Understanding staff intranet needs
Intranets will be used by staff if they are useful. This is an easy statement to make, but uncovering the real needs of staff can be difficult, particularly in large organisations.
We would like the intranet to be used by staff more often, potentially daily. If this is to be achieved, then the intranet must deliver information and tools that are needed regularly by staff. This requires going beyond corporate policies and procedures, and better targeting the key activities and business processes that staff are involved in.
We therefore need to spent time with staff to understand these needs, recognising that the needs of a nurse will not be the same as someone in HR, the call centre, a regional office or out on the road.
Understanding staff needs at this more detailed level will help you to deliver a more successful intranet solution. It is also extremely interesting and enjoyable to spend time with the people who do the actual work in the organisation.
Take a structured approach
Whatever you do, don’t ask users “what they want”. At best, this will generate a “wish list” of ideas, and at worst, will uncover little. In either case, questions relating to the intranet will generally not give you the information you need to plan future projects.
Fundamentally, how much do staff know about the intranet? How much should they know? Perhaps the answer to both questions is “very little”.
Instead of asking questions about the intranet, structured techniques should be used to build an understanding of how staff work, where their points of pain lie, and where the opportunities can be found. There are a range of structured techniques, including:
- focus groups
- one-on-one staff interviews
- workplace observation
- contextual inquiry
These can be used as part of a “formal” research program, or as part of a low-key focus on uncovering staff needs.
Intranet needs analysis
We call this type of research “intranet needs analysis”. Using a mix of techniques will quickly build a rich picture of how the organisation works, and where the intranet can help.
- Conducting intranet needs analysis
- Stakeholder interviews as simple knowledge mapping
- Selecting staff for stakeholder interviews
- Fast-tracking research with paired interviews
- Using cultural probes for intranet user research
Personas are ‘stand-in’ users that capture and communicate the needs of users within the organisations. As such, they can be a very effective way of sharing the findings of the need analysis research, as the video above shows.
Step Two Designs has conducted intranet needs analysis across dozens of organisations, involving many hundreds of staff. We have spent time with nurses in wards, telephone operators in call centres, staff in the field, and many more.
What we have learnt is that no two situations are the same, and staff needs vary greatly depending on their role, location, and working environment. We have shared our experiences in a number of case studies and special-interest articles. These should provide ideas on what to expect, as well as helping intranet teams to identify common themes relating to specific job roles.
- Five intranet reviews, five different results
- User-centred redesign of the FaCS intranet
- Intranet redesign for Canon Australia
- Case study: Hunter Health intranet
- Paradox of delivering to isolated staff
Intranet needs analysis doesn’t have to be a huge project in its own right. If you have limited time, budget or resources, even a small amount of research is useful. Find ways of spending time out “in the field”, or informally chatting with staff.
You may also want to get the help of an outside consultancy to help with the needs analysis. Coming in with a fresh perspective, they should be able to quickly identify staff issues and intranet opportunities.
At the end of the day, you can’t deliver effective solutions to staff you haven’t met. That doesn’t mean you have to visit all 1,000 staff in your organisation, but it does mean spending time with users, however and whenever you can.