The Gatehouse Blog

Six steps to repositioning your intranet

Where to start when your intranet needs a major makeover? Intranet manager Kerrie Hawkins talks us through five crucial steps.

After years running an intranet, it’s sometimes difficult to take a step back and understand whether it has reached its full potential or would need a major overhaul. When managed properly, an intranet can boost your internal communication and become a powerful business tool that supports your staff in the delivery of customer service excellence on a daily basis.

Companies should continuously be looking at improving their intranet – but it is essential to continuously evolve the intranet in parallel to the business strategy to ensure it is still aligned with your organisation’s business objectives. At minimum the homepage must change every 3-6 months to keep user interest and every two years it doesn’t hurt to carry out a full site audit.

So here are my top six critical areas of focus:

1 – Stakeholder engagement

The first step is to identify the stakeholders that you will need to involve. It’s usually a good idea to start with the people who were involved in previous upgrades. At least four groups should be engaged:

–        The leadership team: senior managers will tell you where they see the organisation going over the next coming years.

–        Strategic team: this group will help you understand what the organisation is trying to achieve and how the intranet can support those goals.

–        IT teams: whether there’s a relationship with an external provider or an in-house team in place, understand these skills, capabilities and technology that are available to you.

–        End user: you need to understand your user and the role they undertake to build a solution that will respond to their needs and make their working day easier.

Obviously this list is not exhaustive. Depending on the size of the organisation, you may have to involve other stakeholder groups.

Bring those people together as much as you can and have them share their thoughts about the intranet. This brainstorming activity will help you gain perspective before you even approach the project.

2 – Research

When it comes to intranet development, step away from technology. Push back on people who come to you with a solution in mind (“I want to implement Yammer”), and encourage them to articulate what benefits they expect from it. There may be better options to address their needs.

Research is a crucial step which will help you determine your business need. Focus on how employees interact with the intranet and on what they need before looking at the technology.

In most cases, three types of inputs will be available to you:

–        Analytics: available qualitative data will tell you how employees are engaging with your intranet – how many people visit it? How often? What do they use it for? Are they always visiting the same pages?

–        Stakeholder interviews: schedule a series of one-to-one interviews with key stakeholders to find out what they want people to be able to do when using the intranet – monitor project status, complete a form etc.

–        Focus groups: talk to different groups of users. Don’t ask them what they think of the intranet, but what they expect to be able to do and would like to do when they get there.

This analysis will paint a picture of where your organisation is at. What is working, what isn’t – and what should be your priorities.

3 – Requirement gathering

Once you know where your organisation wants to be and what the intranet should enable users to do at a very high level, you can start developing your business requirements.

Requirements identify the features you need. They are not the solution; rather they are the basis on which potential solutions are assessed and developed.

At this stage, you will narrow down your research findings and go into the details of what users will be able to do with the intranet. Will they be able to process forms online? Order books on Amazon? Generate contents? How will all of this work?

4 – Strategy development

Strategy development is when you look at the details of the implementation. You should review each of your requirements and describe all of the things that will need to take place behind the scene in order to make it happen.

For example, if your CEO wants to have a blog, will he write it himself? If not, who will and how will you ensure the end user believes the CEO is presenting the information to them?

5 – Execution

Execution involves change management, communication, and technology development. It’s basically everything that needs to happen in order to deliver your strategy.

Before the launch, the project will go through user acceptance testing. This will determine whether it can be safely rolled out. If something doesn’t work, you go backwards and fix it. The process continues until testing shows that everything works properly.

You can tap into focus group participants to identify people who will be able to help with the testing. You’ve got an established relationship with them, and they know what the project is about.

I’d love to say that there’s a clear definitive answer to the question ‘How long?’ but it really depends on the strength of your stakeholder management and of the resources at your disposal. A 50% rehash of a large intranet would probably take six months to a year. If you’re looking at a full overhaul, ten months will probably be a minimum.

6 – Measurement and continuous improvement

Have you delivered what you set out to do? Is the intranet supporting people deliver customer service excellence? Are you making use of all of the technology advances available to you? Is there more you can integrate?

These are just some of the questions you need to continuously ask through analysis of user activity and maintaining relationships with your stakeholders. An intranet must continuously evolve with the organisation and always consider the user. Having an intranet that was good for yesterday will not be right for today or tomorrow- MySpace vs. Facebook for example.

To close, with the business landscape changing ever more rapidly so must the intranet adapt and change to remain a business critical tool.

Kerrie Hawkins has worked across most sectors including not for profits, government departments and one of Australia’s leading financial corporations employing in excess of 40,000 employees.

Kerrie delights in stretching technology boundaries to make it easier for people to do their job. Having completed her Post Graduate in Internal Communications Management in 2004, she mentors new intranet managers in the use and adaptation of content management solutions with particular focus on SharePoint.