The advent of web content management systems (WCMS or just a CMS) in the late 1990s was a key step in the development of the Internet. The technical hurdle of creating Web content was out of the way and more people than ever could now publish their content without IT skills.

 

 

CMS solutions got very attractive for companies websites, because now business people could maintain their content - which meant less expense, more up to date content and higher common quality standards. No wonder that CMS systems also became the first choice for intranets. Create, organize and publish content - Internet and Intranet had very similar tasks and with this resemblance, it was logical to use the same technical basis. An obvious idea, because there are obvious reasons to use the same CMS for both scenarios:

  • Administrators, editors and operating staff training only needed for one system
  • Operations and hosting synergies
  • High specialization of employees on one solution
  • Better purchasing conditions for complete package from the software provider

 

Modern web sites and Intranets today - two from different planets.

 

The demands placed on websites and intranets have not just expanded. They are moving away from each other with increasing speed. The Internet is clearly the innovation engine and continuously brings up new business models and technologies. Parts thereof can be transferred to the intranet, but beware! Conditions, motivations and incentives are different within companies. Many internal "Facebook", "LinkedIn" and "Wikipedia" projects had to learn this the hard way.

 

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Requirements for Internet Content Management Systems

 

Current trends / strategy:

It starts with the realization that the modern web users are supersaturated, spoiled and impatient. Companies need to continuously improve the customer experience and deliver quality content to help and encourage customers in every stage of the buying lifecycle. The buzzword behind is content marketing and every company who is serious about it, currently undergoes a transformation of it's web editors team to a digital publishing house or an event agency (keyword "story-doing" instead of "storytelling"), or both. Once the content is there it needs to be delivered depending on customer demographics and the perceived stage of the costumers buying cycle. The wet dream of online marketers is to use (big) data about the customer to automatically deliver the right content and trigger interactions at the right time.

 

Target audience:

Web users who do not easily give away personal information. The more you know, (location, gender, age, existing customer, interactions in the past ...) the more personalization possibilities arise. Another important target group are search engines.

 

Content:

Content must be simple and extremely intuitive (keyword: conversion rate) for users - large navigation structures are not advisable. Editorial functionality has to be more complex because often very flexible and variable content, templates and layouts are used. Microsites are a key element to set-up and run campaigns or support content with limited lifetime. Control and real time analysis of campaigns is important. Also look for integration options with digital agencies and media library’s in order to quickly produce and publish high quality content.

 

Optimization:

Continuous optimization of site interactions is needed (e.g. A/B testing) in order to increase conversion rates. High demands on analysis and reporting as a basis for optimization and personalization. Companies desperately search for a new kind of analytical online marketing manager, who understands the business and loves to dig deep into big data.

 

Integrations:

Social media integration, customer community (which now also have completely different requirements compared to internal communities) and integration of CRM system in order link interactions to existing customers and prospects. Ecommerce integration. Latest trends see also the integration with (externally provided) customer targeting systems in order to even classify mostly unknown users.

 

Channels:

Development of customized mobile apps for marketing, customer loyalty, customer service etc. Personalization is also a big issue here - deliver specific content for mobile sites. Google's latest update "Mobilegeddon"  pushes well designed mobile sites higher up in the ranking.

 

Change management:

Main target group are few, specialized editors who regularly submit content. High initial training effort for editors. Content creation needs to be fast and extremely efficient. Processes needed for internal and external content production. Marketing and sales need to work together more closely and decision-making processes at communications must be dramatically accelerated (eg how long do you need to react on a critical tweet?).

 

Does not sound anymore like the good old website right? Let's look at the requirements of Intranets.

 

Requirements for intranet content management systems

 

Current trends / strategy:

Modern intranets today are called "Social Intranets" or - more modern - "Digital Workplace". The aim is not only to support information and communication, but also to enable collaboration in virtual spaces. There are also functions that are grouped under the umbrella term unified communications - chat, status display, telephony, video conferencing. All this is not to make a CMS platform and so the Digital workplace is increasingly becoming an accumulation of individual services that are most efficiently and flexibly integrated with each other (user management, registration, search, navigation, home). Challenges arise due to the inconsistency of many needs, eg the rise of collaboration and thus more sensitive data and on the other hand, high demands for easy and mobile access - even from private devices.

 

Target audience:

Users details are often available via user directories. Automatic personalization is possible, if details like location, organizational assignment, working groups are accessible. Intranet users have shown little desire so far to actively personalize their experience. Corresponding offers (e.g. individually configurable home pages) are rarely used in the long term.

 

Content:

Usually loads of content with complex navigation structure. Editors continue to be very relevant, however few full-time. Much more part-time editors. Adding content must be very simple and with limited design options. Distinction between shop-window content (e.g. HR services for employees) and internal content of each department (now mostly done via virtual rooms). Structure and navigation should be as stable as possible over time (therefore topic-based navigation, not org-based). Amount of sensitive content increases because of more collaboration spaced in social intranets. That is a challenge for giving mobile access to all employees - our Staffbase EmployeeApp provides an approach to solve this.

 

Optimization:

Good intranet managers regularly work on the structure, merge related or competing content and invest into the ongoing maintenance of the search functionality (yes that is needed!). Unfortunately there is  usually limited budget for care and maintenance of intranets. They are build once, often with big efforts, and are then expected to run without much further investments. Needless to say that this does not work.

 

Integrations:

Employee directories, employee self-service, collaboration, search, unified communications, Email, Office.

 

Channels:

Mobile intranets are evolving towards native apps too (push notifications, speed, ease of use). Native apps will push standard solutions, because expenses are high for individual development and continuous maintenance. Not everything has to be available on Smartphones - especially when dealing with documents the small screens quickly reach their limits.

 

Change management:

Training can only be afforded for admins and editors, minimal to non-training for part-time editors and information workers. The role of intranet editors regains importance: "Social tools" bring sustainable and positive change to the way project work is digitally supported. In the larger context - the enterprise - the results we see in the market are not convincing. Large-scale internal social platforms produce disorientation and a flood of, often irrelevant, information.

 

Conclusion

Websites are nowadays called customer experience platforms and intranets are becoming digital workplaces. Some of this may be buzzword but behind the buzz there is a clear trend: both move functionality-wise away from each other and this also affects their underlying technologies.

 

For websites, content management is now only a part of the digital customer experience. The individual customer journey is highly complex and does not end with the conversion, but then often continues with integrations in delivery and support processes. The deep integration of all components is crucial. Vendors with a customer experience offering like Adobe or IBM, are trying to build or buy all pieces of the customer experience stack, in order to complete their integrated solution.

 

Intranets also need integration - but with entirely different tools. In addition, Intranets need to provide a better fit to different target groups within the company. We need something like a "Communication intranet" that is easy to use, personal and accessible for all employees. The second pillar is then a "Collaboration intranet" which support teams and protects sensitive content for collaboration, structured information and processes. More pieces are possible and all together form the digital workplace.

 

 

Written by Frank Wolf

Frank is the CMO and co-founder of Staffbase. He is an intranet and communication expert with more than a decade of experience in helping companies connecting to their employees. He is passionate about internal communication and digital technologies that create an enjoyable place to work.