Intranets have become indispensable tools for large organisations with geographically dispersed workforces.

Yet, in the race to embrace these technologies, many projects stumble, under-deliver, or collapse entirely.

In our experience at Elcom, we've identified some recurring themes as to why intranets fail and intranet risks to look out for!

1. Lack of a Clear Vision

Too often, organisations rush into an intranet project without a well-defined objective. An intranet without direction is like a ship without a compass – you’re bound to get lost.

The remedy: Before you set sail, anchor your intranet initiative with a solid business case. What do you want to achieve? Perhaps better communication across multiple locations, or more streamlined operations.

Identify what your intranet business requirements are and create realistic goals and keep them front and centre throughout the management of the intranet project.

Examples of Clear Visions for an Intranet Project:

  • Collaborative Hub: Design an intranet to function as a collaboration hub, where teams from various geographical locations can interact seamlessly, sharing ideas and resources.
  • Knowledge Repository: Develop a central knowledge base where employees can access vital company information, training modules, and best practices.
  • Operational Streamlining: Integrate various departmental tools and applications into the intranet to facilitate smoother operations and reduce redundancies.
  • Engagement Booster: Create a platform where employees can engage in social activities, recognise peers, and partake in organisational culture initiatives.
  • Feedback Channel: Develop an intranet system that acts as a two-way communication channel, allowing employees to voice concerns and leadership to disseminate important updates.

And of course, without a clear vision and strategy you can't get management and other key stakeholders on board.

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2. Lack of User Input

An intranet developed in isolation, without consulting its primary users, often turns into a ghost town – beautifully constructed but eerily empty. Ignoring user input is one of the critical reasons why intranet projects fail.

The remedy: Involve your users early and often. Organise focus groups, collect feedback, and regularly engage with the teams that will be using the intranet daily. An intranet built with user input is more likely to be embraced and utilised effectively.

Ways to Obtain User Input:

  • Regular Surveys: Deploy periodic online questionnaires, gauging users' needs, preferences, and pain points. These can be broad or department-specific, depending on the stage of your project.
  • Interactive Workshops: Organise workshops where employees can interact with preliminary designs or prototypes of the intranet. Their hands-on feedback can provide invaluable insights.
  • Feedback Boxes: Introduce physical or digital suggestion boxes where employees can submit their ideas or critiques anonymously.
  • User Diaries: Engage a cross-section of users to maintain diaries of their intranet usage. Their recorded experiences can offer a detailed understanding of user journeys and potential friction points.
  • Stakeholder Interviews: Engage in one-on-one or group interviews with key stakeholders from various departments. These in-depth conversations can unearth specific requirements or challenges that might be overlooked in broader forums.

3. Wrong Technology

Many organisations fall into the seductive trap of the latest tech buzzwords and the allure of new features, often finding themselves committed to a platform that doesn’t meet their core needs. This misalignment is a frequent contributor to why intranet projects fail.

The remedy: Seek technology that aligns with your objectives and is scalable for future growth. Elcom’s flexible platforms, for example, cater to various business needs while providing the adaptability essential for long-term success.

Strategies to Find the Right Technology:

  • Needs Assessment: Before diving into product demos, list down the precise features and functionalities your organisation requires from an intranet platform. This clear specification acts as a roadmap to navigate the vast technology landscape.
  • Product Demos: Engage with multiple vendors to view demonstrations of their platforms. This gives a first-hand understanding of how the system works and if it aligns with your needs.
  • Peer Reviews: Seek out feedback from similar organisations or industry peers who've implemented intranet solutions. Their hands-on experience can shed light on potential pitfalls and highlights of certain platforms.
  • Scalability Check: Ensure that the chosen technology can grow with your organisation. A scalable intranet solution accommodates increased users, more extensive data sets, and the introduction of new features seamlessly.
  • Post-Implementation Support: The relationship with a tech vendor shouldn’t end post-purchase. Opt for vendors who offer robust project lifecycle management including after-sales support, regular training, and updates, ensuring your platform remains relevant and efficient.

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4. Lack of Communication

Keeping stakeholders in the dark can foster resistance and misunderstandings, posing substantial risks to intranet success.

The remedy: Establish a robust communication plan from the get-go. Inform all relevant parties about project developments, and create a platform where they can voice concerns and ask questions.

Strategies to Improve Communication:

  • Communication Blueprint: Outline a clear communication plan from the outset. This should detail who communicates what, when, how, and to whom. This blueprint acts as a guide, ensuring no crucial information slips through the cracks.
  • Regular Updates: Schedule routine status updates, whether through emails, meetings, or newsletters (See newsletter ideas here). This not only keeps stakeholders informed but also fosters a sense of involvement and ownership.
  • Open Feedback Channels: Create platforms or forums where team members can voice concerns, ask questions, and provide feedback. This two-way communication helps in early identification of potential roadblocks.
  • Dedicated Communication Teams: Establish a dedicated team or individual responsible for communication. This ensures consistency in messaging and timely dissemination of information.
  • Utilise Visual Tools: Instead of lengthy, text-heavy updates, employ visual tools like infographics, dashboards, and flowcharts. These can make complex data or progress trajectories easier to digest and understand.

5. Lack of Change Management

Introducing a new intranet isn't just about the software. It fundamentally changes the way employees work, interact, and communicate. Without proper change management, these shifts can lead to resistance, confusion, and inefficiencies, making it a major reason for why intranets fail.

The remedy: To avoid risks to intranet projects, anticipate the human response to change and guide it. Implementing a comprehensive change management strategy ensures a smoother transition, better user adoption, and ultimately, the success of your intranet project.

Strategies for Effective Change Management:

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Identify and engage key influencers from different departments early on. Their buy-in and advocacy can significantly boost overall acceptance and enthusiasm for the new system.
  • Training Modules: Offer training sessions tailored to different user groups, focusing on the features most relevant to them. Regularly update these sessions as the platform evolves.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Implement mechanisms where employees can voice their struggles or suggestions regarding the intranet. This continuous feedback loop aids in making timely adjustments and improvements.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Recognise and celebrate the milestones and successes during the intranet's rollout. This reinforces positive sentiments and keeps the momentum going.
  • Continuous Support: Establish a helpline or support team dedicated to addressing any queries or issues users face, ensuring they always have a safety net during the transition period.

6. Unrealistic Expectations

In the excitement of implementing a new intranet, organisations sometimes set their sights too high. Expecting immediate success or overly ambitious outcomes can quickly lead to disillusionment and demotivation when reality doesn’t match.

The remedy: Set realistic and achievable benchmarks to avoid intranet risks. Understand that every intranet project is a journey, and while the end goal is transformative, it requires patience, effort, and incremental progress.

Strategies to Set and Manage Expectations:

  • Clarity from the Start: Begin with clear, measurable, and achievable objectives. Whether it's increased collaboration by a certain percentage or specific efficiency metrics, clarity helps in gauging progress.
  • Regular Check-ins: Have periodic reviews to assess where the project stands in relation to the goals set. This ensures any deviation is spotted and corrected early.
  • Transparent Communication: Keep stakeholders informed about the progress, challenges, and any adjustments to the initial plan. An informed team is more understanding and supportive.
  • Manage the Hype: While it's essential to promote the benefits of the new intranet, avoid overselling. Being realistic prevents potential disillusionment down the track.
  • Iterative Approach: Consider an iterative rollout. Launch the most crucial features first, gather feedback, and then expand. This phased approach ensures that any gaps in expectations and reality are addressed in real-time.

7. Scope Creep

One of the notorious culprits behind why intranet projects fail is scope creep. Starting with a defined set of objectives, only to continually add to them without adjusting timelines or budgets, can derail even the best-laid plans, causing delays, budget overruns, and diluted results.

The remedy: Effective intranet project management and strict adherence to the initial scope are crucial. While flexibility is essential, it's equally important to safeguard the project from expanding uncontrollably.

Strategies to Prevent Scope Creep:

  • Detailed Project Documentation: Begin with a comprehensive project charter or plan. This document should clearly outline objectives, deliverables, timelines, and budgets. It acts as a reference point throughout the project's lifecycle.
  • Change Request Process: Implement a formal change request procedure. Any deviation from the original plan, whether addition or modification, should be documented, evaluated for its impact, and approved before implementation.
  • Regular Monitoring: Conduct routine project status meetings to assess progress against the initial plan. Any discrepancies should be addressed immediately.
  • Stakeholder Alignment: Ensure all stakeholders are aligned from the start. Regularly reiterate the project's scope and objectives to keep everyone on track.
  • Education and Training: Train your team on the dangers of scope creep and its potential repercussions. An informed team is less likely to inadvertently expand the project's boundaries.

8. Insufficient Resources

Whether it's budgetary constraints, inadequate manpower, or a lack of expertise, resource shortages can derail an intranet project.

The remedy: Proper intranet redesign project planning and resource allocation are fundamental. Recognise the resources required to achieve your goals and ensure they're available and dedicated to the project.

Strategies to Ensure Adequate Resources:

  • Comprehensive Resource Planning: Before the project kicks off, perform a detailed resource assessment. Determine the financial, human, and technological assets required at each stage and secure them.
  • Dedicated Teams: Put in place an intranet governance plan that assigns specific teams or individuals to the intranet project, ensuring they aren't spread thin across multiple tasks. Their primary focus should be the successful rollout of the intranet.
  • Regular Resource Audits: Periodically check to ensure that the resources allocated are still in line with the project's requirements. Adjust accordingly if any gaps are identified.
  • Contingency Budgeting: Always set aside a contingency budget. Unexpected expenses can crop up, and having a buffer ensures the project doesn't stall due to lack of funds.
  • Leverage External Expertise: If in-house resources are limited, consider hiring external consultants or agencies specialising in intranet projects. Their expertise can fill any resource gaps and provide valuable insights.

Conclusion

While there are challenges that lead to many reasons why intranets fail, with foresight and effective strategies, these pitfalls are avoidable.

Navigating the intricacies of an intranet project is akin to embarking on a grand voyage. The path is laden with potential pitfalls, and knowing them is half the battle won. As we've highlighted, issues ranging from scope creep to insufficient resources can hinder the success of an intranet project.

However, with careful planning, stakeholder engagement, and informed decision-making, these challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth and improvement.

Remember, an intranet is more than just a tool – it's an enabler, a connector, and a catalyst for organisational transformation. By understanding why intranet projects fail, you're better poised to ensure yours flourishes.

If you're on the brink of launching or rejuvenating your own intranet initiative, arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. We highly recommend delving into Elcom's comprehensive intranet planning guide. It's packed with insights, strategies, and best practices to steer your project to success.

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