Intranets of the future: Creating Multidimensional Intranet Experiences

Some time ago, the world was believed to be flat. Luckily, this is no longer a majority opinion.

When most of our work was done at the office, at our desk in front of a screen, it made sense to have an email, intranet and line of business apps in front of you to get things done.

Over time, this style of work shifted towards being more distributed.

I often work with our team on the same project but in a different time zone than others. When there is a blocking issue, one of us may need to get a hold of the other at various times of the day. At first, we were worried that our communication was turning into chaos. However, this chaos is primarily due to archaic tools we were trying to use in modern day work culture. We're seeing similar sentiment with many of our customers today.

Here are a few examples we're seeing as major opportunities for creating multidimensional intranet experiences.

Smart use of IoT

Here is the scenario. You're in a meeting room with your customer, someone is trying to present their screen. But wait, they're using a mini display port on their laptop and they forgot to bring their dongle. What do you do? Email helpdesk or create a ticket? Call helpdesk, what's the number? Run around the office asking if anyone has a spare dongle? Create a virtual meeting via Skype even though everyone is in the same room?

What if your meeting room had a big, red "Call Helpdesk" button which pages helpdesk staff available at that time to come to the boardroom, create a support ticket, and lets you carry on without getting preoccupied whether or not anyone has responded.

The hardware is already available to facilitate this kind of interaction, check out what folks at BT.TN are doing. Using their hardware and software integration of Zapier or Microsoft Flow it's easy to put many of the bits and pieces together

Now, this is IoT in action at the modern office. We're running an experiment with one of our customers right now to see what kind of response/usage we're going to get -- I'll share stats with you shortly on the data we have.

Interactive Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is one of the biggest use cases for an intranet, yet there are far more natural settings for employee engagement, for example: Staff kitchen or a break room :)

I've been working on the intranet project for a healthcare provider. Sure, a lot of admin staff use the intranet to save documents but what about employee engagement? Yes, we've added a poll, a news carousel and few other widgets to keep people in the loop but what value does it bring if only admin staff have access to those. Can you even consider results of a poll complete if 70% of staff is a floor staff with no practical means of accessing the intranet?

In this scenario we're experimenting using a TV in the staff break room to display new carousel with part of the screen being dedicated to poll. Staff can use physical voting buttons to cast their vote... and that's been a bigger hit than a new coffee machine.

Bringing interactive experiences like this has tremendous impact on employee engagement when placed strategically. This is especially relevant for staff that don't normally have physical access to a computer... think staff at the store, manufacturing facility etc.

Easing into mobile

Mobility is perceived differently within different organizations. If you're a software company like we are, jumping on board with whichever is most productive is great. Our company size also allows us to be flexible and adapt as things become more annoying or less productive. Most of our staff owns several devices and uses them interchangeably to get the work done.

However, this is often not the case for some of our customers. Enabling mobile is a huge deal. There are security and access implications.

One thing to remember: It's not an all or nothing scenario!

Going mobile doesn't mean your entire intranet needs to go mobile. For one of our customers we proposed to use Microsoft Teams to handle helpdesk requests. Why?


It has a mobile app for which you can send text and pictures.

You can use it on the go, which is usually where you need help.

You can add a link to Knowledgebase. It took no time to install and minimal change management.

You can even integrate tools like Zendesk directly into the Teams UI.

In this case the company wasn't on Office 365 or SharePoint Online, but the workflow was adapted almost immediately because the use case was fairly clear and didn't require further integration.

In your organization it may not be Teams, but try to look for opportunities to use the latest tools to add efficiencies to existing workflow while doing little to no development.

Leverage your existing investments

You're probably thinking that all of the above will require re-design or re-build... but no, you can leverage existing infrastructure and development. Most of the scenarios I've described above are extensions we built on top of the existing intranet, even one for SharePoint 2013. The key is to determine how your staff works and the biggest impact you can bring to the table to maximize efficiency and engagement for your people.

As always, would love to hear what challenges and creative solutions you've implemented, comment, like and share!

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy has been a Microsoft MVP for 8 years and speaker at many local and worldwide tech events. Several of Yaroslav's books include: Rapid SharePoint 2013 development, Top 60 custom solutions built on SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2010 branding in practice, and SharePoint and PowerShell Expert Cookbook.