Filed under: Intranets
We live in interesting times.
As part of our work at Step Two, we provide ongoing advice and mentoring for intranet teams around the globe. With the financial crisis and all that goes with it, we’re seeing new challenges for intranet teams.
Processes for getting business cases approved have become more uncertain and drawn-out. Many projects have stalled as a result.
And when projects do get the go-ahead, everything must be done in a hurry. Our favourite: an IT manager at a large business telling us (and the intranet team) “I want a new intranet in 5 days”. Hmm.
In light of these challenges, these are our practical tips for intranet teams:
1. Be clear on what you’re asking for
It’s all too easy to write intranet strategies and business cases that outline in very general terms what the goal is. For example:
The intranet will connect people with content; people with people; and people with tools.
Social media and collaboration tools will transform the intranet into a platform that will engage with staff and improve knowledge management.
As Stephen Byrne wrote, this is an intranet vision, not a strategy.
When money was plentiful, it was possible to get high level approval for a business case, and then work out all the details later. This isn’t the case now.
So be clear on what you’re asking for, and what you’re going to deliver:
- What will be delivered by the project? (as concrete deliverables)
- How long will be required?
- What are the technology requirements?
- How much money will it cost?
- What staff and/or contractors will be required?
- What are you expecting from senior management?
Simple questions to ask, not always easy to answer. You’ll need to have clear answers when senior managers get around to looking at the business case!
2. Be ready to start in a hurry
Even when it takes 6-9 months to get approval, the current business climate means that many projects are then expected to deliver in a hurry. We’re talking about projects measured in weeks or a small number of months, not 6-12 months.
So get your ducks lined up in a row, at least in principle, so that if you’re given the go-ahead you can start straight away.
In the absence of concrete sign-off, it won’t be possible to hire staff or to do development. But at least have a sketched out plan that shows who will be needed, when, and to do what.
3. Don’t wait!
Teams can get trapped in a “holding pattern”, waiting for approval. It’s not unusual in today’s climate for teams to wait 6-9 months, or years in some cases.
Don’t be fooled by “it’s looking likely, we’ll know more next month”. This can mean the project will be approved imminently, or might still be parked in 6 months time.
In either case, don’t wait!
Ensure the team has an ongoing plan of incremental improvements, that address site issues and maintain team skills.
Whatever planning methodology you use, have a to-do list with monthly deliverables. Even if it’s scribbled on a piece of paper, make sure the whole team is involved, and that you stick to your own (self-set) deadlines.
That way, when the big project does finally kick off, the intranet will be cleaner, better, and readier for the revamp.
Is this the new normal?
It doesn’t seem like the business climate is going to improve any time in a hurry. So teams should settle in for the long haul, and adapt their processes to match the realities of how today’s organisations are operating.
This isn’t the end of the road for intranets, and the benefits they can offer are needed more than ever. Month-by-month, we can make intranets better, and take every opportunity that comes our way.