Just got back from the initial meeting with the Area Health Service. I spent most of the day finding out more about the history of their intranet, the challenges of their culture, and their future plans.
Overall, I was very impressed with how far they had managed to get, considering that they have had essentially no budget, and the intranet is just one year old (next week).
The intranet was initially created by a single person within Public Affairs, and there are now just two staff dedicated to managing the entire system. They have implemented a simple distributed approach, with each department or group using Dreamweaver to create and publish their pages.
This in itself is far from exciting. What really caught my attention was their recognition of the non-technical aspects of the intranet. This is a small selection of the what they have implemented:
- Built interest in the intranet in a low-key way, through presentations and talks.
- Trained users in how to use a web browser, and provided extensive phone support.
- Trained authors in how to create pages.
- Encouraged everyone to contact them directly if they had any questions or problems.
- Built a momentum, so that departments are now approaching the team asking to be added to the intranet.
- Sent out a “what’s new on the intranet” e-mail every two weeks.
- Ensured that that there are frequent references to the intranet in the various newsletters that are published.
- In short, marketed the intranet extensively.
- Developed a “contributor’s kit” to help new departments get up to speed. This includes a corporate style guide, detailed instructions on how to use the authoring tools, and guidelines for good writing style.
- Publicised the intranet via corporate letterheads, newsletters, e-mails and groups.
- Encouraged each department to conduct similar marketing efforts for their own subsites.
- Established a “web interest group” of all the various contributors and webmasters. This is a “community of practice”, where they share best practice, obtain feedback on new designs, and learn techniques.
- Developed a standard template, structure and appearance across the entire intranet. Enforced this, despite the decentralised manual authoring.
And this is just the selection of their activities that springs to mind. They have done amazing things to turn around a very change-resistant culture, and to develop a large and structured intranet.
Of course, there are plenty of issues outstanding, and that is what we will be exploring during the next month.