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In the ‘good old days’ when the world economy was strong and resources were plentiful, intranet projects were often given the luxury of a year (or longer) to deliver an outcome.
These projects could conduct robust research phases, extensive user testing, measured development and steady content migration.
Those days are long gone, and may not return for some time. In the current business environment, times are tight in both for-profit companies and government agencies.
Intranet projects are now expected to deliver in a rush, with durations of 3-6 months being common. We’ve even seen teams being instructed to design and launch new sites in weeks, not months!
This briefing outlines the practical approaches that can be taken to make even these rushed projects successful.
Planning and scoping
In a short project, the initial planning becomes paramount, as there is no time later in the project to revisit decisions or to revise the approach.
Teams should therefore:
- Get the right people in the room. Instead of drawn out planning processes, get all the key players in the room and workshop the project approach in a day (or two).
- Focus on the known. There is not enough time to conduct extensive user research, so the project scope should focus on delivering functionality that is known to be useful.
- Make decisions early. Wherever possible, evaluate and lock in decisions as early as possible. This reduces uncertainty, and enables the project to progress at full speed.
- Work with what you have. In a rushed project, the end result will generally be built using current technology and platforms, with no time for new tools to be deployed.
- When in doubt, reduce scope. Three- or six-month projects must run smoothly, or they won’t deliver at all. Decisions should therefore always be biased towards simpler approaches that have lower risk.
- Be clear on the outcome. Write lists and sketch designs that ensure that everyone understands what the final design and deliverables will be.
- Make the project ‘modular’. Break the deliverables into pieces that can be quickly ruled in or out of scope.
- Create a simple project plan. It can be as small as a list of steps with allocated responsibilities and key dates.
- Don’t delay! Six months may seem like a long time, but the project plan will quickly show how much needs to be done.
- Establish the right relationships. Rushed projects may not have a formal structure, making it vital to establish strong informal relationships with key players (such as IT).
Running the project
Rushed intranet projects are a sprint, not a marathon. Teams should therefore:
- Set up a ‘war room’. Co-opt a meeting room or set of cubicles, where the project team can be based. This allows sketches and notes to be permanently pinned to walls.
- Bring the team together. Co-locate all the team members, ideally including those who are informally involved in the project.
- Communicate constantly. Projects in a rush have no time for infrequent and unproductive formal meetings.
- Be flexible. Be prepared to quickly adapt the scope or design, in response to issues or problems that arise during the project.
- Look after the team. Rushed projects can have a big impact on stress levels (and sometimes the health) of team members, so do what you can to mitigate this.
- Celebrate every success. Ensure there are many small milestones that can be celebrated within the team, to sustain morale.
- Make a splash! One of the key goals of any rushed intranet project must be to build support for a ‘proper’ project to follow. Don’t skip the launch, and make sure it’s visible to senior management.