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‘An intranet is never finished’ is a phrase that is frequently used in the in the intranet world.
There are many reasons why managing an intranet is an ongoing journey:
- organisational structures regularly change, including through mergers and acquisitions
- content needs management to remain relevant and up to date
- expectations of workplace technology are constantly evolving
- changing workforce demographics are influencing the use of digital tools
- intranet platforms regularly upgrade and add features
- agile IT methodologies are driving a more iterative approach to software development
- devolved management of publishing means there are always new authors and site managers
- social tools continue to grow, with more adoption required
- management expectations now include continuous improvement
- ‘digital workplaces’ are emerging, with more holistic and integrated experiences
Sustaining intranet success
While a constant state of change may sound like managing an intranet is challenging (and it can be), it also means the role is exciting and constantly evolving.
It’s imperative that you develop approaches that help you, your team and your intranet sustain success. This is most difficult when you go straight from the launch of an intranet into ‘business as usual’ mode, or if resources are tight.
There are, however, many different practices that intranet teams can undertake to ensure they keep momentum going. Although the list below only scratches the surface, here are five ways that real intranet teams have sustained their success.
SMU: Take a best-of-breed approach
When Singapore Management University (SMU) developed its Office 365 intranet, the project team was determined not to be constrained or have to compromise on the user experience because they were working with SharePoint. For this reason they integrated a lot of other ‘best-of-breed’ technologies to deliver the optimum experience, while also helping to build up a digital ecosystem underpinned by single sign on.
Not only are various different technologies integrated to deliver essential intranet functionality, but the intranet also links through to 30 different systems or applications. Overcoming various technical challenges, the best-of-breed approach has allowed the intranet to continue to grow and flourish, as the team integrate more technologies.
Repsol: Track your progress
When global energy company Repsol launched its new intranet, it defined 25 results indicators in order to track the success of the new platform. Having these from the outset meant that the team could measure where they were at the start to track progress, and also use the indicators as a reference point to guide decisions.
Each of the 25 indicators is mapped to six different categories, covering collaboration, user focus, corporate, operations, sustainability and measurement itself. Defining what constitutes success on the intranet has given Repsol a great foundation to sustain that success.
Mayo Clinic: Understand your employees
Mayo Clinic’s nursing intranet delivers pages of resources targeted at different types of nurses and other medical staff. It is critical that these pages meet the very specific information needs of different staff as they are used extensively to support activity on the wards.
To ensure the intranet was meeting the information needs of nursing staff, the intranet team carried out an incredibly detailed level of research, working with large numbers of users through observation sessions, workshops, interviews and rounds of testing. The team developed an excellent understanding of their users.
One valuable outcome of the research was a very detailed series of personas which reflect the characteristics of different nursing staff. To sustain success the team have continued to use and extend the number of personas, using them to design the entire hospital intranet and also for other digital projects. The detailed personas are resources to which the team keep on returning, to ensure intranet features meet specific user needs.
Coles: Learning as you go
Coles is a large Australian supermarket chain. In 2013 the company launched a new intranet and HR portal called mycoles, based on Office 365 and SharePoint online. The intranet was a central component of a strategy to improve and modernise processes, as well as engage employees, to help Coles achieve its ambition of being Australia’s favourite employer.
Rolling out an intranet to nearly 100,000 employees, most of whom didn’t have email, was always going to be a difficult project to pull off. Part of the reason the team has been so successful is the strong emphasis on ‘learn as you go’. They adopted a ‘crawl-walk-run’ methodology to launching the intranet, releasing it in phases so they could then reiterate, improving the site and honing the design based on feedback from employees.
Launching first regionally, then at a state level, and then nationally has proved critical to success. The team has also continued to experiment and learn as they go, for example, exploring the possibilities of Yammer.
RPP: Develop the right mindset
Robin Partington and Partners (RPP) is a small, innovative architectural practice based in London. Because the company was unable to find an intranet (and other core systems) that suited the way its employees work and matched the strong design ethos of the company, the intranet team decided to build their own digital workplace from the ground up. This has resulted in a beautiful and connected digital environment which is aligned equally to company processes and culture, covering everything from communications to collaboration to practice management.
The digital workplace has evolved step by step, and continues to improve as more elements are added. At RPP the critical element of sustaining success has been the ‘can do’ mindset of the intranet team which has driven them to keep adding to an ambitious overall ecosystem. Rather than being constrained by vendor offerings or the general consensus on what can be realistically achieved, they’ve aimed high and just got on with building great stuff. The impressive results speak for themselves.
Keep up the momentum
In an ever-changing business environment, sustaining success on the intranet is critical. With a combination of the right foundations, the right approaches and the right mindset, this is perfectly achievable. We’ve covered some ideas in this post, but there are many other practices which work for different teams. How are you sustaining success with your intranet?