3 Tips for Creating an Effective Self-Service Intranet

By Neil Chong-Kit
December 28, 2015
4 min read
self-service intranet

There are times when you want employees to spend a lot of time on the intranet, reading up on company news, building relationships, and getting a broader perspective on the company and the industry in which they work. But when there’s a job that needs doing, you want them to get in and out as quickly as possible. Since time savings are the easiest way to get a return on investment (ROI) on your intranet, here are my top three tips for designing a self-service intranet.

Tip 1: Firm Infrastructure, HR, Technology & Procurement Forms

Does the above list look familiar? They are the support activities defined in Porter’s Value Chain.


Because these activities are in support of your organization’s primary activities, request for these services come from across the entire company. An intranet is the perfect place to centralize all these requests in one place and cut through the confusion by eliminating all the back and forth emails.

Here’s an example of some of the Online Forms you can create:

  • Application for a parking permit
  • Building maintenance requests
  • Report of lost keys/access cards
  • Vacation requests
  • Incident reporting for HR
  • Request for firewall exception
  • Office or clinic supply re-order form

With Online Forms, each department defines exactly what information they need to fulfill the request. This includes making some fields required, or prompting for additional information based on a previous selection. Having these forms available in an accessible area on your intranet is vital for any self-service intranet.

Tip 2: Folders for Management, Menus for Navigation

If you’ve ever had to organize hundreds or thousands of items into a folder tree, you know how tricky this can be. In general, when creating your folder structure, choose a structure that makes it easy for you, as the intranet administrator, to manage and secure the content. For example, if you have a set of files only used by one location, create a top-level folder (or new document library), so all new subfolders automatically inherit the right permissions.

However, the correct folder structure for managing information is often not the best structure for employees who don’t have access to all the information. For instance, if you have a structure that organizes projects first by location, then the year, then department, and then the project name, a user with permissions to only a single project would have to click through four folders before seeing any files. A good self-service intranet should make it easy for users to find the files they need.

This is where menu navigation comes in. You can use the menu widget on the home site to create a link directly to the project folder. Only users with permission to the project folder will see this link.

  • Create folders based on the content manager’s needs
  • Create custom navigation using menus to tailor the user experience

Tip 3: Security for Simplicity

The vast majority of the time, we apply security to prevent unauthorized access to information. But using security to exclude information that isn’t relevant can have a huge impact on a self-service intranet. For instance, the marketing department may be storing draft versions of product information sheets and brochures. However, customer service often searches by product name for instructions on how to register new customers. By restricting access to the draft marketing material to just the marketing department, the intranet will automatically do the following for non-marketing staff:

  • When searching, draft marketing material will no longer clutter search results
  • When navigating the document library, any draft folders or items will be hidden
  • Any menu links to draft materials either the top or left navigation will be hidden

This is an excellent way to keep the self-service intranet feeling lean and mean, even as the amount of content grows.

A Self-Service Intranet for Employees

Building a self-service intranet, keep your end-users (your employees) in mind. It should be simple and intuitive for them to use. The above three tips will help ensure your self-service intranet is effective.

Do you have any tips for a self-service intranet I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

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By Neil Chong-Kit

Neil has been involved in the technology industry for 15 years, with experience in information security, e-commerce, and document workflow solutions. He has a Computer Science degree from UBC, and an MBA from SFU. Key achievements include growing CE-Infosys’ presence in Singapore, and helping build and launch Shopster.com. Neil has extensive experience as a software developer, business analyst, and manager in growing technology companies. As a creative thinker, Neil is focused on delivering on impactful, but simple to use solutions as product manager for Intranet Connections.