6 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Taking Your Intranet Mobile

Every bigger company has an intranet. But while intranet software is often seen as the digital answer for internal communications, employee engagement, and team collaboration, it has often failed to fulfill expectations.


A Collaborative Intranet for Internal Communications Is as Effective as Drinking from a Fire Hose

Less than half of all employees with access log on daily to their company's intranet—and often do so only because it's their default company browser start page. In addition, updating intranets is complicated, which results in just a few people creating a majority of content. True, this may have changed with the rise of team sites and social networking, but the new approach that claims “everyone can do everything” also comes at a cost. Hundreds or even thousands of team sites and project spaces mean less structure, more noise, and less confidential content.


While this might be a great digital workplace vision for passionate knowledge workers, it's a nightmare for the majority of employees who simply need to understand what's going on in their company and what they have to know in order to best do their job. Modern intranets come with more features, but they make less sense for the majority of your target audience. Imagine you're thirsty and somebody offers you a fire hose—that's the effect that some social collaboration tools have had on internal communications.


You Can Only Talk to Your Employees if They Can Hear You

Reach needs to be at the center of every successful employee communications channel. 70% of today's employees don't work at a desk and overcoming the gap between the non-desk and desk-bound workforce has become increasingly complicated. This is true not only for offline or non-wired employees but also for frontline sales- or service forces. Your colleagues from these fields are key for growing the business and creating happy customers, but it's nearly inpossible to reach them on a channel that doesn't reach their smartphones.  


Taking the Intranet Mobile

People pick up their phones more than 85 times every day and 85% of the time they spend on their phones is on apps. Mobile intranets combine a common problem with a growing trend. The goal is to finally provide companies with a direct and up-to-date channel to their employees, to share news faster than external press releases, to provide necessary information at the right time, and to quickly learn about valuable feedback from the front line. Mobile intranets are more than just a news channel, they are a real enabler for businesses to manage change and move faster.




“It's just an app, so this should be easy!”

Yes, from a high level management perspective, implementing an app does look easy.
But communicators and IT professionals know that plenty of challenges are on the horizon as you dive into the details of a mobile channel for your intranet.
We've been there and done that many times over with customers from various industries of all sizes on four continents and counting.


This blog post is therefore intended to help you avoid six common mistakes that are made when taking your intranet mobile.  


1. A Responsive Intranet Is Not a Mobile Intranet

“Is your intranet mobile?“

“Oh yes, it’s very responsive!“


“Responsive” means that an intranet has been optimized to run on different screen sizes and will change its layout to fit different formats. The problem with this approach is that it fails to answer the other questions that arise when implementing a mobile intranet: How do you onboard users with no company email address? How do you deal with security, usability, and user engagement? And how do you let your employees know about important news? Most responsive channels of existing intranets have disappointing usage rates of less than 5% of overall traffic. Compare that to the more than 70% of mobile traffic that we see many of our customers achieve. They use a native app that provides  five central advantages over a mobile website:


User and content management: Downloading an app is a process that every user has completed many times before. Users need to login to the app at the start (look here for more details on user onboarding) but shouldn't be required to login with every use. Staffbase provides a built-in system for user management as well as content management. This helps companies to separate internal content intended to reach everybody (mobile) and highly confidential content (only accessible inside the firewall), while also ensuring usability.


Engagement and usability: On an app, users become more immersed. An app's central feature and advantage is that we take it everywhere we take our smartphone, while a browser is less present in our daily lives. In addition, app usage is sharply on the rise. More than 1.2 billion people use mobile apps and 90% of our time on mobile devices is spent on apps.


Push notifications are a game changer for internal communications: Apps provide the possibility of adding features that wouldn't work on a browser version. Push notifications, for example, help you to send important information to your employees immediately and directly to their most-used device. Similar to text messages, push notifications are mostly read within the first three minutes following receipt, while this is the case for only 22% of emails.

responsive intranet is not a mobile intranet.jpg

Our customer T-Systems sees a rate of readers that is three times greater when a new message has been pushed. 75% of users from our customer Viessmann read pushed news messages within one hour. Push messages are a game changer for internal communications. 


Enhanced security for confidential information: Apps are able to provide a higher level of security than a website because they can be integrated into a Mobile Device Management (MDM). MDM allows the distribution of applications, data, and configuration settings to managed smartphones. Simultaneously, it allows administrators to oversee mobile devices as easily as desktop computers and provides optimal performance for users. MDM tools include application management; file synchronization and sharing; data security tools; and support for either a corporate-owned or personally owned device. This is especially interesting for certain audiences like management or sales and service employees who use a company smartphone yet need to access more confidential information. Apps that work with MDM meet high security standards for confidential information, and they make accessing it more convenient.


Branding: Intranets are often about branding. Having your own name and carefully conducted design on a website is great, but the limited space inherent to mobile websites means very little chance of anyone actually seeing it. In comparison, a native app lets you use all of your own branding. Users will see your logo, company name, app store description, and push notification label, all the while maintaining the advantages of your intranet and making it available on all of your communication devices.


By putting your mobile intranet on an app instead of a website you're already one step ahead in a process that's likely to be inevitable. If you're going mobile, why not go all the way.



2. Copying Your Desktop Intranet

Mobile needs a different approach to content and functionality. Many intranets are huge, crowded places with all kinds of content and applications. Furthermore, they often mirror the deep hierarchy of the company and act as the start page of the corporate desktop PCs people turn on in the morning. In comparison, mobile intranet apps capture people’s attention in completely different and more diverse situations: during lunch break, while waiting on the bus to the office, between two meetings, or even at home. Also, a mobile intranet app, in comparison to the desktop version, makes everything accessible within a maximum of three layers of navigation. Your mobile intranet should be a clean, simple version of your intranet. 





In addition, in order to successfully take your intranet mobile, especially if people are supposed to download the intranet on their private smartphones, your focus needs to be on providing value. Value for employees isn't always aligned with value for the company though—we suggest you create the first to enable the second.


This might be as simple as including a lunch menu or an internal marketplace to trigger usage. In addition, make sure that these advantages are communicated. There is no use of having an awesome mobile version if nobody knows about it or they think it's the same thing as your old desktop intranet. It’s important to make sure you know the capabilities and qualities that will make your user’s work-lives easier and that you advertise these advantages. Furthermore, always remember that users don’t necessarily have to use what you put in front of them.


You have to make them want it.







3. Texts Are Too Long And Blabla

On mobile, size matters and people appreciate straight and honest content.


Firstly, remember that your intranet isn't a dumping ground for all the content from your corporate website. Not everything that made sense on your desktop version will make sense on mobile. A new start means taking a new approach to content, too.


Many people are used to writing long, well-researched pieces for print which are later adopted to the intranet. But key for a mobile app is to write a lot of shorter pieces. Here the aim is to use rich images and compelling teasers while summing up your content within the first paragraph. Longer content can still be part of the news feed but it should come up more rarely because it takes more effort to read and too much of it can discourage your users from reading—as well as writing—content. 


Follow this guideline to see if your content is APPropriate (Ha! See what I did there?):




Consider, additionally, that mobile solutions are much more interactive and function in real-time. There can be an editorial calendar for things that are predictable but the aim should be to create content as soon as topics arise. The most engaging content will be the article you wrote during lunch when you suddenly realised the need to share a pressing piece of information, even though during breakfast you had no idea that this would happen.


Also, remember to make content creation open to your employees. Traditionally, content was created by very few chosen writers and editors, but the mobile version now enables everybody to write their own news posts and comments, in addition to sharing pictures and videos. While you can still decide who does what with administration rights, it's very effective to open up the writing process to all departments. This leads to topics with higher relevance to your employees. As a manager you can't know everything, especially when your workforce is sperad out at different locations. Let your workforce write about topics that are current, that interest them, and that will increase usage.


Lastly, limit the information you put online. Use the mobile intranet as a news feed, not as a place to upload your company's most valued secrets. Howether secure you make it, it's still the internet we're talking about here.



4. Security Dilemma

When in doubt, choose easier access for users and limit the content.


On mobile—more than on other platforms—there is a fight between usability, access, and security. After all, your mobile intranet might be accessed on private smartphones. People stay logged in for long periods of time and they tend to use it from everywhere, which automatically increases the risk of information spreading where it should not.




Security is a given when the app is restricted to managed corporate devices with a restricted session lifetime. In comparison, when the app is allowed on private smartphones and employees are always logged in, usability is guaranteed, onboarding is a breeze (whether you have a corporate email or not), and push notifications can be sent.


The simple rule to go by in order to balance the two is that if the usability is too low people won't use the intranet at all and the content will be for nothing. Therefore, make sure that the usability is high and adopt your content to the resulting security standards.

The aim of a mobile intranet should always be to integrate and engage more people and to make this happen especially at the beginning, usability has to be your priority.

If there is confidential content you really need in the intranet our pro tip is to install a second layer of security inside the app. 


If you aren’t sure what to do follow the four categories of data classification according to ISE27001:





#5 Thinking Too Small

Are you prepared for your mobile internet's success?

Our existing customers show that the adoption rate of successful apps will quickly rise above 70%, some reaching up to 90% of all employees.


Especially if you have a large non-desk workforce without email access, the app will quickly become the most important IT tool in your company. More stakeholders will want to get into your app, making it the employee communication gate keeper. C-level, Internal Comms, HR, IT, Operations, other locations – they all will want to adopt the app and add their own features.

If you hired an agency to build “just a mobile website” or “just an app” you are stuck and cannot move forward without investing a lot of money and time. Make sure from the beginning to choose a provider with built-in options for custom extensions and a flexible user and access management to prepare for your success.


Desktop intranets are often stuck and don't grow with the innovation coming along, don't make this mistake with the mobile version. Apps like Staffbase are able to grow with your need and enable you to add on new plugins with time.


#6 Why So Serious?

Last, one of the main problems with the desktop intranet is that your employees perceive it as work. It's complicated, takes time, and nobody really likes it. To avoid this from happening with your mobile version make it fun.

Firstly, when onboarding your employees into the app try to encourage them by giving away prices for the people that are most active.Similarly, for new employees include an onboarding manual that not only shows them how to use the mobile version, but also rewards the new employee when they have completed a phase. Admit it, we all love treasure hunts.

Secondly, with putting the intranet on a smartphone you automatically include it in your employees daily life. This in itself is already the first step to make it fun, so keep this environment in mind when further developing features and content. Ideally, your employees will look at the content even if they are not at work. Encourage this behaviour by following the content tips above and adding features like event planning and company sports.

A little gamification goes a long way!





Mobile Intranet – 6 Most Common Mistakes Made When Taking the Intranet Mobile




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Written by Sina Kaye Lockley

Sina is a communication specialist at Staffbase. She wants to help companies engage their employees and find ways to make work more fun. She writes about internal communication, mobile employee engagement and how to use an app in today's evolving workforce. In her free time she fights for gender neutral toilets and LGBTQ rights.