What is the key to build successful Intranets? Well, well, well... that depends on how you define successful. The way I see it, I am looking at two possible scenarios here:
Pushing a "solution" to users and forcing them to use it (or else...), by providing (bare) means to achieve the desired results and level of productivity
Here's the profile:
- usually such deployments employ spartan, unintuitive user interfaces
- the Help section points to a "contact admin" email address
- there's no wiki
- the CEO has a "blog" that's actually updated from time to time by the girl at the reception (yup, everyone knows this)
- pressing the Search button does nothing
- SSO...? what the heck is that...?
The opposite of the first scenario: plan a solution having the users and the context in mind, implement it, get feedback, improve it. Amaze the user, and make them love your app.
- the interface has big buttons/labels that are clearly marked and are located in the "right" place
- RSS or email alerts as well as drag and drop functionality from desktop - are supported
- there is a comprehensive help section as well as support ticketing system - just a click away and it's all connected to the IT department in real time.
- employees are able to post updates and contact each other.
- where possible, AJAX it's the king (no page reloading)
- mobile version is available
- the Search button actually works
- the browser knows who you are and applies the right permissions for you
Of course there's more to say but I think you get the idea. Incredibly, from what I've seen, both scenarios might deliver results.
What I think is that it comes down to each company/corporation's policies and philosophy on how much they are willing to invest in their employees productivity and ease of use. It's all a matter of approach.