Coordinating the deployment of a new intranet project with a company’s goals and strategic plans sets up your intranet to be a success.
If you put together a strong intranet strategy and plan that aligns with your organisation’s intranet business requirements and accompanying intranet requirements document, then it's likely to win the support of company executives. And today’s intranets can, when planned out carefully, be central to a business’s ultimate success.
The Importance of Mapping Your Intranet Business Requirements
According to Patty Caya and Kara Pernice in Intranet Portals are the Hub of the Enterprise Universe,
“Today’s intranet portals are at the epicentre (sic) of the enterprise universe. They provide utility and usability, featuring all or most necessities for employees’ success. Popular enterprise portal offerings include use via mobile devices and home computers, consolidation of and access to enterprise applications, and communication vehicles for employees. As organisations inch toward a digital workplace, intranet portals are beginning to serve as the hub of the corporate wheel, providing spokes of information and applications that serve diverse and increasingly dispersed workforces.”
A successful intranet can increase workplace productivity and knowledge sharing. In turn this increases business profits. However, before starting an intranet project, it’s essential that the personnel involved understand exactly what it is that the company wants to achieve – and this must be explicitly understood.
As pointed out by Intranet Organisation: Steven L. Telleen, Ph.D. in Intranet Organisation: Strategies for managing change:
“Without explicit expectations, there will be no way to determine success. Either anything you do will be considered successful, because there are no expectations, or nothing will be successful, because the odds of accidentally hitting unstated expectations (that are likely a moving target) are almost zero.”
The goals of the intranet functional requirements will depend on the business and can range from “existential visions” (where we expect to change the way we do business), to “referential goals” (improving and speeding up business processes). These tend to focus on different aspects of the organisation in order to support the intranet project.
Defining Your Goals
Before you get started on your intranet requirements checklist, intranet best practice guidelines recommend defining goals as the first step in your intranet redesign project plan. Why are you doing what you're doing?
If you don't know where you're going, it's likely your intranet will fail.
Having well-defined goals guides your strategic direction, facilitating more effective decision-making.
Existential goals tend to focus on the development of individuals as well as the enterprise, with the technical requirements viewed as a means to aiding this process. Referential goals on the other hand, tend to focus on web apps and processes that are overall more efficient and user-friendly. This is the most popular approach in the current climate.
Many enterprises make the mistake of focusing purely on the technical side of the intranet when planning, but this is almost certainly a sure-fire route to failure. Tools can be put in place which in theory might help the user to perform their job better, but if these tools are complex and difficult to use, then they are only going to ensure that the user doesn’t actually engage with the intranet.
The following points outline some significant objectives you may consider for your intranet, keeping in mind that the specific objectives may vary depending on your organisation's unique circumstances and needs.
1. Enhancing Communication
One of the primary goals of any intranet is to improve communication within an organisation. The intranet should act as a central hub for information exchange, promoting transparency and reducing misunderstandings. More so, it should support real-time communication, community spaces and team collaboration, thereby fostering a more connected organisational culture. Remember, communication isn't just top-down; it should also facilitate bottom-up and lateral information flow.
2. Boosting Employee Engagement
An effective intranet is instrumental in nurturing an engaged workforce. This can be achieved by making the intranet a space for recognition, where achievements, milestones, and the contributions of individuals or teams are celebrated. Incorporating interactive elements, such as polls, quizzes, and forums can also drive engagement, making employees feel part of a vibrant, interactive community.
3. Increasing Employee Productivity
A well-designed intranet can significantly boost productivity by providing easy access to resources, tools, and information. It can eliminate time wasted on searching for documents or procedures, and instead, create an intuitive, user-friendly platform where everything an employee needs is at their fingertips. Furthermore, integrating workflows and project management capabilities can streamline processes, enabling employees to focus on their core tasks.
4. Reducing Administrative Costs
Administrative costs can eat into an organisation's budget. However, an efficient intranet can help reduce these costs. By automating routine tasks and processes, and providing a central repository for documents and resources, it reduces the time and resources dedicated to administrative work. This allows for more cost-effective operations, freeing up budget for other strategic initiatives.
5. Facilitating Knowledge Sharing
Beyond these, another essential goal is facilitating knowledge sharing. With employees often scattered across various departments, branches, or even continents, the exchange of ideas and insights can be challenging. An intranet can bridge this gap, creating a space where employees can share their knowledge, learn from others, and foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation.
6. Promoting Organisational Values and Culture
Lastly, the intranet should reinforce your organisational values and culture. Whether through news updates, leadership blogs, or showcasing community involvement, the intranet can become a vehicle for instilling and promoting your organisation's unique identity.
Asking the Right Questions
With this in mind, when developing an initial plan, it’s important that it’s understood how staff use current tools, their level of technical knowledge should more advanced tools be implemented and why the tools on offer will help them to perform their work more efficiently.
Your intranet business requirements document should include responses to the following intranet requirements checklist to ensure you collect the most accurate information:
- What’s the main purpose of the project – is it to enable better communications, to speed up transactional processes, facilitate knowledge sharing and eLearning?
- How will staff use the intranet to achieve the intended goals – what tools and applications will be implemented, will staff have access to knowledge banks, will content creators only add to the latter, who will have governance?
- What tools are available to ensure success – how will the chosen tools and applications be received by staff, will there need to be additional training implemented so that staff can use tools?
- What legacy equipment will have to be accounted for – will new tools be compatible with legacy IT equipment, what measures will have to be put into place to overcome any technical challenges?
How will existing content assets be migrated – “lift and shift” is an inadequate strategy and thought should be given to how content will be organised, edited, archived and deleted.
- What consideration will be given to mobility – will parts of the intranet be made responsive, what content/access will be served to mobile users and why?
Planning Your Intranet Project
A large part of the planning will involve people; ideally, those who will be using the intranet daily. An intranet project is likely to fail because little thought has been given to the level of user experience and usability, leading to low user engagement.
To ensure a successful implementation, it is vital to identify how applications will help each department, how users will interact with an intranet during the course of their day and if they will be able to use them immediately.
User behaviour is not the only important factor to consider when planning your intranet project. It’s also important to have a thorough understanding of the business requirements of your company. For example, if you’re building an intranet to speed up transactional processes, then what applications and changes to the database will facilitate this and automate some of the business processes across your organisation?
To understand the user, the project manager should, in the early planning stages of building or improving corporate intranets, conduct the following intranet functional requirements tasks:
- Carry out user surveys to determine how staff currently use the network
- Carry out an inventory on current technology and applications and how much they are used
Gain insight into the technical understanding of a wide section of staff
- Survey users with a proposed list of applications and tools to gauge which they are most likely to use
Ask how users feel the intranet could be improved to enable staff to more efficiently carry out their jobs
Related reading: [Blog post] Best Practice Intranet Design Guidelines
Managing intranet governance best practices has long been one of the major struggles of planning and implementing an effective intranet.
According to Nielsen Norman Group,
“A key lesson from many of our case studies is that organisations should plan the governance structure before starting a portals project. Success doesn’t come from buying a software package. It comes from running the project right, and from maintaining good governance after launch.”
The article goes on to say that previous research has found that when posed with the question “who owns the intranet” the answer was often a combination of departments. These included IT, marketing and HR, for the most part, with IT playing the role of custodian and the rest of the responsibility shifting in favour of corporate communications.
An important element to come out of the planning stage is the intranet content strategy and management policies that will ensure the intranet continues to be a valuable support tool for staff.
Whatever the best setup for any enterprise then, it’s vital that there is a strong intranet governance structure to support it.
Intranet Projects Require Proper Planning
Aligning the objectives of your intranet with business requirements will vastly improve your chances of staff adopting your intranet.
Ensure you engage executives in the planning process for a greater understanding of what needs to be accomplished. Also, closely consider the end-user so staff are able to fully utilise the tools and technology at their disposal.
Software and technology alone is not enough in evaluating and choosing the right intranet software. Thought must be given to exactly what the enterprise expects to achieve in terms of business goals if the project is to reach its full potential and provide maximum ROI.
We strongly recommend you download the free Intranet Planning Guide. It will equip you with best practices and insights to properly plan, deploy and launch your intranet.