12 questions you must ask in an intranet software demo
An intranet software demo is a vendor’s opportunity to impress you. If you want to see beyond star customers and best features, however, you need to know the questions to ask to really see under the hood. What should you ask during a software demo to make best use of your time?
Although organizations periodically change intranet software providers, even the most experienced internal communicators can go their whole careers without being involved in the purchase of a new intranet.
Why? Because some companies have legacy systems that last for years and others decide that planning a new intranet is a project for IT.
Either way, this can mean that HR and internal comms professionals are excluded from a procurement process that can result in massive workplace changes. And, while they may be part of discovery calls and sales meetings for other platforms, it’s possible to be vastly experienced in employee communications but still not know the best questions to ask in an intranet software demo.
Researching new intranet software
If you’re at the stage where you’ve built an intranet business case, then you have probably also read a buyer’s guide, visited software review websites, and weighed up your intranet options.
The next stage may be to invite two or three different vendors to give you an intranet demo. Assuming you give an hour of your time to each, how should you get the most out of those sessions and what questions should you ask to decide if you want to progress further?
It’s important to remember that this may be the beginning of a relationship that lasts years. Asking the right questions can give you key insights into the platform, its people, and how they can help you achieve your internal communications objectives.
The questions you must ask in an intranet software demo
1. Which features on your platform enable non-specialists to create intranet content?
An intranet is only as good as its content. To ensure that your new intranet can unlock the knowledge your subject-matter experts possess, a superior CMS intranet should show how a wide range of different authors can use the software. Ask for content creation demonstrations as part of your meeting.
2. How can I notify colleagues of new communications and updates to intranet content?
Multichannel communication and measurement is now standard in intranet software. Ask to see the workflows involved in distributing messages via these channels:
- Homepage lockout (pop-up with acknowledgment tracking on desktop/ native apps)
- Homepage banners (desktop/native apps)
- Mobile app
- Digital signage
3. Can users change how they receive communications?
From selecting a default language to opting out of mobile app notifications, all employees should be able to personalize the content they receive. A good intranet software demo will run you through the relevant communications options.
4. Does your platform offer more than “push” communications?
There are many different types of internal communication and a great intranet will enable them all. Although the primary focus may be on the need for professional communicators to create and distribute information and resources, you will likely also want a system that also enables peer-to-peer communication and enterprise social networking. Ask about blogging, forums, commenting, @mentioning, and the other enterprise social network tools on offer.
5. Are there tools in the product that enable content monitoring and governance?
Content governance is an important element in intranet management. Allowing content to become out of date can result in a system becoming bloated with irrelevant information, ultimately leading to disengagement and lack of usage. Ask about page management features that automatically notify intranet managers when content expires or a page author leaves the business.
6. Which metrics does the intranet measure?
One of the main differences between the internet and an intranet is that an intranet is a private network that you control. Data analytics are offered by most out-of-the-box intranet providers and should enable you to see which pages are most and least visited, how many mobile and web users you have, and a lot more. Ask to see the analytics package as part of any intranet software demo.
7. Will my intranet reflect our company’s brand?
As the only software app that enterprises routinely brand (can you customize the design of a DMS such as SharePoint?), an intranet should visually represent your company and your internal branding. From logos to a platform name chosen by you, your intranet should be the authentic visual heart of your digital workplace.
8. How will your platform’s UX encourage greater adoption?
User experience (UX) is an important component of software design. If you want your intranet to be a part of daily life for employees, it must be easy and enjoyable to access. Ask for examples of how your intranet software demo vendor has worked with its customers to consider UX. Perhaps more importantly, ask what the build process will look like and how you will be consulted about design. You are the expert about what your co-workers want.
9. We’ve had problems with employees not finding the right content in the past. How does your system surface relevant content for all employees?
One feature that must work seamlessly is enterprise search. Use your intranet software demo to enquire how the intranet you’re considering connects users with document management systems, user profiles, and intranet content. Ask how the intranet search engine uses metadata and keywords to make content discoverable.
10. Our digital workplace already contains a lot of software platforms for online working, HR, payments, and IT. How will the intranet integrate with these?
An intranet is just one part of a larger digital workplace. Typically, organizations use intranet software for internal communication and the hosting of key content, but as the digital workplace has expanded to incorporate SaaS products such as the M365 suite, Google Workspace, Zendesk, Slack, ServiceNow, and others, the intranet has also come to serve as the digital hub for all these apps. Through one user-friendly homepage, employees can access all the tools they need to check schedules, file expenses, and call up collaborative documents.
This increases digital workplace and intranet security because access is channeled via single sign-on (limiting the number of passwords and “attack surfaces”) and productive because it stops users having to flip through a wide range of browsers and apps. When you’re taking an intranet software demo, ask which software integrations the vendor supports and whether they come as standard “out-of-the-box” options or if they need configuration. If you go to the meeting armed with a list of the platforms your digital workplace uses, you’ll be prepared for the conversation.
11. How is your company different from other software vendors?
While you may not want to sit through a lengthy rundown of the company’s history, an intranet demo can be a good opportunity to learn more about the provider’s history, clients, values, and resources. Your relationship with the intranet vendor is likely to last for several years, so it may be important to ask about the financial position of the company too. Is the vendor likely to go through any merger and acquisition activity? This may change the status of their independence and ability to focus on delivering the best product for you.
12. What does your future roadmap look like?
In addition to what the company does right now, consider asking where it’s going and how it plans to get there. Do customers have a say in the development of new features? Although some organizations choose to use SharePoint as an intranet, for example, they may find that because Microsoft is a huge global company they have no say in its future and how their intranet will look in five years’ time.
Get the intranet your workplace needs
Our workplaces are changing rapidly. As every organization accommodates new patterns of work and a wider global talent pool, it’s vital that your intranet software is flexible and robust enough to sync with these changes too. Additionally, you want to be sure that an intranet vendor has the resources and the drive to work in partnership with you so you meet your objectives. With a project as transformational as this, you want more than software, you want a partner with deep expertise.
Asking the right questions during the procurement process can give you an insight into whether you’re speaking to people who can deliver for you.