Tough questions for your intranet vendor

Searching for a new intranet platform? This set of questions will help you probe the strengths and weaknesses of the approach taken by different vendors.


The focus here is not on features but on how the platforms work. That is, how their platform interacts with users and integrates with tools. That’s much more important to the performance, success, and sustainability of your new intranet than any particular feature is.

Here are tough questions to ask your intranet vendor.


You’ll want to ask about participation rates because you want your employees to actually use your intranet. High participation at launch is common, but does it continue?

What employee participation rate are your achieving across all your customers in my sector? How are you measuring this?


Targeting information to keep things relevant and confidential

Targeting ensures your people only see content that’s relevant to them. Without targeting, intranets can get cluttered and, eventually, deserted.

How is information targeted to specific types of users? How do you ensure that things not of interest to a user won’t clutter their view? Do you show the same information in multiple places or multiple times?

Can I tie the visibility of information to a group such as a division or a location and have it dynamically update? Can I do this at an item level, or only per page?

Can I confidently share sensitive information just with people working on a confidential project with me? Will system admins be able to see this?

How do you stop people from dispersing information into more and more “pages”? What causes old pages to be updated or deleted?

How do I define and maintain groups of users, relating to projects, employee groups, locations, divisions, etc.? What parameters and tools can I use to do this? Can I dial up combinations of these attributes so I can target specific groups like “Sales in the UK”?

Ensuring must-see content is read

Your people want to be updated on what’s happening. So you’ll want to find out from your intranet provider how their platform ensures they won’t miss anything.

How do users get alerted to new content? How do they quickly spot it when browsing your platform?


Mobile use

Modern intranets absolutely need mobile capabilities. So you’ll want to ask how the intranet works on mobile, what it does and doesn’t do, and how your people can stay connected when they’re remote.

How do I ensure that a group of users has for sure seen a particular file or announcement?

What can’t I do on your mobile app?

Notifications and the associated noise

Intranets can get noisy, especially when there’s no filtering or targeting of content. Plus, people never appreciate being notified about things that don’’t pertain to them, or that have been sent to bait them back into the platform. So you’ll want to dig in on what notifications are sent and how they’re triggered.

Can users dial up what events notify to what notification channels?

Do you support browser notifications? Do you push notifications to mobile notification centres?

Do you rely on a notification centre? How noisy is it?

What kinds of notifications do you send that are not triggered by a user action such as publishing content? Do you email users in an effort to drive “viral” adoption?

File sharing

This one’s a no-brainer: every intranet should have file-sharing. However, not all intranets do file-sharing well. That’s why you’ll want to find out as much as you can about how file-sharing works.

How do you organize and share files and documents? Who can do this? Where are the files stored? How is file access control set and maintained?

Is the ownership of shared files and documents clear? When something is out of date or missing will users know who to contact?

Do you integrate with repositories like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive? If so:
  • Do you index the content of those files so they show in your universal search?

  • When they do show in your search, how to people understand their context (associated topic, team, location, etc.) in your intranet?

  • Do you map users 1:1 with those services? Does the integration include their SSO (user provisioning)?

  • Is it clear who can see each file, without needing to examine the details on the repository side? Do you push access rights set on the intranet side back to the repository?

  • Can users add a file into the repository from the intranet side? Can the start a collaborative (GoogleDoc or Office365) document from the intranet side?


Employee data

Your people want to know who’s who at their organization, particularly when they’re seeking help. That’s why you’ll want to ask questions about directories and org charts - how do they find people and how are they kept current? How can they help people navigate your organization?

How rich are employee profiles? Are their custom fields? Can I export/import this data in bulk?

Can I highlight employees with special status (such as a member of a sales recognition program or designated first aid attendants)?

How do you integrate with HRIS systems? Can this be automated? Can the intranet maintain the master copy of selected fields?

Can I find people by filtering using parameters like location, role, and division?

How can the visibility of employee data fields be controlled? When necessary, can personal emails be hidden, for example?

Do you support the single sign on technology I use? Can I use it to provision users?


Protection of data

This one’s simple: you want a secure intranet.

How does your platform prevent confidential information from being shared outside my company? Can external users be invited to a channel or page? How do other users clearly understand this?

Where is my data located? Can I choose which country it resides in?

Are you audited to the AICPA SOC 2 Trust Service Principles? Can I see your SOC 2 Type II report?


Your intranet needs to reflect your brand. Employees are an important vector in your overall brand experience, so use your intranet to immerse them in it.

Can I add my logo and brand colors? Can I name my intranet?

Will this branding show in the phone apps? In email notifications?

When will you show your brand to my users?

Configuration and onboarding

Once you’ve picked your intranet, you’re ready to go, right? Well, no. You’ll need to get it ready and then launch it with some fanfare. Some intranets are integrated platforms that are easy to set up, some are simple apps that cannot be configured to reflect the real “you”, and others are boxes of parts (pages and widgets) that need assembly under the supervision of a good information architect. That’s why you’ll want to know what configuration and onboarding entails.

How turnkey is your platform? What needs to be configured?

Are there any setup fees? Should I be hiring a consultant to help me with this?

Who provides the overall information architecture?

Do users get to assemble their own pages using widgets? How does this result in a consistent user experience?

How do you keep navigation simple? How do users know where to find a particular piece of information?

Improvements and uptime

Time spent fixing a broken intranet is time lost doing things that are way more important for your business. So you should ask some questions about how maintenance and improvements are done.

How often to you release updates to your platform? Does this involve downtime or configuration?

What’s involved in deploying your platform? Does it depend on any other platforms or add ons that will need to be subscribed to or installed?

How many minutes was your service not available to users over the past twelve months?
dividerThe right answer to these questions will depend on the nature and culture of your organization. Don’t just table these questions, take time to discuss and explore with your short list of vendors to see how their view of what’s important for a successful intranet maps to your needs.