For the last few months, we’ve been working with a high profile firm that’s going through an immense amount of organisational change. The entire industry they operate in is undergoing seismic shifts, with still no end in sight. This has generated massive and disruptive change internally, with the organisation essentially rebuilding itself.
It’s a challenging time, and the temptation would be to leave the intranet until “things settle down”. Thankfully this isn’t the view of the senior managers we’re working with.
Instead, they’ve seen that intranets can play a strategic role in these uncertain times.
For some time now, there’s been plenty of evidence that shows that staff come to the intranet seeking information in times of fear and uncertainty. When their jobs are at risk, staff want to know as much as they possibly can.
As new business structures are put in place, they must also have a home for their tools and content. In the current project, the need is doubly clear, as there was practically no corporate intranet in place even before the changes. For organisations with more established site, a responsive intranet can match and support the release of new tools and content.
Finally, intranets can directly assist with the change process. In the very first year of the Intranet Innovation Awards, we gave the platinum award to Fiat, who used a new intranet portal to drive leadership changes. When the CEO himself says that the intranet played an important role in turning around the fortunes of the whole business, that counts.
Taking a strategic approach to intranets in times of change
In general terms, we recommend organisations facing disruptive change apply the following intranet strategy:
- Stabilise the intranet, and the intranet team.The first step may be to re-form an effective intranet team. An operational model should also be put in place, allowing the team to address immediate (and often urgent) requests from the business, while the bigger picture is being resolved.
- Deliver quick wins to demonstrate value.During major changes, there’s a lot of happening and many competing demands on senior management time. The intranet must therefore quickly deliver tangible benefits to cut through the noise, and to show how the intranet can help in concrete ways.
- Directly support the change.Communication and change management are vital during major organisational change, and the intranet is a natural channel for this. Consider devoting homepage real-estate specifically for this purpose, backing it up with comprehensive information for staff.
- Lay an intranet foundation for the new organisation. As the new organisational structures, systems and processes start to come together, the intranet must provide a home for them. Alongside the reactive intranet activities, a strategic project should establish a new foundation, including new IA and governance.
Needless to say, it’s not easy to progress the intranet when everything is in flux. But rather than step back and wait for quieter times, we encourage intranet teams (and management) to grasp the opportunity to have a major impact with the intranet, and to position the organisation for long-term success.