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Feb 27, 2021

Approx. 13 min. read

Intranet Definition, Disadvantages and More Efficient Alternatives

Intranet is a software solution used to share company information and resources among employees. In addition, intranets are used to facilitate...

Intranet is a software solution used to share company information and resources among employees. In addition, intranets are used to facilitate working in groups and to improve the overall internal communications efforts and strengthen core company values.

What is an Intranet?

We can look at intranet as a smaller, private version of Internet which can be accessed only by organizations’ employees. Intranet is intended only for organization and its employees, and it is often heavily protected from unauthorized access, as it should be. 

Over the last two decades intranet became a popular way of sharing information and communicating more effectively. Intranet network can provide users with many different functionalities such as centralized document repository, custom forms and social networking tools. 

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Even though intranet connects different parts of a business and enables employees to share information, more advanced solutions have evolved. 

So are intranets dead and what are its alternatives?

Are Intranets Dead?

Intranet can be used in many ways and for different reasons. The two most common reasons to use intranet include:

The way a company uses intranet depends on the organization's needs, wants and challenges. 

However, since intranets have been in the market for decades now, they have many disadvantages compared to modern solutions that are designed to improve employee engagement and advocacy. Moreover, according to research, only 13% of employees use intranets on a daily basis. 

intranet-alternative-reasons-whyTherefore, should we consider intranets outdated? Do they still provide value? What are some modern intranet alternatives?

Find out why most employers are turning to more efficient employee communications and advocacy tools.


Intranet Disadvantages

When there were no other tools to connect employees in an organization, intranets seemed to do the job- improve communication between employees. However, employers are slowly switching to newer solutions with a goal to improve employee experience in the workplace.  Millennials and generations Z are now looking to use more user-friendly, intuitive and fun communications tools. 

Here are just a few reasons why organizations are moving away from intranets and switching to new solutions. 

1. Costly and timely implementation

Intranet can be very costly and time-consuming to implement. Often times, older intranet software are complex to use. Therefore, all employees need to understand all the features available in order to use it effectively. 

This requires long and complex employee onboarding caused by not so user-friendly intranet interfaces. 

In addition to implementation, intranets need to be regularly maintained. In fact, many companies have full-time staff taking care of intranet updates, server upgrades, network maintenance, system improvements and modifications. 

2. Complexity and heavy admin burden

Intranets have a reputation for being complex and cumbersome. Consequently, employees often feel overwhelmed. 

In addition, intranet users often have heavy administrative burden causing additional time waste. Often times, IT professionals have to be highly engaged in the process of implementing, configuring and managing intranets in the workplace. 

3. Poor user experience

Because intranets are not very intuitive to use, user experience suffers. Consequently, employees struggle to use intranets in a way that can really optimize their work and access to relevant information. 

Today, employees are used to social-media-like apps, and they expect the same experience from the technology they use in the workplace. As modern workplaces are highly digital, the importance of optimizing digital employee experience has become a must have!

4. Low user adoption

Poor user experience results in low usage rates. We all know how important user experience is to keep your users engaged and active. In fact, a survey by Prescient Digital Media proved that only 13% of employees reported participating in their intranet daily—31% said they never do.

intranet-facts-1The intuitiveness of your workplace technology can make or break your employees' engagement with it. Moreover, many intranets don't offer very good mobile experience even though employees expect to be able to access important company information from their smartphones at any time, from any location. 

Moreover, intranets usually don't allow for two-way, interpersonal communications, while intranet alternatives make digital communications more personalized. 

5. Time-consuming information search

Even though intranets are made to make information search easier and faster, too much irrelevant information can cause big problems. Uploading excessive amount of unorganized information can be counterproductive and create confusion among employees

Additionally, if the information is not organized and cannot be easily navigated, your employees could be missing on important information and decrease productivity.

intranet-alternative-slow-inform6. Decreased employee productivity

Poor intranet user experience leads to lower employee productivity. Moreover, when information cannot be easily navigated and found, employee productivity drops and intranets have a complete contra-effect.

Information search should be an intuitive and easy process for employees to complete. However, many intranets don't have the ability to provide personalized employee experiences and consolidate information and documents relevant to the user. 

7. Internal use only 

Most often, intranets can only be used for internal purposes. In other words, employees can not share content to external parties or Social Media. 

This is a big intranet disadvantage because the companies that encourage external content sharing have much higher content marketing ROI

8. Lack of employee advocacy

As employee advocacy is one of the most productive ways to increase brand awareness, drive new leads and job candidates, many organizations are now looking for employee advocacy solutions that also enable employees to become brand ambassadors. 

Because intranets can be used only internally, many employers who want to boost employee advocacy and employee engagement are turning to more modern communications platforms. 

If you have employees who would like to share interesting content about your company and build your brand awareness, why not enable them to do so?

9. Hard to measure success and effectiveness

Most intranets don’t have robust and useful analytics modules. Therefore, internal communications professionals are unable to measure internal communications effectiveness and performance.

According to IABC, 60% of internal communications specialists do not measure their methods and strategies. This is shocking as workplace communications have a significant impact on employees' engagement, motivation and success.  

measure-workplace-communication (1)10. Lack of creativity and fun

Modern workplaces strive to have a fun organizational culture.  According to research on creativity in internal communications, 93% of communicators acknowledge the importance of creativity when delivering content to employees. However, only 6% think it’s used to its full potential. 

For example, only 20% of employers use gamification in internal communications, but half of them plan to work on incorporating further usage into their organizational communication strategies.

11. Inability to connect multiple communication channels

Enterprise communication ecosystems have become highly complex. With the increase of various communication channels such as email, intranets, Slack, document sharing and other tools, it has become impossible for employees to track information flowing through all these channels. 

Remember, integrated communication ecosystem is one of the biggest prerequisites for your employees' success. 

Employee Apps: More Efficient Intranet Alternatives

Intranets are outdated. Most intranet interfaces are not user-friendly, they don’t increase employee engagement and they don’t encourage employee advocacy

On the other hand, more advanced employee engagement solutions often lead to natural employee advocacy. Newer and modern employee engagement platforms have many new features from which employers can benefit much more compared to intranets

Let’s take a deep dive into modern employee apps, communications and advocacy tools

Employee apps are more advanced solutions than intranets. They have additional features and user-friendly interface that help easy adoption and implementation

Here are some of the benefits that intranet alternatives offer

1. Easy implementation

Compared to intranets, modern employee engagement and communications tools are much easier to implement and maintain. 

Since they are usually cloud based, SaaS solutions, new features are much easier to implement and are more accessible. 

2. User-friendly interface

While most intranets’ interfaces are not user-friendly, modern employee apps provide a much better user experience. They offer personalized employee news feeds where employees can easily and quickly find information relevant to their job functions, locations, departments and interests. 

Would you rather use something like this?

intranet-alternative-user-experi...or like this?

intranet-alternative3. Eliminates the need for extensive information search

As mentioned earlier, employees spend, on average, 2.5 hours searching for relevant information

Just imagine if your employees could always get the right information at the right time without even having to look for it. 

We call that the #NoSearching Revolution, and  exactly that is why many organizations today are considering other intranet alternatives.  

4. Better employee experience

With the more intuitive interface and easy information access, comes better employee experience. Better user experience means increased usage, faster adoption, fewer expenses spent on implementation and training as well as higher ROI. 

🎧 Tune in to our podcast: ROI in Employee Communications: Two Alternatives to Consider 👇


5. Personalization and content management

Here at Smarp, we are determined to the #NoSearching revolution. What that means is that we want to deliver information to employees before they even know they need it, without having to search for it. 

In order to be able to deliver such experience, content localization and personalization is a must-have. Not all the information needs to get to everyone. Employees should be able to easily filter content relevant to their work and interest. 

Excessive flow of irrelevant information has a negative effect on employee productivity and engagement. 

Software should adapt to the user, not the other way around!

6. Better knowledge sharing

Intranet is not a software designed to ease knowledge sharing among employees. In contrary, some intranet alternatives encourage employees to share relevant educational content to their coworkers. 

Additionally,  modern employee apps enable knowledge workers to easily share their knowledge with relevant internal audiences, making it easier for employers to fight the increasing skill gaps in the workplace

knowledge-sharing-workplace-17. More employee engagement

As we mentioned earlier, intranets have a very low adoption caused by poor user experience. Consequently, it is very hard to engage employees and really make communications strategy efficient

Employees expect to engage with internal company content in a more fun way. They want to be able to join two-way company conversations, share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. 

Moreover, low employee motivation, engagement leads to low employee productivity. 

8. Improved employee productivity

Employee engagement and communications tools enable employees to quickly access information that is relevant to their tasks and duties. By using simple browser and intuitive search functions, employees can access organization's content from anywhere and can collaborate better. 

This increases the ability for employees to be more productive, do their job more efficiently, faster and with confidence that the information is credible.

intranet-con-employee-engagement9. Employee advocacy

As its name suggests, intranet is a software made for internal use only. On the other hand, employers are more and more relying on their employees to become advocates. They want them to share company’s content to the outside world and build more company awareness

Modern employee solutions and intranet alternatives enable employees to become advocates because the ROI of employee advocacy is significant. 

Learn more about the top 7 employee advocacy solutions on the market

10. Gamification

Advocates should be rewarded! If you have employees who proudly share your company's content with their own connections, reward them to encourage those actions. 

Intranet alternatives are much better in offering a more fun way to measure and support employee advocacy by tracking employees' engagement with internal company content in real time. 

11. Integration

One of the biggest advantages of new employee communications solutions is the ability to consolidate multiple workplace communications channels into a single source of truth

By providing a central place where employees can start their day, employers can ensure better employee performance and satisfaction with their jobs. 

12. Analytics and reports

Measuring employee engagement in is crucial for improvement. Intranet software often does not offer analytics that can really give useful insights into employee engagement strategies. 

On the contrary, here is an example of a more modern and intuitive report from a modern employee app. 

employee-engagement-analytics-1Employers should be able to connect their communications campaigns and efforts to specific organizational goals and KPIs. However, most intranets don't offer such feature, leaving organizations in the dark regarding their employees' engagement and performance. 

On the other hand, efficient intranet alternatives can go a long way in making workplace communications more measurable. 

10 Reasons Why Organizations are Considering Intranet Alternatives

Earlier, we saw some of the biggest intranet downsides. With the advancement of workplace technology, organizations are looking for intranet alternatives that can better accommodate new ways of working and enable employees to stay informed, engaged and productive. 

While intranets used to be considered as a good solution for effective workplace communications, this is not the truth any more. The emergence of digital transformation is requiring from companies to consider newer, more intuitive solutions. 

Here are the top 10 reasons why intranets fail within organizations:

  • Unclear governance
  • Unclear purpose
  • Unengaged executives
  • Poor user experience
  • Stale and outdated content
  • Lack of personalization
  • Many sources of truth
  • Technical resource dependency
  • Search doesn't work
  • Failed deployment

intranet-commuication-channel-chIntranet Synonyms

There are many different types of tools used to improve employee communications and collaboration. However, it is important to understand that not all these software solutions have the same features and capabilities. 

Even though the following tools are not really intranet synonyms, they are considered as more advanced alternatives:

  • Employee collaboration software
  • Employee communications software
  • Team collaboration software
  • Employee advocacy software
  • Social intranet software
  • Employee engagement software

Looking for an Intranet Alternative?

Smarp is a software used by companies across the world not only to help employee engagement but to boost employee advocacy

In general, advocacy comes with engagement and employee satisfaction. In order to succeed in employee advocacy, companies must be ready to transform their workplace strategies and really deliver relevant content to the right employees at the right time

With our employee communications platform, organizations can:

  • Create personalized employee content
  • Create communications channels specific to topics relevant to employees
  • Deliver timely and relevant messages in a matter of seconds
  • Create a central place with all the important company information
  • Send push notifications with important and urgent company updates
  • Connect various communication channels into a single platform
  • Measure the effectiveness and impact of their internal communications campaigns
  • Enable employees to become brand ambassadors

Schedule a Smarp demo today and see how it can help you engage your employees!

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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