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For many intranet teams, their intranet progresses forward on the basis of incremental improvement, as it should. Others are facing that inevitable, from-the-ground-up redesign. But whether you are responsible for an ongoing program of work, or running a significant relaunch project, you need a solid strategy to guide you.
A vision is not a strategy
Depending on your ambitions, the vision will vary. The following can serve as high level goals for generating interest and stimulating discussion. An intranet will ideally deliver:
- an effective communications environment that supports news, key organisational messages and operational bulletins for the entire organisation, reducing dependence on email
- the right information, in the right place at the right time so the organisation can be more efficient, safer, and better informed and staff spend less time trawling through shared drive folders for documents
- a collaboration area that supports knowledge exchange and innovation to reduce replication of effort and share corporate knowledge across teams, and in the process, erode those persistent silo boundaries
- a place where business tasks are streamlined and workflows automated, eliminating all those tedious and inefficient paper trails
This articulates where we want to get to, but provides no information on the terrain or how to navigate it.
The strategy shows you the way
The article Three elements of every intranet strategy outlines the basics: knowing were you have been, where you are now and where you are going. Then comes the more difficult task of clarifying how to get there. Creating a strategy means untangling the cultural and information environment within which the intranet works.
A well developed strategy will need to:
- outline the specifics of how the vision relates to day-to-day core business activities and organisational outcomes
- identify how the intranet will deliver these outcomes
- identify the most effective steps needed to move the organisation towards these goals, given the current information environment and organisational culture
How you create the strategy is important
Intranets fail to meet their full potential for many reasons: wrong technology, limited training, no ownership, poor roll-out, lack of staff interest, lack of senior support, not enough resources, trying to deliver too much, not delivering enough, not engaging the right people.
Not only should the strategy consider these potential pitfalls, but the strategy development process should actively work to ameliorate them.
This can happen in a number of ways by:
- ensuring the focus is on business outcomes through meeting key audience needs
- ensuring all stakeholder individuals and groups have a voice, including management, front line staff, communications, publishers, content owners, technology team, intranet team, other support services teams
- creating a shared understanding among staff, sponsors and stakeholders
- setting goals, scope and expectations collaboratively, in line with what can and should be delivered
- discussing and clarifying roles, responsibilities and overall governance considerations
Keep the strategy fresh
The strategy is the pivot point between the vision and the detailed plan. As you move forward, reassess your ambitions, resources and environment and tune your progress accordingly. A strategy is particularly important when doing major redesign work, but no less important for steering a continuous improvement approach. It gives you a clear sense of direction while providing immediate, practical steps to take you there.