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The Mobile Friendly Intranet

06 Oct 2015

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A few short years ago it was thought that mobile and tablets would eventually replace desktop and laptop PCs altogether. This may very well happen in coming years, as more productivity-centred tablets appear on the market. For the most part however, at work we tend to use more than one device to access all manner of tasks. And employees expect to be able to do this with little in the way of fuss, especially since BYOD took off.

The Mobile Friendly Intranet

Now, staff expect to be able to access the corporate intranet on whatever device they have handy. For field staff, for example, it’s impractical to drag a full-sized laptop around, so many connect to the office on mobile devices in order to put in orders and perform other tasks on the go.

The intranet then has to facilitate staff who access the network on mobile devices. This means that the intranet itself has to be adapted so that it can be displayed on a myriad of devices. However, it’s not necessary to give all of the functionality of the intranet to mobile and tablet users, often, a version which gives access to the parts of the intranet that are likely to be used is often enough.

Mobile Intranets are Financially Accessible

According to usability specialists Nielsen Norman Group, the majority of organisations chose to provide a mobile intranet over a mobile app to allow staff to access work on the go. Whilst costs for mobile intranet adaptations are surprisingly low – a company with more than 50,000 employees spends an average of $228,000 on the mobile version of the network – most organisations choose to develop a cut-down version of the intranet for mobile.

“Only 27% of companies offered a full-featured mobile intranet with the same features as the desktop version. The vast majority of companies offered either limited functionality or different functionality targeted at field staffers who rarely used desktop computers.”

The article went on to say that the biggest motivation for firms looking to take the intranet mobile, was to support field workers and in fact 79% of those surveyed by the group cited that reason.

But field workers are not the only staff that can benefit from a mobile intranet. Remote workers also need to access the corporate network from various places where they may be working. Remote working has become increasingly popular worldwide since technology has better enabled people to connect to the office from any location.

The Power of the Cloud

Now, it’s not necessary to set up a VPN, the power of the cloud allows workers to access all manner of documents and apps securely from any location. Add to this improvements that have been made to VoIP and hosted PBX, and this means that often, workers can pick up calls at their home or on their mobile device even when it comes through the office. Internet speeds are now good enough that dropped connections and waiting for email attachments to download are a thing of the past.

All-in-all, we have more efficient and productive means of working than ever before. And for an enterprise, it’s vital that it understands this and adapts in order to ensure that it stays ahead of the game and remains competitive.

Workers now expect to be able to access and use similar tools in work that they do in their personal life. This includes mobile devices, access to various means of communication and the tools that they need to do their job effectively.

What Kind of Mobile Intranet

For the most part, enterprises are choosing to go with responsive design to build their mobile networks. As discussed above, often these will be pared down versions of the full, desktop intranet. As in web design, a responsive intranet will serve pages that fit the device depending on the screen size, usually via media queries and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

This will take planning however. In the first instance, it will be necessary to carry out a survey to determine exactly which features will be most needed by staff and which can remain solely as a desktop feature.

The advantages of adding mobile capability, using responsive design, include:

  • Mobile devices are here to stay, and using them is convenient
  • Employees can better control when and where they work
  • Employees can use their own devices
  • Adapting aspects of the intranet for responsive design is cheaper than redesigning the entire intranet

Responsive design is not the only option available of course, there is also adaptive design, which could be seen as the better choice as it detects a device before serving content and as such, is faster than responsive.

Planning for the Mobile Intranet

As with any business process, adding mobile functionality to the intranet will need careful planning. The first step, as discussed earlier, will be to determine the features and pages that users will be most likely to need and use on mobile devices.

These could include:

  • The home page
  • Social tools (IM, VoIP calling, profiles, blogs)
  • Corporate apps
  • Collaboration tools
  • Company directories
  • Workflows

Adding social tools to the mobile intranet will help to boost engagement and ensure that it’s useful to employees. It’s important however that you not only consider the user when planning, but that the overall intranet strategy is tied into business goals in order to make the most of it.

For example, if you want to boost customer service responses for the business, then you may want to ensure that unified communications tools are made available across devices.

There’s no doubt that enabling mobile browsing and working on the intranet can be a plus for an enterprise. It allows employees more freedom to collaborate and work in ways that boosts their productivity. And this of course essentially means more profit for the business and as workers are more satisfied in their jobs, even better knowledge-sharing and a lower staff turnover.

Want more information on mobile web best practices? Check out our free mobile guide.

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