A little while back I wrote a post about the global-local challenge for many intranets. To quote:
In any large organisations, there will be many different business units, with different needs. Individual staff across the organisation will also need specific tools and information. The challenge is to meet global needs (corporate communications, top-level strategy, culture), while also meeting varying local needs.
In the previous post, I sketched out a comparatively simple scenario we encountered for one client, and promised that I’d write more. I thought a useful starting point would be to spell out the principles that underpin a good global-local solution.
Principles for global-local intranets
In thinking about designing intranets to meet global-local needs, the following principles may to be relevant:
- Meet local staff needs
It’s an obvious statement to make, but intranets must meet local staff needs. In particular, they must support day-to-day operational needs, recognising that staff needs vary greatly (there is no single ‘intranet user’).
- Ensure the starting point is relevant for the end user
The first page presented when the intranet is opened must be directly relevant for the individual staff member. This is not to say that it has to be personalised, but if someone is located in Brazil, they shouldn’t have to click three times off a global homepage to get to their country’s homepage.
- Provide a channel for corporate communication
There is important information and news that is relevant to the whole organisation, and the intranet must provide an effective channel for communicating this to all staff.
- Bring things together where possible
In general, it is better to aggregate information in a single location that works for staff, rather than splitting it apart. For example, the value of a single (well-designed) news channel is many times more important that providing different news in 20 different locations across 10 different sites.
- Do the work on behalf of staff
There is a temptation, for example, to use personalisation features to give the user the option of tailoring their intranet experiences to match their local needs, and then declaring “problem solved”. The issue: only 5-10% of staff will make use of these features. Instead, we need to find ways of making the intranet easy for staff, and doing the hard work behind the scenes to solve the global-local challenges.
- Provide clear signposts
There will rarely be “one site to solve all problems”, and we are often left with multiple sites across a whole organisation. Staff must be given clear “signposts” to allow them to confidently know which resource to use when.
- Work within technology constraints
Whatever is designed must be possible to implement. An obvious statement, but there are few organisations that have unlimited technology or resources devoted to the intranet.
So, what have I missed?