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Why do Intranets fail

Why do intranet portals fail?

 

Intranet portals integrate multiple use cases into a single user interface. This approach has failed entirely: working with hundreds of customers over the last decade, we have not seen a single intranet portal which has sustainably met its expectations.

The reason: intranet portals are way to complex. Users may claim that they want to see everything at one glance, but in reality they don’t: The only page which is frequently visited in such systems is the menu.

Likewise, internet portals like Yahoo and T-Online are on the decline. If many users did not have their email accounts there, they would not use them at all.

Unfortunately, many companies still do not know about all this. This is why until this day, lots of time and money is being invested in creating intranet portals – although it is already clear that they will not work and thus have to be replaced again in a few years.

Thus our sincerest recommendation to you is: Please do not under any circumstances build another one of these intranets portals: it is just not worth it.

Why do social intranets and ESNs fail?

 

Similar to intranet portals, social intranets and enterprise social networks (ESN) have also largely failed mainly because of two reasons:

First, most social intranets and ESNs also combine many different use cases into one user interface and are therefore as complex and difficult-to-use as intranet portals. Second, many social intranets and ESNs have been (and some still are) used for project and team work – although they are not well suited for this.

The latter is surprising when considering that nowadays nobody would create a Facebook group to communicate with their friends, family, school or sports team. Instead, we use tools like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Slack which enable team communication in real-time.

Social networks are tools for sharing information with a great number of people (= networks). The name of the core feature of any social network – the post or microblog – already points to this use case: it is all about posting short (= micro) articles (= blog). On Twitter, these articles usually consist of text, on Instagram of pictures and videos and on Facebook of a mixture of everything including links.

Therefore, social intranets and ESNs are great tools to share news with the entire company. This is the only use case for which they are made for, and this is where they work better than email or chat. Consequently, social intranets and ESNs have to be very simple and reduced to this use case, just like our Just News app.

Please do not try to implement a complex social networking or ESN tool and/or use it for communication in teams and projects. This has been tried thousands of times, and it has never worked. We know this from our own experience: after the initial euphoria is gone, you will be left with many inactive groups and frustrated user.

For this reason, many international vendors of such products have barely survived now that the first hype about this topic now is gone, and some have even been eliminated from market.

Why do employee apps fail

 

For a few years so-called employee apps have been available on the market. Employee apps integrate various features such as chat, news, knowledge etc. into one app – like a mobile version of an intranet portal, as it were.

This is precisely where the problem lies: just like intranet portals, employee apps also fail because of their complexity. There is a reason why you use many different apps on your smartphone: every app only serves one use case and is therefore extremely easy to use. From chat and social media apps to email and calendar apps, to weather, dating, taxi, music or fitness apps, you've got a specialized tool for everything, and not a digital Swiss Army knife like an employee app. For this reason, there are more than 2 million apps available today in the app stores of Apple and Google, of which the average person uses several dozens.

For the same reason, Facebook split its chat feature from the social network and launched it as a separate messenger app in 2011. Of course, there were people complaining about it, but without the simplicity of a specialized app, Facebook's Messenger would neither have over 1 billion active users today nor stand a chance against WhatsApp & Co. This strategy of “unbundling” can be seen everywhere: the latest example is Apple's iTunes, which has been divided into three new apps (Music, TV and podcasts) to reduce complexity.

To summarize: Only specialized, single-purpose apps which are as simple as possible will succeed. Multi-purpose apps such as employee apps will not prevail, let alone inspire users.