Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Building an intranet - identify your starting point


Back to series index: How to build an intranet


You may be in a position where you are building an organisations first intranet. More likely, you will be updating or replacing an existing intranet. This comes with its own set of challenges and benefits:

Benefits
Challenges
There may be an existing recognition that an intranet can bring business benefits.
You will need to establish whether investment in your existing intranet was depreciated over a number of financial years. If it was, and that investment has not yet been fully realised, you will have a tougher job building a business case for a new one.
If your existing intranet has a back-end reporting system, you will have some information about what employees find beneficial. This might be in the form of most frequently accessed content, visit duration, or user feedback. If there are clear areas that are working well, you will want to consider replicating these on the new site.
People can be resistant to change and you will need to explain to employees why you want to change a system that they don’t perceive as ‘broken’.
Once the new intranet is in place, there will be some early adopters and some later followers.  
Regardless of its current effectiveness, you have a starting point for your intranets taxonomy and information architecture structure. This will give you clues about the internal language used within the organisation.
Your current intranet will no doubt contain lots of useful information – as well as some that is out of date or no longer relevant. Either way, a decision will need to be taken on each piece of information to identify an owner and make a decision to transfer, archive, or delete it.



Action point – Identify what is working well on your current system, as well as what can be improved.


Action point – Do some research into when your existing intranet was built. What was the original budget and how was it accounted for (has the investment been realised)?


Action point – Identify early adopters and encourage them to be intranet champions – selling the benefits of the new system to their colleagues.


Action point – map out the existing information on your intranet and identify an owner for each page. Secure agreement at management level to invest resource into cleansing the information. Take time to explain the process to content owners, agreeing realistic review dates. Once it’s reviewed, make sure it’s kept up-to-date until the new system goes live. Don’t underestimate the time and effort this part of your intranet development project will take. It could be a separate project that you need to run in parallel with the technical development of your new intranet.


Action point – think about your existing information architecture and layout. Even if they are successful, explore alternative formats. Use these formats for the basis of user testing. Once the information architecture framework is in place, it is extremely difficult to change, so use this precious opportunity to explore different ways of working.

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