People gather in the boardroom. Cake and flutes of champagne are offered to everyone. This is the Intranet team meeting with executive to launch the new Intranet. There is laughter, congratulatory mentions for all the hard work and a sense of accomplishment. There is a toast made by the Intranet team leader before the Intranet pops to life on the boardroom screen and there is a resounding applause. It feels good.
After a brief period of time, excitement and admiration very slowly morphs into confusion and consultation. Everyone had the best intentions, and a core group of people worked tirelessly to organize, cleanse and publish content into the new Intranet. But the data doesn't lie. The user sessions have decreased over time, the content is stale, and there are even broken links appearing. Bottom line is no one knows how to save the golden goose.
This boom-to-bust Intranet circle of life is common, and if you’ve experienced it first hand then you’ve probably felt like curling up into the fetal position on the floor and whimpering at the sound of Intranet silence. There’s no need to seek professional help to deconstruct how you failed. You’re far from responsible for why the Intranet died.
But the question will always be why did it die? Did someone go behind the shed after dinner and shoot it? Did the people abandon what was already a sinking ship? Was it perhaps run by the IT department who only focused on implementing a certain product from a particular vendor, where no business case was considered? That might seem unlikely, but it’s not. Ensuring the Intranet becomes a valuable asset for staff requires some key questions to be answered.
1. Organizational Persona
How would you describe the culture of your organization? Conservative or carefree? Hard working or slack? A place that has a clear mission, or an environment that is floundering? Determining the persona of your organization will help to define the path to take when planning your new Intranet. Understanding the persona will have an affect on the success of the solution with its users. Bland presentation filled with corporate speak will likely be derided by a fun and progressive workplace. A social Intranet that spotlights staff on the homepage, lists personal interests and the name of their dog is likely to be taken less seriously by a conservative business. Determine the persona of your workplace when designing the Intranet user experience.
Ensuring the Intranet becomes a valuable asset for staff requires some key questions to be answered.
Intranets quickly become islands that nobody visits because there’s no real purpose for people to spend time there. The business use case for the Intranet must suitably identify the real purpose for providing an internal resource for people to access as part of their daily work schedule. The Intranet needs to answer what are the critical points of failure that can occur within a business, and then provide timely and accurate content for troubleshooting and solving these roadblocks that affect productivity and individual work performance. The purpose of an Intranet should be to deliver an impeccable resource for assisting with the process of work, something that is first created and then iterated by many over time. Subject matter experts within the organization are not one, but many and as such the Intranet publishing tools need to be intuitive and easy to use in order to avoid hindering this knowledge sharing process.
Why present changes in the state tax legislation to the marketing folk when they access the Intranet homepage? Good Intranets are designed to serve relevant and timely content to the right audience. Great Intranets learn your access and viewing behavior over time and then present associated content that you may not have been aware of. Being relevant when a staff member accesses a directory or performs a search will keep them coming back for more.
We all use different tools for collaboration, with email still being the number one solution for communicating with people both internal and external to the organization. Without an Intranet, organizations remain as fragmented siloes that provide little to no content and data transparency for employees. Teams are not aware of what other strategies are occurring across the business, there is no centralized environment for information management and distribution, and management have no single way of broadcasting a vision or change to the entire organization.
Addressing the reasons why people stop using the Intranet begins with understanding what is the persona of the organization, what is the purpose and what context the information will be provided to people who are accessing it. Intranet adoption will stem from understanding these key principles during the time of your Intranet planning.