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10 Reasons Why Some Intranets Fail

There are many ways to increase user adoption of an Intranet. An obvious place to start is to identify why some (possibly yours) intranets fail.

We have delivered many SharePoint Intranets to organisations, large and small, covering a multitude of disciplines. A common scenario is that the Intranet we build is not the first for that company, and more often than not, more than two previous Intranets have failed. Here are 10 of the most common reasons.

1. Outdated Content 

The core purpose of an intranet is to deliver information and knowledge to users. Always update your delivered messages as they are an additional internal communications channel.

As a user, I will go to the Intranet on its release and read the latest news. However, I won’t go back onto the intranet if I see that the news hasn’t been updated with anything new.

This is why it is important to be consistent with your content. Employees are more engaged and motivated when more relevant and up-to-date content is uploaded.

2. Difficult Navigation

As with all websites, usability is key. This fails within Intranets mainly where navigation is concerned. Users are easily put off visiting when they lose where they are within the Intranet and can’t find key pages.

The important rule is to follow a 2 or 3 click maximum to get to any location, ensuring that there is always a route back to the home page. A lot of time needs to be spent designing the menu system, making sure that it is logical and consistent throughout the intranet.

3. Undiscoverable Content 

Many users will access an Intranet knowing exactly what type of information they need to find, and to do this they will make use of search. If content within the Intranet is poorly organised, not tagged or does not make use of metadata (information about information) then this content will not be discoverable. Not only this, but the engagement rate will fall and staff frustration levels will increase.

Discovering content across all areas of the site, via search, also needs to be repeatable. I must be able to easily find HR information in the same way as I find IT information.

4. Top Down Only Information 

Lots of users will use your Intranet just for discovery purposes. However, some users like to get involved and provide their thoughts, feedback and comments.

Intranets that are strictly controlled by a small part of the organisation, and are only used to deliver messages that cover high-level strategy and messages from the CEO, will ultimately be ignored. This is not because the content is unnecessary, but too much of one thing can leave your audience dissatisfied and underappreciated.

As an Intranet user, I want to be able to see how the organisation is performing, share my knowledge with my colleagues, congratulate colleagues on life-changing events, and provide feedback that is seen to make a difference. If all of this is available, then each visit to the Intranet will be different and all types of audiences will be catered for.

5. No Quick Wins 

In specific scenarios, user adoption can be built by making it unavoidable. A great example of this is holiday requests. As a user, I am forced to access the Intranet as that is the only place for me to request some much needed time off. Throughout implementation of the Intranet, it is key to identify what users require and then provide it to them in a single location – The Intranet.

Intranets that are entirely optional will likely receive poor user adoption as their audience has not been given a good reason to visit.

6. Build and Leave 

No intranet designer will get everything right first time. Companies change. Users do strange things. The intranet is a live, dynamic system and it needs constant review to keep it tidy, relevant and up to date. Too often, Intranets are built, launched and then left to decay slowly over time.

7. Intranet Ownership 

Leading on from the above, another failing point for an intranet is when it is built and then left. The key here is to take ownership of the site. By having a person/ team taking ownership, they can support staff into learning and adapting.  Also, they are the team that handles and processes issues within the intranet, should they arise. Ultimately, this will encourage employees to be more engaging with the software.

8. Poor Look and Feel 

Another usability issue is that text is hard to read due to small font sizes, incorrect fonts and clashing colours. If users can’t read the information that is provided, then the organisation is going to fail at increasing user Adoption.

Good design and branding can bring a sense of professionalism; brand guidelines and tone of voice help make your users feel part of the organisation. User Adoption can easily decrease just due to a few opinionated users disliking the chosen design.

9. Intranet Strategy 

The whole development and implementation process for the intranet should align to the intranet strategy. A lack of strategy and goals can often lead to problems, therefore knowing exactly what you want the site to achieve – helps the process.

10. Lack of Management Buy-In 

Last but not least, probably the biggest reason why intranets fail. People don’t like change. For an intranet to gain momentum, a lot of people need to engage with it, learn how to use it, and go through the pain of changing how they work. 90% of people won’t go through this pain unless, frankly, somebody tells them to. And with the best will in the world, the IT manager usually can’t tell anybody to do anything.

Senior management need to want the intranet to work and give it their full backing. Some staff will need time to add news, manage HR information, review usage, support users. Regular meetings need to happen to make sure things are working as they should and to suggest improvements.

In short… 

Identify the reasons why your Intranet has failed, then tackle those as high priority during new solution planning. If you need any help, here are 10 ways to improve your company intranet.

To do this, review your current activity, even if you are creating an intranet for the very first time. You probably use Shared Drives to manage information and need to move that into SharePoint. If you just decide on a copy/ paste of material, you could just be cluttering your new system before beginning.

SharePoint provides lots of additional features and functionality. Reviewing and understanding is vital to update and improve information during upload.


If you are wondering why your intranet is failing and want to find out more, we can show you by performing an environment audit which will highlight the issues your intranet has. Along with this, you will receive best-practice advice and suggestions on fixing it, so that your intranet begins to work the way it should.