Intranets in large enterprises

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Genuinely large corporations constitute their own special group in the field of intranet technology. With thousands of employees working in many different countries and business functions, designing an intranet concept is not entirely straightforward.For such complex organizations, intranets are essential business systems – often in many ways.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

13 October 2015

Perttu Tolvanen

In many enterprises of a substantial size, the intranet environment has gradually developed into something that resembles a portal-like self-service tool. Such intranets of large corporations typically contain much more than just internal communication and shared documents.

However, the intranet is often a critically important channel for organizational communication in large enterprises from the management, empolyees, and communications point of view.

Special feature #1: Management uses intranet for strategic communications

In large enterprises, the management usually has perceived the importance of the intranet as a communicational channel. Especially if the intranet is available for every employee of the organization, the management tends to be very interested in this technology. Intranet is used to communicate about corporate culture, to let people know what is important, and to provide tools for handling the most important work tasks.

One must note that even an organization with hundreds of employees can be often managed rather well by utilizing direct interaction. In a corporation with thousands of employees, strategic communication must be implemented, and there must be a way to influence the personnel also via indirect communications channels – by using the intranet, for example.

Special feature #2: Many intranets are designed at once

In an intranet concept of a large enterprise, the organizational structure and business management have an entirely different emphasis than in smaller companies. If there are a lot of small units working inside the same gigantic organization, the internal functions and special needs of these units must be taken into account as well.

Intranet design for a large corporation is much like designing an intranet for several organizations at the same time, taking each one’s special requirements into consideration and still finding the mutual structures and features.

Special feature #3: The concept must be flexible

Other special characteristics of large corporations include multilingualism and great differences between practical requirements of business functions. Many enterprises operate in several countries, and the size of each local business may vary a lot. If there are only 100 people working in Poland, most likely they do not need all the functionality that 3000 people in Sweden do.

Moreover, the small Poland unit may not have resources to translate all content to the local language. As regards intranet content, corporate communications do not possess necessary resources either to support in large-scale translation work. Therefore, the concepts must work well also when the conditions are less than perfect.

Summary: In big corporations, intranet design begins by gaining an understanding on how the organization works and how it is structured – not by knowing the latest intranet trends.

These are just a few examples of the differences between the worlds of large enterprises and small companies. To put it nicely, one could say that the world of large enterprises requires more creativity and compromises. In smaller organizations, bold experiments and novel tools are easier to implement.

However, this does not mean that experimenting, pilot projects and clever new services have no room in big organizations. A well-designed intranet concept also supports experiments, and for instance provides space for office workers’ needs without the field workers perceiving the intranet environment merely as a “head office gimmick”.

Intranet design in large enterprises is profoundly based on the organization structures, business model, different needs of different employee groups – and even on understanding different cultures. Only after all the different needs have been identified, different opinions heard, and core conceptual solutions found, we are prepared to start figuring out fresh and modern ways of working that could be promoted by the new intranet implementation.

Well-made groundwork pays off here as well. Employees surely can tell what they want, and what would benefit the business. One just has to know how to prioritize the suggestions made in the process, refine them, integrate them into the concept, and present them forward. That is yet another reason why proper preparations and conceptual work is beneficial in large organizations.

It is just that there are a few thousands more views, hopes and expectations involved in a big corporation’s intranet design process than in a small company – therefore, a slightly more systematic approach and more integration of differing opinions are required.

Perttu Tolvanen

Perttu Tolvanen is a web concept design and content management system expert.

Perttu consults with clients on project planning and defining requirements, and supports customers in selecting content management systems and implementation partners. His areas of specialisation include facilitating concept design workshops and selecting content management systems.

Perttu has ten years of experience with web and intranet projects, including serving as a project manager and consultant. Earlier in his career Perttu has worked in procurement and as a project manager at a large media company, a content management system consultant at a large IT company and an independent, neutral consultant at his own firm. He is also a well-known seminar speaker and blogger. Perttu is also the editor of, a Finnish blog about the Finnish internet and its creators.

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