose one or two well-informed, veteran employees to complete the research. (In larger companies this is often an IT person, but teaming them up with an HR/comms/marketing person is wise).

2. Get leadership buy-in for an intranet straight away, and keep those leaders in the loop.

3. If needed, complete further internal research to find out more about employees insights. This clearly indicates that you want to hear from your employees and will help to give you a well-rounded understanding of where the gaps are in your company.

3. Complete online research

Now it’s time to pound the pavements of Google and check out what suitable intranets are on the market. One way to do that is to complete a variety of internet searches, find a number of intranets, then check out their websites.

I’d also recommend checking out review sites such as G2 Crowd. This is made up of customer reviews, so you’ll get an honest and real-life insight into an intranet company, their product, and customer service.

Another good spot to find out more about intranets on the market is Quora (here’s a link to the intranet sub-category). Though, be aware, some Quora answers are incredibly self-promotional, so don’t spend all of your energy there.

Once you’ve picked out a few intranet providers, the next step is quite intuitive: head to their websites and check them out in-depth.

It’s at this stage that things can get a little complicated, because a lot of intranets seem to offer the same benefits (better communication, collaboration, employee engagement) though their tools may seem very different.

Also, there are many important things you need to consider that you never see on a website. For example, what’s the process going to be like after the sale? How long does it take to onboard; six weeks or six months?

It’s easy to be tricked by a “lower” priced intranet that checks off all of your needs. It’s only after the sale that you realize you need to devote one of your employees to this project for six months, pay for extra features, and need more IT skills than you currently have in-house.

My recommendation is to choose a handful of intranets that sound appealing to you, then set up calls to have live demonstrations with each one. This will give you a chance to dig into the details and give an overall clearer picture of what the tool consists of, and how it can specifically help you achieve your goals.

4. Talk to intranet providers

So you’ve queued a number of calls with intranet providers, and you’ve got your list of needs handy. Now it’s time to make your challenges clear and find out more about their approach to helping customers overcome these.

If you’re happy with the demo, there should be time for a Q&A at the end. As well as your needs, be sure to ask about a few key things:

  • Additional costs: Some companies charge extra for different tiers of their product, data storage, or widgets that you can add on. Ask about these. Also, be wary if there are hidden fees for things like activation, onboarding, branding, and customer support.

  • Time: Intranets vary in complexity. If you’re going for a custom-built intranet with widgets and customizable pages, it’s going to take longer to launch. Also, if it’s not an out-of-the-box company intranet portal, you’ll need in-house IT knowledge. Ask about time and resources needed to get your intranet up and running.

  • Customer support: Find out how much support you’re going to get from the intranet provider for both onboarding and maintenance. Will you have a dedicated customer support representative? Is there a cap on how much time they’ll dedicate to your company? What are the restrictions?

  • Mobile: With the ever-increasing usage of mobile technology, it’s important for your intranet to have a strong mobile app. Unfortunately a lot of intranets are simply too large (with too many pages) to have an effective mobile app. Instead, they have to navigate the users out of the app and into your phone’s internet browser. This makes the experience clunky and many features ineffective. Make sure to dig into the capabilities of each intranet provider’s mobile app.
If you want more questions, check out this article on intranet features. At the end of each section there are tips on what questions to ask about specific features.

5. Try the free trial

After previewing the intranet and getting a good understanding for how it works, it’s time to take it for a spin.

Each intranet provider will probably offer their own advice on how to make the most of their free trial (for example, we created these how-to videos to guide and support our free trial users). But, as a general rule of thumb, you want to use the trial to explore the platform as much as possible.

Play with all of the features to get a sense for how easy the tool is to use, how effective it is, and if it’s going to meet your needs.

We advise adding a handful of users, preferably people from a few different corners of the business. Then try to mimic the real behaviour as if you had actually just bought the intranet:

  • create personal profiles
  • publish a blog article
  • add files and documents
  • start several different types of instant messages (one-to-one/group/forum)
  • test out the capabilities of the search function

Using this approach will give you a better understanding of whether this intranet is right for you.

Conclusion

Once you’ve completed this process, it’s time to make a decision; to regroup as a project team, present what you’ve learnt to your leadership team, and choose your new intranet provider.

Generally there’s a clear winner by this point, though the leadership team may have new questions that require further investigation. If that’s the case, loop back to your preferred intranet provider and get them on another call with your CEO/leader. They should be happy to help!

Once you’ve chosen your intranet provider and signed on the dotted line, it’s time for the next stage of the intranet journey: launching for long-term success. If you’re interested in finding out more, this article has six real-life examples of how our customers approached their launches.

Want to see a successful company intranet portal? 

Check out the Jostle intranet


Let us know what you think!


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