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Can IM Replace My Intranet? We Don’t Think So.

Mike Hicks

October 18, 2019 · 3 min read
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Lately, with the rise of group messaging and chat apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams in the workplace, some organizations are considering their potential use as the corporate intranet.

They’re asking this question: Can I use one of these platforms as my organization’s intranet?

And can this be the single destination my employees visit each morning and return to throughout the day to get real work done? We don’t think so.

And here’s why. To build a purposeful digital destination that your employees will love to use, it must be tailored to solve the specific business challenges they confront every day.

Just because past intranet projects have failed (most likely due to planning and implementation pitfalls) doesn’t mean you need to abort and abandon in favor of a newer, shinier tool.

By doing so, you end up sacrificing the functionality you really need while trying to force fit a solution that isn’t comprehensive enough to do everything you need it to.

IM and group chat apps’ intranet capabilities are limited

IM and group chat apps play an important role in today’s increasingly complex and dispersed work environment, but they aren’t a standalone solution to an organization’s communication, collaboration, knowledge management, and culture and engagement challenges.

These tools are ideal for 1-to-1 or team collaboration, where quick, transactional conversations are required to move work along. From quick status updates to one-off questions or ideas, conversation-style collaboration has its benefits.

IM helps to reduce email, connect remote employees, and is a familiar mode of communication for younger generations. But it provides limited functionality when it comes to these capabilities:

  • Internal communications: IM and group chat doesn’t offer content publishing tools needed to support company-wide or targeted communications.
  • Employee engagement: These tools create siloes and back channels that can work against company culture and hinder productivity.
  • Knowledge sharing and transfer: Content and conversations that could be useful to others get lost in private channels.
  • Information governance: Lack of organization and ownership makes it difficult to corral and monitor company information.

Yet some organizations think that since these tools have high adoption, or are tools that they’ve already invested in, that it makes sense to make it the one-stop-shop for all internal business processes and information.

Here’s why we believe that thinking is misguided: you end up trying to bend a tool beyond its intended purpose to meet your business needs.

This will inevitably require you to find creative workarounds to common use cases (that can easily be accomplished with the right tools) and you’ll run into some adoption roadblocks while employees try to navigate an experience that doesn’t feel easy or natural.

One doesn’t have to replace the other. Find out how to use IM alongside your intranet.

Can your IM or group chat tool do all this?

If you’re thinking of turning one of these tools into your intranet, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Is this the destination that I want employees to go to start their day?
  • Will employees know where to go to find the information they need?
  • Will employees know how to find subject matter experts?
  • Can company news and events be found in a centralized location?
  • Can employees easily find answers to frequently asked questions?
  • Will policies, procedures, and best practices be kept in one place?
  • Will they have simplified access to key technical resources?

And consider the risks – the biggest being the time and effort wasted on trying to implement a solution that only loosely solves your challenges.

Be careful not to venture too far down a path that by the time you realize it’s more trouble than it’s worth, you’ve set yourself back months – or years – and you’re forced to start back at square one.

Create a single destination for all apps

There are no worthwhile short cuts in life. And rushing to assign any single messaging or chat app as your intranet platform will not prove helpful to your organization in the end.

It doesn’t have to be a “one or the other” situation – IM or intranet or even email. If you think like this, you’ll unknowingly throw out tools that can bring real value to the business and help employees get their work done.

Instead, your IM and group chat tools – along with many other productivity, file-sharing, and HR systems – can exist under the same umbrella: your unified digital workplace.

They can all work together as part of this larger technology eco-system that gives employees quick and easy access to all the tools and information they need.

We wrote the industry’s first playbook on how to deploy a successful digital destination. Explore practical and methodical approaches (inspired by our customers) to see how your strategy stacks up.