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The Business Case for Deploying a Mobile Intranet

Date Posted: Friday, 22 November 2013 11:29
Posted By: Kerry Butters

business-case-opportunity

As technology continues to move at a dizzying pace, for both consumers and businesses alike, it’s now more important than ever to ensure that the enterprise remains on top of the game and forward thinking.

As empowering employees is becoming increasingly recognisable to the enterprise, in order to maximise on this, it’s important for enterprises to realise the value to the company in making the intranet user-friendly.

Now take into account the ever-rising use of mobile devices and tablets by employees and the continued trend towards BYOD and it’s clear to see that an intranet that can’t be accessed on these devices is very much one that isn’t realising its full potential.

The consumerisation of IT

The trend towards BYOD (the use of personal devices in the workplace – ‘Bring Your Own Device) continues to be a key IT strategy, with an estimated 62% of employers looking to implement BYOD by the end of this year. This means that those employees that can’t access the intranet via their personal device will be much less likely to use it.

This is turn leads to a lack of engagement with the company intranet and in turn, reduced productivity and collaboration, the latter of which are is now a proven model that increases revenue.

Build a new, mobile intranet?

It’s not necessary to build an entirely new intranet, specifically for mobile devices, a much better strategy is to ensure that not only is your website responsive, and so therefore viewable on a variety of devices with different screen sizes and resolutions, but so too should your intranet be responsive.

A couple of years ago, James Robertson, managing director and co-founder of Step Two Designs, noted that in the 2011 Intranet Design Awards, responsive intranets won three of the highest awards.

“Three of our winners this year were superbly executed mobile intranet projects.  By absolutely focusing on the user and cherry picking only the applications and content that are essential when out and about, the intranet teams have delivered huge benefits with relatively little cost,” he said at the time.

Keeping ahead in the fast paced world of technology

Whilst this was two years ago, it demonstrates that this isn’t a new trend, but one that’s picking up pace. With this in mind, and with the idea of fostering a people centric organisation, in order to ensure that your company can meet the demands of its users, responsive is becoming a vital aspect to the intranet.

It needn’t cost the earth either, adjustments can be made to an existing intranet so that, much like any responsive website, it delivers only the content that mobile and tablet users need to access.

This means that it’s necessary to consider the following points:

  • How many employees will be accessing the content? This can be accessed by looking at the amount of network traffic that’s generated for portions of the intranet, such as content
  • Which employees need to access what content and the role they play in the business
  • What devices employees will be accessing content on
  • What content delivery needs to be prioritised in order for certain departments such as marketing, HR etc., to make best use of a responsive, mobile intranet
  • Can all employees access the social aspects to the intranet, such as forums, wikis, blogs and so on

The latter point there, the social intranet, is an important consideration, as we’ve discussed in the past, the value to a company in terms of social is something that is also becoming increasingly important to both the business itself and its employees.

Planning a new intranet?

Many web designers now take the ‘mobile first’ approach when it comes to developing for the web, although in my opinion, this should also be led by content, due to its value within and outside of the enterprise.

So if you’re planning on having a brand new intranet designed, or are thinking of performing a heavy-duty upgrade, then taking the mobile first approach is a sensible one. This means that the intranet can be designed from the ground up to deliver what is necessary to what device and plan content accordingly.

Demands of the modern employee

These must be met if businesses are to make the most out of their employees, concentrating on engaging the worker in order to increase productivity, give them a voice within their role and make for a workforce that really wants to put their best into the company.

Employees are assets and in order to gain the most from these, then the company has to give something back. Morale and communication are key in ensuring that employees feel like the company they work for value them and that they are in essence a part of a ‘family’ within a business.

Benefits of responsive intranets

As it is with web pages, so it is with intranets. I’m sure that at some point or another recently you’ve attempted to view a site on a mobile device and found it barely usable. This leads to the site becoming abandoned quickly and the same principle applies with the intranet: if it doesn’t work when a user needs or wants to use it, they won’t bother.

A responsive intranet:

  • Serves the needs of many, irrespective of the device they access the intranet on
  • Is not locked into a single device
  • Means no content duplication
  • Can draw on existing resources and content for established intranets

Considerations:

In web design, many have suggested that responsive design makes for poor performance, but this isn’t necessarily true. It’s important to deliver the right content for the right device yes, but this can be done by the designer using techniques that address this easily. This is also something that is becoming less of an issue almost daily as designers come up with more resources to overcome performance issues and ensure that the intranet doesn’t suffer a lack of speed.

Like any relatively new design concept, problems occur in the beginning, but responsive design is no longer a new concept, nor is it a passing trend, it’s a necessary part of design due to the changing nature of the way we access content.

Web technologies are changing

It’s not just the pace of physical technologies that have picked up in recent years either. The introduction of new web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3 mean that designers have a lot of great new resources to play with and this applies as much to the intranet as it does website design.

For example, poor performance due to image and video can be more easily addressed thanks to new elements in HTML5 and JavaScript that means that these can literally be ‘drawn’ in the browser, instead of being called and loaded from the server.

Rather than bore you with the technical details on that particular subject, the point to take away here is that in order to make your intranet responsive, it’s not necessary for it to be a huge, complex job that leaves the company with any downtime.

User Experience

Another big trend in recent years has been more geared towards the user experience, rather than the old days when it was more about training and cheating search engines (with regard to websites, for the latter). Giving the user, which is your employee, the ability to access content that is necessary to their job easily and without fuss is invaluable.

As such, it should be considered that in order for an organisation to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s best for their business, they should be thinking about:

  • Responsive intranet (and website) with a mobile and content first approach if necessary
  • Social intranet and the importance of user experience
  • Keeping employees engaged
  • Providing a better training platform through responsive so that the intranet can be accessed from any device and employees that are using an LMS, for example, can do so in their own time, perhaps whilst commuting

Overall, there’s no good reason for not having all of these applied to your intranet, but there are plenty of bad reasons for not doing so. The first of which is revenue and productivity and the satisfaction of both your staff and customers.

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