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What’s in an intranet name?

Does your intranet have a name? Is it an important branding feature or just lipstick on a pig? If you are developing your intranet, it’ll no doubt be a topic that you’re wrestling with right now. This post will look at the case for and against naming your intranet and provide some useful resources and ideas if that’s your preferred direction. We’re grateful to Paul Graville at Concentra UK for his help.

For: Naming is part of the branding, Jonathan Philips, Intranetizen team

There will come a time when designing and building your new intranet when conversations shift from the technical to the aesthetic. We know that your intranet design — its curb appeal — will be critical to early adoption; it’s technical abilities will be what keeps employees coming back. We’re visual creatures after all.

An intranet name is part of that visual design, part of the curb appeal.  Here are a  few good reasons for giving it a name:

  • Take some time to sit with employees whilst they’re using your intranet. What do they call it? If you don’t have an intranet name as part of the branding, they’ll likely call it many different things – ‘intranet’, ‘portal’, ‘employee portal’ or maybe even ‘SharePoint’. This is the problem in a nutshell. Without a branded name, employees will call it anything they like. Employees need a common vocabulary.
  • It gives the new site intranet a distinct identity and provides a break from the current landscape. Never be tempted to give an old intranet a new name and expect employees to be wowwed. A new name for a new intranet gives internal standout and recognition.
  • It is easier to reference in other communications (‘for more information, visit [name]’). The brand name facilitates stronger communication. Make it easier for yourself – name your intranet

Be imaginative. If you’re thinking about calling it i[Company Name], [Company Name]Net, a pun, or contrived backronym, you probably need to see the resources below.

Against: Naming your intranet is just stupid, Paul Graville, Concentra UK

This question comes up on every single intranet project I’ve been involved with: what should we call our intranet? CompanyWeb, Connect, Core, Gateway, Dave, etc. etc. etc.

I think this stems from the fact that intranets are typically underused and therefore don’t provide much value. So the idea is that giving the intranet a personality will encourage people to use it. This is HOGWASH. Take it from me, people are not so stupid that a change in the name will get them using something.

I’ve also heard the argument that naming something makes it easier to talk about e.g. “The document you’re looking for is up on In.Sight”. While this argument holds some weight, I don’t think it’s necessary for a computer system to have a name. Just say “The document you’re looking for is on the intranet”. Or, if you’re intranet is built on the Microsoft SharePoint platform; ”It’s on SharePoint”.

Does your email system have some cutesy name or do you just call it email, Outlook or Exchange server? Same goes for your file share; is F: drive sort for Fred? If you decided to use an online file sharing tool like Dropbox would you be happy to say “I’ve put the file on Dropbox” or would you be on the phone to Dropbox’s support like asking if they do a whitelabel service that you could rename to Barry?

I think naming your intranet can actually contribute to a lack of user adoption, the fact its identity is highlighted makes people see it as a separate system rather than something they just ‘use’ without thinking about it.

Intranet Naming Thoughts and Resources

If you are naming your intranet and you’re short of inspiration, here’s some other great resources.

Does giving an intranet a name drive adoption, or increase the sense of ownership? Or is it a twee rebranding exercise? If you have opted to break ground and not give your Intranet a name, how was your experience? Would you do it again? Did your colleagues even noticed?

What are some of the best and worst intranet names you’ve come across? Tell us in the comments below.

Does an intranet need a name?

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There are 24 comments

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  1. Nick Halliday

    The NAO intranet is called Merlin which was a stroke of genius by the colleague who set it up. It makes life so much easier.

    I have ran an intranet that did not have a name and the most basic difficulty was colleagues getting confused inconversations between the website and the intranet. Having a name solves that problem in one go.

  2. Simon Thompson

    Yes, naming an intranet IS a “twee rebranding exercise”, but it is an important rebranding exercise nonetheless.

    Paul raises a good point that naming an intranet can contribute to a lack of user adoption, but I just don’t like the idea that Sharepoint is an acceptable name. A name transcends technology: our intranet, Planet, is 12 years old and its third (or perhaps fourth) generation. In an organisation, names often outlive the medium – it took ten years of being online to lose the use of the annual “brown paper”.

    We’re on Sharepoint for the foreseeable future, but I’d hate to see that as a name used for generations to come. I agree with Suzi Hadj Lazib’s post FFS Don’t Call it SharePoint saying:

    Internal systems need to be marketed to the organisation in the same way as external products need to be marketed to customers. The people in your organisation are your customers.

    Naming an intranet is part of the exercise of selling the intranet to your colleagues, and it’s one that needs to be done with thought and understanding. And, if it doesn’t work, you can rename it!

  3. Soozi Hadj Lazib

    First of all, thank you Simon for quoting such succinct prose from my FFS post – I’ll forgive you the misspelling of my name this once 😉

    Paul, I think you’re right that people aren’t so stupid as to be fooled into using something just because of its name, but I do think that giving your intranet a name and ‘personality’ is an important first step towards adoption. (The second is to make sure it’s a valuable tool when they get there)

    For instance, I think you shoot yourself in the foot with the Dropbox example. It’s in fact an example of excellent branding which their customers relate to. If everyone called it the ‘online file sharing and storage tool’ would it be so popular?

    The same could be said of any branding exercise. If it wasn’t worthwhile, then companies wouldn’t spend millions on logos and names etc etc.

    But I do agree that names need to be original – a dull name is as bad as no name!

  4. Alex Manchester

    I appreciate the provocative nature of the debate, but it seems remiss not to have a middle option saying ‘it depends’.

    For some businesses, a name of any sort is just too twee. For others, it makes a huge difference to success. Today I saw the demo of Canon Australia’s intranet called ‘Pixel’, and it’s brilliant. Would it work for every business? No.

    I do generally have this discussion on intranet projects though (whether to name, change the name, or call it ‘the intranet’). About 80% of businesses do have a name, about 50% of those are great, 50% more anodyne. My personal preference is to aim for something engaging and culturally suitable, the two can be mutually exclusive depending on the organisation.

    Where it can make a huge difference is in the visual design. Having something thematic can really lead to a good design, as opposed to just a wireframe interpretation using a colour palette.

    And to Paul’s point about ‘Dropbox’, as Steve Jobs said, that’s a feature, not a product. 😉

  5. EphraimJF

    You’re all wrong! Just kidding – this is a great post and an excellent set of perspectives.

    An important point that hasn’t been fully touched upon: The emotional impact of naming the intranet.

    By giving the intranet a name and bit of a persona you can help people connect with it more than they do with the average piece of enterprise software. This is especially true for social intranets, which are full of faces and interactions that make it a very human space.

    A social intranet can become like a virtual place, a virtual village. With rich employee profile pages, group pages for offices, departments and teams, activity streams, and comments on virtually any page, a social intranet can become inhabited more than just visited.

    Creating a good intranet name helps to craft an employee experience, rather than just an intranet site. Many of the most popular products today are built around experiences rather than just software.

    When Steve Jobs told designers he wanted a computer that “felt friendly” they were baffled. Today, that make so much more sense to most of us. An intranet should “feel” a certain way, and a good intranet name helps craft that feeling.

    • Paul Graville

      Hi Jonathan and all

      Glad to see so many people joining the debate! It’s Paul here, who wrote the ‘don’t name it’ post. I think I’d like to change my position a little, based on the excellent feedback above…

      If you have an ‘intranet’ then I think it’s OK to name it. I quote-marked intranet because I believe unfortunately it is a loaded term. I’d almost go as far as to say most intranets are ‘twee’, and hence giving them a twee name is entirely appropriate.

      My head is in SharePoint land at the moment but this will hopefully apply to other collaborative technologies. SharePoint is most effectively used as a set of tools to help people work more efficiently, and particularly with other people. I believe these tools should be made available to employees and not labeled as an intranet as the term carries too much baggage.

      The dropbox example is a really good one. I agree that the name really helps it, as does the whole user friendliness of it, which is also helped by its visual design. But dropbox is a product in the same way SharePoint is a product. If you used dropbox in your company, would you really want to rename it to PixelTray if you were a camera company? Would you want news items or stock photos on it to liven it up. Would the colour scheme really need changing to be on-brand? Would that make more people use it?

      I hope that’s not too inflamatory! P

      • Natalie

        This is a fascinating debate! We’re actually in the process of coming up with a name for our Intranet! I’m leaning towards Jonathon here…

        It’s important for us to ensure our brand identity and everything the Intranet stands for is conveyed. I mean why do any products have names…? Chocolate bars are all ‘chocolate’, but they have their own brand identities to convey what they stand for and to give you a feel for what you are about to experience, aren’t they?

        And I’m afraid I have to throw a spanner in the works for the ‘tool is the name approach’: What if I use SharePoint for the Website too? People don’t necessarily know the ‘technology’ behind it, but they do know the difference between an Intranet and a Website!

        Yes we could call the Intranet, ‘Intranet’, but where’s the fun in that?

  6. drew stephenson

    As an end user I’d say that a name was useful but not essential. But it has to be short. Our current intranet has a name that’s 4 syllables long – so lots of people still use the name of the old intranet that had just the one syllable.
    If the name makes it easier to talk about, then it’s probably good. If it doesn’t then it won’t get used.

    • Jason Rhoads

      I agree 100%, its got to be short and easy to use in a sentence. 2 syllables at most.

      A few of our clients short listed a few of their favorite intranet names and then sent a poll to the entire company to get feedback on the best intranet name. It gave them all a nice little boost in initial user adoption because it gave users some ownership of a tool they would be using so frequently.

  7. Jason Rhoads

    I have to put myself in the “It depends” camp. If its a standard install of Sharepoint, just call it Sharepoint. If its something more (and hopefully it is) it needs branding. I’ve writen a few post on this topic myself and our team has shared a list of 100 short, cool, web 2.0-ish names here: 100 Awesome Intranet Names.


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