Intranet Design Annual 2015

by | Jan 22, 2015 | Digital workplace, Intranets, Reviews, Search

I’ve spent a lifetime writing books and reports and so have some idea of the effort that goes in to producing a 370 page report that sets out to critically assess 10 intranets. I’m come across far too many people who question whether the Design Annual reflects the best intranets in the world. The Nielsen Norman Group can only judge the intranets that are submitted and the value of these reports is in the behind-the-scenes research into how these intranets have been conceived, planned. implemented and managed. Moreover this report is an Annual, and not an Award. The organisations profiled this year are Accolade (the Netherlands), Adobe (USA), ConocoPhilips (USA), Klick Health (Canada), Saudi Food and Drug Authority, Sprint (USA), Tauron Polska Energia (Poland), Foschini Group (South Africa), UniCredit (Italy) and Verizon Communications (USA).

The report starts off with an analysis of the award winners since 2001 and some of the highlights of this year’s winners. Nine of them used role-based personalisation though the approaches adopted are somewhat different. Responsive design approaches were used by five organisations, with a lot of care being taken to remove irrelevant content. In the case of Verizon (a three-times winner!)  50% of the HR content was removed in the upgrade. At last social features are being integrated into intranets instead of being tacked on as an after-thought, and several of the winners used some elements of an agile development approach. I was pleased to see that much more attention is being given to search implementation, with a good use of facets and filters and a couple of examples of federated search. Adobe, Sprint and Verizon were the only non-SharePoint intranets, with Verizon using a combination of Drupal as a CMS and IBM Watson (!) for search.

Each of the intranet descriptions provides an overview of the intranet, the business case for redevelopment, governance, the design process and usability work, content and content contributors, technology platforms and applications and a final lessons learned review. The 149 screen shots are not only a feature of the text but are available as a high-resolution png file. A most welcome addition to the report this year is a well-prepared index. There is also a useful review of the reasons why other intranets failed to make the final selection.

The report works at two levels. A read-through provides inspiration, because each of the organisations featured went through a long and complex journey to achieve excellence. The second level is the detail provided about each intranet, and this where the index is invaluable in providing a cross-case study entry point into (for example) thirty examples of the use of video. As I now can’t fault the lack of an index I would like to suggest that the technology platforms are listed in the introductory profile, so that as you start reading you are already aware that you are looking at an SP2010 (Unicredit) implementation.

The team of Kara Pernice, Amy Schade and Patty Caya, together with probably most of the NNGroup team, deserve a round of applause for their work on the report. There is a summary on the NNGroup website and an individual licence is $248, which works out at (say) only $20 a profile and $48 for the summary, or around $1 per day of your intranet working year. However you do the maths it is excellent value as a source of inspiration and neat ways of delivering business-critical information to employees. If you think your intranet is better than the selected 10 why not enter it for the 2016 Annual?

Martin White