July 20, 2010

Internal Facing Applications – Ways to Make them Shine

Internal applications – intranets, knowledge management sites, workflow management systems, etc. – drive an organization by keeping employees informed, creating quality and consistency across an organization, and positively influencing the bottom line. In this post, I review 4 ways to make these internal workhorses really shine.

Social Tools
Social media tools have advanced how people communicate and shape and share information. We need not look further than the resounding adoption of Wikipedia, Twitter, and Delicious to understand this phenomena. Internal applications can take advantage of these concepts by integrating social tools such as wikis, tagging, and short messages that make communicating and sharing information as quick and easy as sending a Tweet. Usability expert Jakob Nielson has done some in depth research on how to make implementations successful

Consider (strongly) the User Experience
Studies have shown that improving usability on corporate intranets improves productivity. Clearly, this isn’t a surprise. Organizations need to take the time to design internal applications well to make sure employees perform necessary tasks quickly. Barebones usability testing can be done with wireframes early in the application development process to suss out poor navigation and labeling. Discovering problems with usability up front allows issues to be addressed well before coding begins.

Only Build What You Can Support
One clear lesson of the recent financial crisis in the US is to only buy what you can afford. Internal application development should follow this same rule. Internal sites risk getting stale and outdated if they aren’t kept up to date. To prevent content antiquation, internal applications should be built according to the organization’s capacity for support. If the application requires someone to review 100 documents a week and the staffing doesn’t exist for this, the system will be out of date very quickly. Applications must align to the staffing reality.

Mobile
Remember the good old days when being out of the office meant you were relieved of work responsibility? Yeah, well, those days are over. Just in case you needed some statistical persuasion – according to Morgan Stanley Research, global mobile internet usage is trending upward and will surpass desktop internet usage within the next 5 years.

Companies need to provide employees with work related information in mobile friendly formats. To do so, organizations first need to determine what information is most in demand by their workforce on the go. Second, they must build websites or applications dedicated to providing this information on mobile devices.

At Corey, we follow these guidelines when designing internal applications.  But, since technology moves quickly we are constantly adding and adjusting to meet our client’s needs.


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