Milestones on the intranet mobile roadmap

In her excellent report on Digital Workspace trends, Jane McConnell pointed out that the corporate intranet is becoming increasingly ‘place independent’ — that is to say, employees are expecting to be able to access their intranet from wherever they so choose. For some, that meant investing in home access, but for others it’s about taking the intranet to the smartphone.

In this post, we shape the evolutionary steps along your mobile intranet roadmap.


You intranet exists only within the walls of your company office(s) and cannot escape the ~1024×1024 confides of your employee’s monitors. If we’re honest, you don’t have a mobile intranet at all do you?


The firewall is breached. Employees can view an intranet outside the office, but likely only after entering an abstract combination of ancient glyphs read in the reflection of a silver spoon on a night with a full moon.

They might even try accessing from something other than a PC – but that thought makes your IT manager shiver, and at best it’s an afterthought. If they do, they probably get an illegible mess or a text only ‘WAP‘ page.


You have a site – or maybe just a page – that ‘works’ on mobile.  its probably built by ‘that clever geeky bloke who works on floor two’ who put the site together over a weekend.

It’s separate from the intranet — so technically, you now have 2 intranets to manage — but it takes some intranet content (the people directory if you’re lucky, but more likely the news), and displays it on a screen that fits onto an iPhone. All the buttons are all a bit bigger so they can be clicked with a fingertip.

Some of your senior team probably think that this is the greatest thing ever to be created. Your IT manager probably doesn’t like the sound of it one bit and is busily trying to hide it and avoid the support calls.


Your intranet has grown an extra face. Now there’s a ‘mobile optimized’ stylesheet or template in the CMS that makes pages play nice on mobile devices.

Screens squidge or linierize. Buttons and links are fingertip sized. Text is a bit bigger and images a little bit smaller.

Its possible you had a ‘WAP‘ or text only version of this before, but that was never used and didn’t really work. This is really rather different, because it does. Importantly, you only have one intranet, viewable in two different ways.


The intranet you access through a mobile is optimised for people who are mobile.  People on the move need things like contact details and office locations more than people at desks.  While your main intranet homepage might not carry this kind of information your mobile intranet homepage probably does.

While the mobile intranet doesn’t ‘do’ anything that a desktop intranet couldn’t, the content has been rearranged and re-prioritised to suite mobile working better.

Your mobile intranet might be available in app form.


Your mobile intranet is priority. You design for mobile first and retro-fit to desktop.  Building for mobile first means the content makes full use of the features available on a mobile device such as geolocation, camera, and offline functionality.

The intranet becomes much more context aware and this allows content creators to be much better at getting ‘the right message to the right people at the right time’.


It’s clear that all things are not equal when it comes to mobile intranets but regardless where you are on the roadmap, mobile intranets are becoming increasingly common and increasingly important. We’ve moved beyond the opening question of ‘whether’ you should develop a mobile face and to the key question of ‘how’.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Go for a mobile-optimised web page rather than an app: Apps are great but unless your company has a strong hardware policy (and compliance), then you’ll end up with a lot of coding — One app for iPhone users, one for Androiders and one for those with BlackBerrys. A webpage with appropriate CSS is a more simple solution
  2. Don’t try and do too much: Remember, it’s a 3.5 inch screen, and it’s likely that you’ll find it hard to use spreadsheets or SAP transactions. Keep it simple and deliver key functionality.
  3. Remember that it’s not a desktop: Consider adding functionality that utilises mobile-only features such as location tools. This will encourage users to your new platform and make for a richer user experience.

Let us know where you are on this mobile roadmap – take the poll.

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There are 10 comments

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  1. Samuel Driessen (@driessen)

    Luke, interesting post. What I’m wondering is: where would something like Yammer fit into your milestones?
    I think most companies don’t start by mobilizing their traditional intranet, but mobilize through services like Yammer (which is also available as mobile app). Experiencing the power of internal information and communication on your mobile phone by using something like Yammer, triggers ideas to channel more internal content (like who-is-who and news) to mobile.
    I’m curious what your thoughts are on this!

  2. @lukemepham

    Hi Samuel, thanks for the comment.

    In the best scenario you have an app that mobilises some content channels – but you don’t have a mobile intranet. That could be in the M3-M4 space.
    At worst, it could be in the M2-M3 space. The mobile capability is an after thought and the tool hasn’t been strategically adopted (common for Yammer). I’d see this situation as similar to the office geek hacking something together over a weekend.

    What do you think? Is there a missing milestone or perhaps a separate track?

  3. Samuel Driessen (@driessen)

    Thanks for the reply, Luke! I thinks it’s an M1. It breaches the firewall and gets people thinking about mobile intranet (even though most don’t see Yammer as (part of the) intranet). True, Yammer can be an afterthought, but in the cases I was involved in it wasn’t. It was a step to show people how easy it is to set up a more useful (part of the) intranet and make it mobile at the same time.

  4. @lukemepham

    But I don’t see the technology as the important bit. The real milestones are when attitude, intent and behaviour change.
    When you move from clandestine to experimental to parallel to optimised to primary.

  5. Jane McConnell

    Nice post Luke.
    I like your roadmap steps but think there is a parallel track

    My take on mobile is that enterprises are offering services for mobile devices, not mobile versions of their intranets.

    This makes more sense to me. What do you think?

    • @lukemepham

      Jane, thanks for your comment. I think that’s another great way to look at it, and perhaps the maturity levels there would be something like:
      – One set of services rendered and prioritised the same way regardless of user context
      – Two sets of services – one rendered and prioritised for ‘at desk’, and one for mobile
      – One set of services rendered and prioritised dependant on user context

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