Intranets (Like Everything Else) Going Mobile

Ann All

Are there any enterprise software applications for which there aren't mobile versions? In recent months I've written about mobile business intelligence, mobile business process management and mobile customer relationship management, among others.


So it's no surprise that mobile appears to be an up-and-coming trend in intranets. According to a post on Intranet Life, six of the 10 winners of the 2010 Nielsen Norman award used mobile features on their intranets.


Companies are still experimenting with which mobile features make sense for intranets, but "the more specific the function of a mobile tool, the more successful it tends to be," said Amy Schade, co-author of the Nielsen Norman Group's 2011 Design Annual, during the Intranet Benchmarking Forum's recent monthly Intranets Live program.


The most important lesson from winning intranets, said Nielsen Norman Group principal Jakob Nielsen in an Internal Comms Hub article, is "... focusing on specific features that were important to employees on the go instead of trying to squeeze the entire intranet onto a tiny screen."


Social features, which the Nielsen Norman Group tapped as an intranet trend for the past few years, are still popular, but with a caveat. Kevin Cody, owner of the company that designed one of the top intranets, said a recent survey found people aren't interested in having a dozen social media tools on their intranets, especially if it affects the ability to quickly access needed information. Instead, said Schade, employees are more interested in what she called "knowledge sharing."


The Internal Comms Hub article mentions several specific knowledge-sharing features used by winning intranets:

  • Bi-directional communications, with employees encouraged to provide or add to feedback
  • Cross-functional areas where employees could post documents, share resources and ask questions of one another (The IBM intranet has an especially interesting example of this, a Quora-like question and answer widget on the homepage that allows any IBM employee to ask or answer questions.)
  • Avenues for employees to submit ideas for company improvement, advancement or innovation, often with accompanying frameworks for developing those ideas or presenting outcomes
  • Community features such as ratings and comments


Among other trends spotlighted by Intranet Life and Internal Comms Hub:

  • News on the homepage, but with increased emphasis on making news useful
  • Enhanced employee profile pages that make it easier to find employees with specific expertise
  • Blogs written by both executives and other employees
  • Ability for employees to tag content by topic, to improve search functionality

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