Essential intranets: inspiring sites that deliver business value


This book demonstrates the power and value of intranets, providing inspiration and insights for all teams, whether new or experienced.

In 280 sharply written pages, this book explores what intranets can do, providing screenshots from great intranets around the globe.

Written by the undisputed global expert on intranets, this is a must-have book for all teams. It also sits alongside James’ previous book Designing intranets, which together create an invaluable library for successful teams.

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Product Description

Intranets have been undergoing huge changes in recent years, but the challenge remains to deliver the greatest business benefits. That’s what makes this new intranet book so important.

This book from James Robertson answers the key question for all teams: what should the intranet do? In 280 full-colour pages, this book outlines what modern intranets can (and should) do.

A timeless classic, it provides definitive advice and over 150 screenshots, it builds a common vision that crosses business and technology lines.

The book is structured according to business objectives, starting from the fundamentals and then working through to leading-edge thinking.

Each double-page spread contains a page of advice on the left, and a matching screenshot on the right. This allows teams to dip into the book as needed, or to read through it in detail to inform planning and strategic thinking. Every team, whether new or experienced, will find inspiration and insight in this book.

Topics covered

The fundamentals for all intranets:

  • Provide an enterprise front door
  • Provide trusted information
  • Deliver internal communication
  • Foster staff engagement
  • Foster collaboration
  • Promote the organisation’s culture

Leading edge thinking that delivers business value:

  • Enhance knowledge management
  • Streamline business processes
  • Improve customer service
  • Mitigate business risks
  • Provide ‘anywhere’ productivity

How to use this book

  • Explore what’s possible, across a wide spectrum of intranet ideas and approaches.
  • Demonstrate the power of intranets to stakeholders, by showing how much further they can go than basic functionality.
  • Propel intranet strategy and planning, towards outcomes that directly meet business and staff needs.
  • Align intranets with business objectives, from early planning through to project delivery.
  • Build a common vision and language for intranets, to further encourage ongoing enhancements and innovation.
  • Foster a greater understanding of intranets, particularly amongst business leaders and stakeholders.
  • Increase the speed of intranet innovation, by surfacing the great solutions that have already been done.

Bonus readers-only material

Purchasers of the book also get exclusive access to a ‘readers-only’ section of the website. This provides further links to key articles and resources, as well as further details on the facts and figures used in the book.

Build your intranet library

This book combines with our earlier book  Designing intranets. Together, they provide an invaluable intranet library for all teams. Buy them in a bundle and save!

Additional Information

Weight0.6 kg
Dimensions23 × 18 × 1.5 cm







  1. Nina Sonne Nikolaisen

    A unique book about intranets containing a catalogue of excellent ways to make your intranet deliver productivity gains and business value.

  2. Ernst Decsey

    Essential intranets is an essential reading if you want to grasp the full power of intranets and know what they can potentially deliver and do for organizations. The book includes tens of screenshots and concrete examples as well as very handy and useful “where to start” sections that will help you move in your own intranet journey. I bet that this is not the last book written by James as each chapter could easily serve as the basis for another book.

  3. Martin White

    James has been passionate about ensuring that intranets are closely integrated into the way that an organisation works. This passion, blended with an immense about of practical experience, is immediately obvious in Essential Intranets – Inspiring Sites That Deliver Business Value.The 280 page book is divided into three sections; Establish the Fundamentals, Deliver Business Value and Making It Happen. Within each chapter, one feature or idea is outlined per double page, with a description on the left, and a screenshot on the right. Each chapter starts with the simplest approaches, and then continues to more advanced or ambitious ideas. A ‘where to start’ summary at the end of each chapter provides step-by-step options for tackling the business objective.However the contents page gets nowhere close to presenting the innovative structure of this book. It is written in a way that readers can use it in five different ways, enabling them to * Skim the book for a sense of the landscape* Drill into areas of interest* Respond to leadership requests* Plan next steps for your intranet* Demonstrate what can be doneThe art of writing a great book is rather like developing a great intranet. It needs structure and it also needs only the information that will be valuable to the reader. James is very open about what is not included in the book, having clearly spent a great deal of time (supported by a superbly experienced advisory panel) working out how to make a difference to the business performance of the millions of organisations around the world that have made an investment in an intranet. A great book also makes you feel that the author is writing directly to you as the reader. Throughout this book I can hear James in action in workshops and conferences around the world, encouraging, inspiring and cajoling in quick succession. The writing style is direct and authoritative, with effective use of a selection of screen shots to start each topic. In my view the best way to get value from this book is to read it with a marker pen in your hand. By the end you will have a wealth of ideas from simple tips to strategic directions that will make your intranet (and your role as intranet manager) even more essential to the future of your organisation.

  4. Bridget Knaus

    James Robertson has been very active in the field of designing and developing intranets for some years. His publications to date provide practical guidance on designing intranets that support workers in their daily work lives. This latest publication adds to the existing knowledge bank by examining the impact of increased reliance on mobile platforms and the impact of the social web on intranet design.As with all James’ publications, the use of screenshots and real-world examples supports the practical and useable approach of the book. Highly recommended for all intranet developers and users.

  5. Janet Kirkwood

    The challenge of any Intranet is to provide a window into the world of systems for the non-system user, surfacing key tasks and enabling the end user to see, hear and do everything of importance to them and their organisation. I believe “Essential Intranets” presents ideas to inspire further integration and value-add to any organisation, thereby delivering a digital workplace that is valuable in communicating and collaborating offering a seamless entry-point for the user. It has been a pleasure to participate in the Advisory Panel and to guide the final output. I will be implementing some of the many ideas offered.

  6. Kirk Grayson

    In Essential Intranets, James Robertson has produced a must-read, must-have book for intranet managers to return to time and again. James consolidates all the ideas you may be just arriving at or questions you may be asking and delivers a concise, insightful resource filled with real world examples that will yank you from the realm of trial and error straight into a state of digital workplace mastery.I had the privilege of participating on an expert review panel for this book but very shortly into the process my hat of peer analyst was replaced by that of eager learner and I quickly ran out of pithy commentary on the drafts, replaced by private notes-to-self along the lines of “do this immediately”, “what a great idea” and “so that’s why XYZ isn’t working!”Read the book. Share it with colleagues. Move your practice from good to incredible. Your end-users will adore you for it.

  7. Peter Richards

    Essential intranets, Inspiring sites that deliver business value, is the third book from global Intranet expert James Robertson. This latest publication is essential reading for anyone who manages any sized company Intranet regardless of size or platform.Through his International network of Digital Workplace professionals, James has pulled together real life examples of Intranet sites that help a diverse range of organisations and their employees work smarter, faster and more effectively.Essential Intranets is packed with ideas and advise that will provide Intranet inspiration and is an invaluable addition to your Intranet Managers reference library.

  8. Sally Roberts

    Whether you are heading up a global intranet team with intranet managers in every port, or running your intranet as a one-man-band, “Essential intranets” delivers invaluable insight into the workplace intranet of 2013 and beyond. James Robertson moves on from the design principles and best practice established in previous books “What every intranet team should know” and “Designing intranets that work” and discusses the importance of aligning the intranet with how the business operates in practice and ensuring that any intranet site matches the culture of the organisation in which it sits.From creating a single entry point, to the purposes of the homepage, “Essential intranets” will resonant with anyone involved in intranets, but also provide effective guidance for those starting out on their intranet journey.

  9. Andrew Mitchell

    In ‘Essential intranets’ James Robertson provides valuable insight into the often secret world of intranets. In it you will find dozens and dozens of examples of what intranet teams around the world have done in order to add value to their organisations. The examples, organised according to business value, range from the prosaic to the truly innovative but one thing they have in common is that they are all 100% real. This book is essential reading, and on-going reference, for any intranet team who also wants to add value because the examples provided will stimulate your creativity irrespective of where you are on your intranet journey.

  10. Stacy Speidel

    The Essential Intranet” is a practical guide that explores a catalog of intranet capabilities and gives insight for intranet teams to continue to meet the demands for better communication, improve business processes, encourage staff engagement, and harness new technology. I am from a small organization that constantly seeks innovative ways to utilize technology to achieve goals and initiatives.I found this book to be extremely helpful as a benchmarking tool to assess my organization’s intranet in its’ current state and to assist me in identifying potential opportunities for improvement. “The Essential Intranet” is an excellent resource for intranet teams to use for strategic planning of intranet projects and goals and offers a proactive approach to successful project management.

  11. Daniella Adams

    If you need to know how to take your intranet to the next level then Essential Intranets is a must read. This book includes a host of examples as to how different companies have made their intranet an essential part of working day life, plus practical information that will aid you with building your business case for future enhancements. A must read for anybody involved with intranets.

  12. John Bazley

    James does it again! I already rely on “What every intranet team should know” and “Designing Intranets”, and this is another “must have” book. I love the layout, clear explanations, and it’s illustrated with lots of relevant screenshots from real intranets. I would recommend it to anyone who runs an intranet.

  13. Nancy M. Goebl

    Congratulations to James Robertson on delivering his third book in a series of essential desk references for everyday intranet teams – new and seasoned alike! Entitled, “Essential intranets: inspiring sites that deliver business value”, Robertson’s latest book builds on previous themes about “What Every Intranet Team Should Know,” and “Designing Intranets: Creating Sites That Work.” This sharply written 280-page book is a tell-all about the power and value of intranets that was informed by known and respected industry practitioners in addition Robertson’s own work inside of major corporates around the globe. One of my favorite parts about this book is its’ versatility as a desk reference. The book presents straight-forward view of the intranet landscape via three easily-digested sections: “Establish the Fundamentals”, “Deliver Business Value” and “Making It Happen.” It also serves as inspiration for intranet teams because it filled with many useful screenshots and real-world examples that illustrate what intranets can do; why teams must ensure that intranets match the culture of the organization and how intranets can make impact the business performance. The book also offers everything from simple tips to strategic direction, lending itself to supporting next generation intranet business cases and plans. Importantly, Robertson is also very open about what is not included in the book.Pick it up today, and your come away with a strong list of things that you can action today. Pick it up again six months from now and you’ll equally pull out as many actionable things for you and your team to focus on next.

  14. Sam Marshall

    Essential Intranets is the first systematic compendium of ways in which intranets can add value, and will be immediately useful to anyone thinking about their intranet strategy. What struck me when I initially opened this book is just how richly illustrated it is with screenshots. Although the web is scattered with case studies, the book does an excellent job of applying a logical structure to the many facets of an intranet (no easy task!), ranging from basic news provision to examples of how intranets can help respond to natural disasters.When discussing ways in which an intranet can grow, you can’t beat showing an example of how other people have done it and Essential Intranets makes that very easy to do. It’s hard to imagine an intranet team that wouldn’t find this a useful book to have.

  15. Jonathan Phillips

    Most intranet managers can call upon experience gained in a small handful of intranets when creating a new intranet and getting hands-on inspiration can be very difficult due to the inherent controlled access. James Robertson, author of “Essential Intranets: Inspiring sites that deliver business value” has peeked behind thousands of firewalls to bring the best examples together in one great book.This is a fascinating moment-in-time. There’s a dramatic evolution at play in companies driven by change in device form factor and capability, and by new ambition for the intranet platform. “Essential Intranets” walks the reader through a clever journey: defining the purpose of a modern intranet, demonstrating how these features add value to a business and finally, calling upon his consultancy foundational strength, outlining the path to making it happen in the reader’s organisation. Staggeringly, by the end of 2014, there will be more mobile phones than people in the world so this device will be central to intranet managers planning in the next few years. “Essential Intranets” is a prescient read, packed full of examples from organisations globally who have made that step beyond the desktop to the smartphone. There’s much to learn – I’m stealing brilliant ideas with pride.Well structured, well written and importantly, well researched and sourced, “Essential Intranets” is an essential read.

  16. Eric Reiss

    In his latest book, Essential Intranets, James Robertson accomplishes three amazing feats. First, he gives us a unique tour behind the firewall of hundreds of intranets from around the world. Second, he brilliantly shows how to move from a publishing-centric concept to a full-fledged digital workplace that effectively uses social and collaborative tools. Finally, he has arranged his insights in a way that makes this volume as interactive as it is informative. As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most important book on intranets ever published. If you are on an intranet team or even the CEO of a company that has an intranet, reading this book and applying its principles will provide you with both personal and professional benefits. Get it before your competitors do!

  17. Deane Barker

    I spent last week traveling and reading “Essential Intranets” by James Robertson. I love this book. Here’s why -You may not realize this, but finding out what other people do on their intranets is hard. Intranets are

  18. Susan S. Hanley

    I was lucky enough to get a copy of Essential Intranets by the always brilliant James Robertson to review. If he hadn’t given it to me, I would have bought a copy, and you should too, because this book is a must read for intranet designers and the executives who sponsor intranet projects!The book recognizes that though intranets have been around for a long time, designing and maintaining great intranets is still challenging. James approaches this challenge by taking my favorite approach to solution design: focusing on the business outcomes intranets enable. The purpose of the book is to “inspire and inform.” James talks about the full breadth of the outcomes intranets can and should enable for the organization. Thus, the book shifts the discussion about intranets from that of features and purposes to a broader and more holistic evaluation of what intranets can truly do. In fact, the chapter organization of the book is by business objective, which is a great reason to share the book with your C-suite executives.What makes this book a particularly engaging read is that it is structured to be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be read cover to cover, as I did, or easily skimmed using the very helpful summaries included with every section. The summaries include page references to where details are discussed and also to pages where a wealth of screen shot examples are included to demonstrate and visualize each point so you can easily figure out where you might want to do a deeper dive. The examples came largely from the winners of the Intranet Innovation Awards that James’ firm, Step Two Designs, sponsors, so they are both vetted and recognized as achieving the represented outcome. You won’t want to copy them verbatim, but they will definitely inspire you to think about what might work in your organization.But, as brilliant as James is, he had some pretty impressive help in creating this book. As part of the writing process, he engaged the intranet practitioner community to provide an advisory panel to review the draft chapters. When you read this book, you will benefit from their input as well as James’ years of experience designing intranets that work. Of course I think everyone should buy a copy of Essential SharePoint 2013, but while you are online, you should also pick up a copy of Essential Intranets as a perfect companion!

  19. Jane McConnell

    There’s one book I keep at eye level in my office just so that I can always see the cover page: “Insanely Simple – The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success” by Ken Segall. It’s a good read that will make you rethink things, professionally and personally. James Robertson, author of “Essential intranets: inspiring sites that deliver business value”, has the same impact in the intranet world as Steve Jobs did in the computer and digital device world: simplicity and value.For anyone in the intranet world, “Essential Intranets” is essential reading. James said it and I totally agree: “The purpose of this book is to inspire and inform.” Inspire first, inform second. Intranet people are in it for the long haul, and James’ series of books, of which “Essential intranets” is the third, provides guidance, inspiration and energy all along the journey. It’s full of real examples, screenshots and tips and guidelines.James says it best: “Intranets will always be held back if there isn’t a true vision for what they can be. That’s why I’ve written this book: to shine a light on the true power of intranets, and broaden thinking about these sites.”He hits on themes very dear to my heart: trust (page 45), engagement (page 79) culture (page 111) and providing staff with a voice (page 82).I recommend getting your copy of “Essential intranets” and keeping it at eye level in your office, or at the tip of your fingers on your computer. It is hard-hitting, inspiring, and unique in its combined focus on vision, pragmatic simplicity and business value.

  20. Maish Nichani

    James Roberston’s book on “Essential Intranets” is terrific in many ways. First, it gives you confidence. By showing examples of companies who have been there and done that the book becomes a launchpad for ideas. The example of a company publishing calls received by the customer service department on the intranet to improve empathy is just brilliant!Second, it sets the right direction. Intranet sponsors and managers need to focus on both the forest and the leaves. Far too often intranet decisions just build meaningless piles of little things–not a good business strategy. I like the way the book clusters chapters based on business needs (e.g. mitigating business risk) rather than by independent topics. Third, it improves communication. One of the big problems with intranets is the number of stakeholders involved. Having a common perspective and vocabulary on what makes intranets useful, even just within the intranet team, just makes work easier to do. So, if you have anything to do with the design and management of your intranet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Essential Intranets. You’ll have in your hands the knowledge and experience of a man who has seen it all and who wants you to succeed. Thanks for writing this James!

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Our best-selling books Essential intranetsDesigning intranets and What every intranet team should know have been read by teams around the globe. They give invaluable guidance for intranet projects, whether planning a brand-new intranet, or revamping an existing site.

Like all Step Two publications, they are:

  • targeted to the real-world needs of teams
  • clear, concise and well-structured
  • product and vendor agnostic
  • up to date, with full-colour screenshots throughout

Buy in bulk and save

Purchase bulk orders, and make these savings:

  • 5+ copies, save 10%
  • 10+ copies, save 15%
  • 25+ copies, save 20%
  • 50+ copies, save 30%

These discounts apply to your total order, so you can mix-and-match as you want. For example, purchase 5 copies of “Essential intranets” and 5 copies of “Designing intranets”, and get the 10+ copy discount.

Simply add the books to your shopping cart, and the discounted price will be applied automatically. We’ve also set up shipping costs for bulk orders, making it all a one-step process. Easy!

Why make a bulk purchase?

For intranet teams:

  • stock up the intranet team’s “lending library”
  • provide copies of the books to decentralised content owners and authors
  • provide copies of the books as intranet anniversary or Christmas “presents”

For educational institutions:

  • provide the books as a standard texts for KM, information management or UX courses

For product vendors and implementers:

  • giving the books as promotional gifts to prospective or current customers
  • using the books to help customers deliver a great intranet
  • giving copies to the sales team, to get them up to speed quickly
  • using the books as inspiration for product upgrades

For consulting firms:

  • build in-house skills amongst the consulting team
  • provide a foundation for intranet design methodologies
  • educate customers on the importance of intranet design
  • offer them as “thank you” gifts to customers