Your intranet content can mean the difference between your intranet becoming a thriving hub of activity or a ghost town.
Modern intranets help employees easily access this content to complete tasks quickly anywhere, anytime and stay connected with other employees and the organisation; streamlining internal communication, improving productivity and cultivating a positive corporate culture.
As with any other type of content, it must be valuable, up-to-date, easy to find and relevant to the needs of the end user in order to deliver a great employee experience.
Unless a sound adoption strategy is put into place, you might encounter:
- Duplicate content
- Documents that are outdated and no longer relevant
- Confusion over document versions
- An inability for staff to carry out work that requires the latest information through lost hours spent searching vast amounts of data
What types of content should we have on the intranet? How do we ensure users aren’t overwhelmed by all this content? How do we keep it up-to-date? Who is responsible for the content?
In this blog post we’ll address these questions, providing detailed insights into intranet content strategy and management best practices.
Creating an Effective Intranet Content Strategy
An intranet content strategy provides guidance on best practices for creating and delivering content to your end users. Like any strategy, this needs to be tied to a strong understanding of your audience, as well as the goals you want to achieve.
Identifying user personas and what content they need
In the same way marketing teams create personas, consider applying this methodology to your intranet end users. If you understand their pain points/challenges, what motivates them and what features and information they need, you’ll be in a much better position to understand what content is useful for them.
If you have an existing intranet, this is your opportunity to identify additional segmenting that can be done to ensure you display the most valuable content to a specific group of users.
Location, departments and expertise/roles are the most common starting points for identifying personas. Is the content for remote home workers? For staff in a specific location? For front line staff or head office staff?
You can also divide your end users by ‘interests’, that is, topics or areas they’re interested in, as well as categorise users by the maturity of the employee. For example, new employees would need onboarding resources e.g. certain HR forms, induction training courses, that would not be of use to a long-term employee.
Understanding goals and how content can support this
What is the primary purpose or benefit of your intranet?
- Do you want to improve culture and morale?
- To keep policies and procedures front and centre?
- To communicate company news?
- To provide resource hubs for new company tools and projects?
Does this differ for each persona?
This will also help you understand what kind of content is required and whether the content is serving its purpose.
Further reading: [Blog post] 8 Key Intranet Benefits for Your Workplace
What intranet to choose to help you carry out the content strategy
Once you understand what your objectives are and what your end users need, the intranet software and intranet service provider implementing your solution needs to be able to support this. A large part of great intranet content is making sure it is easy to find!
Think about what kind of features you need access to.
- Does the intranet need to be viewable on mobile or tablet?
- Does it have document management features such as version control, start and expiry dates and meta tagging?
- Does it offer security permissions to provide different content to different users?
- Does it offer enterprise search functions so content is easy to find?
Also, think about any features and tools unique to your organisation and/or industry. Is the project team capable to building custom functionality for you?
When it comes to your corporate intranet, you should seek to reduce the role and activity of the IT team. In addition to the training materials mentioned above, users can be provided with troubleshooting guides or even interactive virtual assistants that can help them resolve basic issues on their own. Support calls and service ticket requests to the IT department can then be limited to the most urgent and/or uncommon issues.
Further reading: [Blog post] The Ultimate Intranet Buyers Guide
A content audit on an existing intranet
If you have an existing intranet, this is the time to review your current content and determine whether it should still be kept in light of the personas and objectives you have identified. There is no point creating and adding new content to the intranet, if it’s just going to get mixed up with outdated content that is still floating around and easily found on the intranet alongside your new content!
Chances are, content has been uploaded by various people within your organisation. Create guidelines on the process of cleaning up content. Then identify who these publishers are and work with them to remove outdated content.
At this stage, you and any content publishers should check for relevance and either keep the file, rewrite it or delete it completely.
Further reading: [Blog post] Best Practice Tips on Building or Improving your Intranet
Map our your intranet
Content mapping is similar to mind mapping. It allows a team to create a visual representation of how content strategy can be implemented. Ideally, prior to the design of the intranet, you would have gathered feedback from end users to improve your new intranet including content structure.This is also where you look at your goals, personas, existing content, and map out where and how this information should be presented to your end users.
Organising intranet content according to your personas/audience and what information they need and how they want the information presented, will help employees find relevant information quickly. For example, common templates and forms used across multiple personas often have their own section on the intranet (as opposed to uploading them in different areas).
If you do not have an internal intranet specialist or external consultant, the vendor or agency you choose to work with should be able to assist you with this.
Content mapping can be carried out by content mapping tools or simply via a whiteboard and marker.
Further reading: [Blog post] How to Map Your Business Requirements to Your Intranet
Intranet Content Management Best Practices
Effectively managing intranet content is more than simply having someone upload content and then forgetting it exists. Here are key factors you must consider in order to avoid a build up of information clutter.
Content management plan
A content management plan outlines the roles and responsibilities of those involved, content requirements, content management processes and guidelines that must be followed. The content management lifecycle should involve:
Instructions and policies on creating content including guidelines, formatting, terminology used, writing best practices, images (if required), taxonomy/tagging, metadata and placement for consistency and easy discovery of this content.
Instructions and policies for formatting, publishing, groups to publish to and workflows (and approvals required) to ensure its delivered correctly to the right people.
Instructions on repurposing, rewriting, creating, maintaining, monitoring, deleting and archiving based on relevance of the content.
Instructions on reviewing, analysing and understanding performance to improve intranet content.
Assigning ownership to content
The easiest way to manage content on an intranet is to assign responsibility to various departments so that they can ‘take ownership’ of the content that the department produces. At the same time, an individual (usually an intranet, IT or internal communications manager) or team can be on hand to periodically to check that content is being managed and updated appropriately. Some intranets allow for new or updated content such as policies, procedures, news and notices, to be attached to workflows, so an assigned person will need to approve the content before it's published. This is helpful if your organisation is hesitant to decentralise content creation.
This means that the department will be responsible for:
- Archiving older content
- Setting expiry on content so that it always remains relevant
- Reusing content that may still be relevant
- Streamlining the content production process through the use of workflows
- Implementing document management
- Any other task you deem relevant
For larger organisations, having a champion for each area, who either solely updates content or oversees content (e.g. receives alerts of updated content and content to be approved etc.), is a good way to maintain consistency.
Document management and version control
Imagine that a document was created back in 2009 for, say, the terms and conditions for the company. Then think about how many times regulations or internal changes may require that document to be updated. If, for some reason the older document is found and accidentally replaces the 2013 version, then a lot of extra work could be involved to put it right.
This means that it’s necessary to ensure that the documents that are generated, if they haven’t been archived, should all have version numbers so that it’s clear which the most up-to-date version is. This also reduces the chance of duplicate content being produced and being available to confuse readers.
Again, workflows come into play here and so does setting up the strategy in the first place. It’s likely that more than one person in a larger enterprise will have some input on one document, so this must be avoided with the use of workflows using appropriate technology.
For example, policies and procedures often need to be updated by different teams. To ensure the network isn’t clogged with several saved versions of what is essentially the same document, you can use workflows and approval processes so that just one copy of the document is passed down the line from one person to another.
This is where technology comes in as a good CMS can simplify this in order to ensure that there isn’t a huge digital pile of the same content.
Further reading: [Blog post] Document Management Best Practices
Training for content editors and publishers is key to ensuring this process runs smoothly. Employees need to be familiar with your intranet structure and policies in order to effectively support your intranet content strategy. For example, when creating or uploading content into the system, they have to know which metadata to include so that content is properly classified and contains relevant creator and revision attributes. Employees should also be empowered to report redundant or improperly labeled content.
Ensuring that every user of your intranet knows how to properly use the system may be a challenge-- especially when you first introduce the new system or are onboarding new employees. It is important that your intranet contains in-depth tutorials, how-to articles and explainer videos, as well as wikis and a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section that can clearly define all of the features and areas they will be involved with.
Senior level employees and administrators may also need advanced training on the data security protocols, as well as the reporting and data analytics functions. This will help them to not only monitor and understand the reports they see, but also know how and when to most effectively respond.
Further reading: [Blog post] Key Business Processes Where Intranets Truly Deliver Value: Training & Projects
Governance refers to policies and structures regarding decision-making. Without governance, an intranet can often turn into an unruly mess of content. For intranet governance to be successful, it must embody several key components:
- Establish policies and decisions about structure and objectives
- Communicate these decisions in a clear and concise way
- Decide who will implement intranet governance on an ongoing basis
Further reading: [Blog post] Intranet Governance Best Practices
7 Tips for Successfully Managing Intranet Content
There are several trends within the digital workplace that should guide you in successfully managing your intranet content. Here are a few areas to consider:
As the workplace has become more digital, more sensitive or confidential information becomes digital and more easily accessible throughout the organisation, it is vital that your system is using the latest data security technology and tools. This should include security settings that allow users in particular groups to access certain types of content.
One way to avoid information overload and a cluttered intranet is to personalise intranet content to the different personas you’ve identified. Why are they using the intranet? What information are they looking for? For example, in a franchise organisation, an employee working in the corporate office is likely to need different content than those working in a local franchise store.
Related resources: [Blog post] For Personalised Intranet Experiences, Start Here
Modern intranet systems often need to support complex teams staffed with remote employees working from different regions or even different countries. Intranets should provide these teams with centralised access to important resources from any location and device. Beyond that, consider monitoring what features and sections are used most frequently on different devices, and ensuring users have a seamless intranet experience across mobile, tablet and desktop. For example, if many users are filling out forms on their mobiles away from the office, the form should be optimised for this device.
Most of today's workforce routinely use social media and their digital devices to connect with friends, family, and their colleagues. In response, advanced intranets are now incorporating a social layer into the system that gives users social profiles and the ability to make real-time status updates as well as comment and interact with their peers on internal blogs, forums, and wikis. This allows for user-generated content from users which is a great way to create a thriving intranet with consistently new and updated content.
Related resources: [Blog post] Using Social Tools to Boost Engagement & Collaboration
Third Party System Integration
Seamless integration between your intranet and third party systems and legacy platforms is also important. Since the use and adoption of the intranet among employees (particularly among the non-technical professionals) is vital to its success, a lot of attention should be placed on creating a clear and easy-to-use interface to display this data, and to ensure accurate and up-to-date content and data is pulled through.
Intranet analytics will help you measure and improve intranet performance and identify who is using your intranet and how they are using it, the top-performing content assets, the most popular devices your employees are using to access the system, and the content formats that create the most engagement, among other things. This information will help you to make informed decisions about the structure and content of your intranet. Most intranets will integrate to Google Analytics and provide summary snapshots of information.
Creating an effective enterprise search function in your intranet will save your employees precious time, especially when their job continually requires searching for company data. The faster the employees find the information they need, the more productive and engaged they will be.
Users should be able to search via taxonomy/tags, filter by type of content (e.g. staff profiles, documents and forms), set security permissions on certain content so it can be found (if at all) by select people and access federated search (incorporating results from other serves e.g. SharePoint). The search function should also be able to determine search relevancy and display the best results for users.
A main underlying theme to all of the above points is that the most successful corporate intranets are designed to work in the background, “silently” connecting and improving workflows and giving on-site and off-site employees access to the data and collaborative tools they need to get the job done as quickly and as effectively as possible.
We strongly recommended you read the guide - How to Successfully Plan, Deploy and Launch an Intranet. This comprehensive guide will equip you with best practices and insights to properly plan, deploy and launch your intranet.