4 signs your intranet is failing (Thinkstock)

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The first step, as they say, is to admit you have a problem. When it comes to running an intranet, however, it can be tough even to know when things are and aren't working. Most organisations don't really measure the ROI of their intranets, or even set out with a tangible goal in mind in the first place.

And yet, it's not uncommon for business leaders to be nagged by the possibility that their intranets are more of a hindrance than a help to the workforce. Useful resources seem to be unduly neglected. Workers, presented with what ought to be a simple problem, take the long way around. And people collaborate via email, the phone, social media – basically, every available outlet other than the intranet itself.

Sounds familiar? Here are four of the most significant signs to watch for that your intranet could be failing, as well as a look at the root causes and some of the ways you might be able to kickstart the healing process.

Adoption is slow and fragmented

It might sound obvious, but one of the biggest signs that your intranet is failing – or indeed, has failed – is that no-one's using it. Or, in less extreme cases, adoption may be slow and fragmented: new hires take forever to get to grips with the system, and some never get to grips with it at all.

One culprit could be the lack of end user training – people are loathe to use technology they don't understand, especially when they can easily fall back on a different means of communication and collaboration. Digging deeper, though, the root cause might be that employees don't see the problem their intranet is supposed to solve, or appreciate the business need it's supposed to address. Who knows –  maybe these objectives were never properly defined?

There's too much out-of-date content

Out-of-date content is no good for anyone. If your intranet is bulging at the seams with ancient documents, and every search yields an ocean of obsolete information, there's a good chance it's a liability rather than a business asset. The problem that organisations need to address is twofold: why is out-of-date content given such visibility? And who ought to be responsible for updating go-to documents like induction materials and phone directories?

The search feature is ineffective

If your workers repeatedly ask their colleagues, line managers and business leaders for information that's already present on the intranet, it might be the result of an ineffective search feature. Enterprise search isn't always an easy thing to implement, but without it, organisations can experience workflow bottlenecks and low intranet adoption rates. Fit-for-purpose content classification policies and controls can help, too.

The intranet has no strategic purpose

Finally, we hinted above that some intranets are implemented without their objectives ever actually being set out. A lot of people think they need to store internal documents in SharePoint or on some other platform for no other reason than that everyone else does. But in reality, rarely are intranets successful without a stated strategic purpose.

At the outset of a new implementation, business leaders need to express their goals – to store documents, to reduce time spent processing HR requests, to improve interdepartmental collaboration, et cetera – and ensure their solution is aligned with this strategy. And then, they can start to measure ROI – the cold, hard evidence that their intranet, far from failing, has fulfilled its objectives and then some.

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