Welcome to part three of our blog series specifically for Intranet Managers. Guest writer Kim Jones outlines how to build or improve an intranet that aligns with the company’s changing needs, and provides examples based on her experience in a large financial services company.
In our previous post we talked about timing and changing the way we do things when communication issues and pain points can no longer be ignored. We start looking for solutions to solve internal problems – usually within a restricted budget.
When a company’s structure is changing, its intranet needs to be able to allow employees to work together more efficiently. This might mean improved communication processes, streamlined account access and general openness of project status and objectives.
Before you look for intranet software to build the required solution, clear guidelines must be determined. Consider:
- What the business communication issues are and the related pain points
- When the intranet project needs to be completed by
- Who is paying for it
- Who really needs to be involved
- What intranet design will solve the problem
Where to Start
Scope of the Build
Like any corporate project, you need to engage the right balance of business knowledge and skills to build or redesign a corporate intranet. That includes consideration of:
- Levels of access and permissions
- Search functionality
- Version control
- Management of the quality of the content
- Relevance, timeliness, currency and accuracy within documents, spreadsheets and presentations
- The ability to make changes to the system, if required, within a short time frame.
A pain point for us, for example, was when we updated our branding. We needed to upload the latest version of approved branded documents to be available for public use, while removing access to documents that contained incorrect branding. This needed to be controlled in a centralised place. We also needed to limit multiple people having different versions saved in their own drives.
Whether it’s finance or key stakeholders, or both, try to ensure that:
- The scope of the project is agreed to based on business requirements and signed off by the relevant business units
- You keep key stakeholders updated, reporting each major milestone as you deliver the new or improved intranet, and
- By the end of the project, you can illustrate to key stakeholders that you have solved the issues relevant to them.
This will make your job much easier in the event when you:
- Strike a problem
- Are asked to add another element into the scope
- Require testing and/or feedback, and
- Need people to test, socialise and support the use of the intranet.
I cannot stress how important it is to ensure that key influencers within your company are fully engaged in this process.
Leaving the legal team out of the process, for example, can make your life a misery when an issue that was not initially considered occurs because you didn’t keep them engaged. All of your stakeholders should be cheering for your team! One group that I always included in the delivery of our intranet solutions were the ones who complained the most. If you can address their issues, they become your greatest endorsers!
Skills and Knowledge to Build or Improve an Intranet
In my experience, the depth of knowledge required to undertake the build or improvement of an intranet is undervalued.
Take a look at the size of your business. Do you or someone else have the right set of skills to run, scope or manage the project? Consider the business knowledge as well as the IT knowledge needed. Here are some tips for ensuring the successful delivery of an intranet project.
Review Previous IT Projects
- Start by researching debriefs from previous IT projects. This will give you an indication of how your business values these projects & how the delivery was assessed.
- Talk to people involved in past projects. You can learn from past mistakes and get insider knowledge of bottlenecks and problem people you may encounter along the way. It’s also a good way to handpick people you would like on your team.
A large corporation I worked for had its own IT department. I worked on many projects with them and always found it valuable to get their views on past projects before starting a new one. I enjoyed their informal feedback and I’m certain it saved me time in the long run. It’s insightful to understand how they viewed different business units understanding of the intranet and what they could see were the real points of ‘inertia’ within the business. You get a 360 degree feel for the project and then you can start to look for what internal and external resources you will need.
Setting up your Project Framework
It’s important that you have worked out your milestones and how you will show that you are delivering this project on scope, on time and on budget. Depending on the size of your company, this might be recorded on a spreadsheet or a Gannt chart that will be closely monitored by the intranet project manager and their project team.
Internal and External Resources
If you have determined that you do not have the right set of skills to run, scope or manage the project of building/improving an intranet, then you’ll need a combination of internal and external resources to help deliver your goals.
In addition to your Project team, you need to also consider:
1. Top down engagement with Board and senior management
Establish a Committee comprising the Intranet Manager and Heads of IT, Finance, Compliance, Legal and the (end user) business unit managers to determine how the intranet:
- Reports to the Board a return investment (ROI)
- Ensures that the system is secure
- Supports privacy principles
- Maintains existing walls required between some business divisions
- Assists employees to be more productive.
2. Hiring external help
For me, even though we had an extremely skilled IT team in a large corporate, we chose to tender our intranet design work to external intranet vendors with a team of experts on hand. This gave us access to latest industry technology, trends and best practice. Whether you are starting from scratch or you are reviewing an existing intranet solution, Nielsen Norman Group has found that its Intranet Design Annual Award winners contracted an average of two external vendors to assist and deliver their intranets. The were involved in every stage of the project from audience targeting, benchmarking, scoping, branding to support, design, deployment, training, usability testing, video creation and wireframing.
The benefits of an external agency include:
- ‘Fresh eyes’ that provide management independent third party endorsement
- Aligning business analysis to features and a framework that encourage employees to be more productive
- The business needs analysis is not prejudiced by internal pressure to deliver a specific solution
- The Board and senior management are assured that an external consultant has the expertise, a broader experience of what works and what doesn’t with other companies
- The costs of hiring a consultant may be lower than committing a full-time employee to research business unit needs, and
- External help also allows the intranet team to develop their own specific expertise through the process of learning from external consultants who provide best practice solutions.
Your Intranet is Now Live!
You now have the why, what, when, who and how to deliver an intranet that meets the current needs of your company.
Celebrate the successes of your project, people, product, pricing and performance with your key stakeholders and influencers so that they will continue to support future intranet projects. The launch is only the beginning!
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