Here is a hands-on guide to plan and create your intranet strategy.
Are you considering investing in a new intranet software? And are you overwhelmed by the complexity of the project?
Did you know that you can make this process less complex if you have a straightforward intranet strategy?
This article provides you with a practical guide to plan your intranet strategy. The guide consists of 3 steps:
- Aan evaluation of your current situation
- A selection of possible solutions
- Development of the strategy
Why do I need to have an intranet strategy?
Intranet projects start or, at the very least, should start with a deep understanding of what you are going to accomplish, who you are going to accomplish it for, and how you will measure success. The purpose, objectives, and strategy of the intranet must be defined. Why should employees use it — and what exactly do they get from it?
The real reason why some intranet solutions fail to meet their potential is that the system is launched without clarifying the intranet's potential or having a clear strategy for the intranet.
Some intranets fail at meeting their potential for several reasons:
- Slow performance
- No ownership
- Problematic login system
- Lack of staff interest
- Lack of management support
- Difficult to use
- Employees use out-of-date or inaccurate information
- Poor file sharing options
- Lack of collaborative culture
All too often, intranets have a lack of direction and are managed by a small intranet team. Before launching a new intranet, it is, therefore, crucial that there is a defined strategy for the new intranet to be successful.
Having a strong intranet strategy allows the intranet project team to plan effectively and allocate resources in the best possible way. Confidence in the intranet investment will also be higher, as will management support and funding.
A strategy gives you a clear sense of direction, while providing immediate, practical steps to take you there.
Developing your intranet strategy
Developing an intranet strategy may seem like a lot of work. The key is to break the task into steps. Start with an understanding of your current situation; identify potential opportunities and then narrow these down into an actual plan.
The table below shows a step-by-step guide for creating an intranet strategy, starting from the very beginning. Use this to unpack the complexities of intranet planning.
1. Evaluate the current situation with your intranet
Focus on the needs of your intranet users. Instead of looking at how SharePoint or some other intranet software works, you should focus on the employees. They are the primary users of the intranet.
You need to identify how your employees work with your intranet. Identify the features where they complete a task and the situations where the intranet cannot solve their inquiries.
Outline specific challenges of your current intranet, and identify processes that need to be improved. Remember to also list the features that work well for your employees.
Defining the problems with your current intranet gives you a framework to work with, so that you can start looking for possible intranet solutions.
Consider the below questions to identify the current state of your intranet.
Evaluate your current intranet:
- How do employees use the intranet?
- What needs does it meet?
- What needs does it fail to meet?
- What do your employees think of the system?
- To what extent does it support your business process?
- To what extent does it involve the employees?
- To what extent does it share knowledge?
- Do some features work well?
Identify your users' needs with these techniques:
- User interviews
- Employee surveys
- Observing users in context, i.e. record employees using the intranet
- Statistical analysis of how the current intranet is used
- Usability and usage testing
- Statistical analysis of the terms that users type into the intranet search engine
The objective is to identify your users’ needs in a format that you can translate into a more effective intranet wish list.
Evaluate your current intranet technology
After you have identified your users’ needs, look at your current platform and identify areas for improvement. Identify benefits and deficits of your current intranet software to determine what demands your organisation has for an intranet renewal or a new intranet software.
Make it clear which processes need improvement, and consider how a new intranet could help. Listen and be open to the challenges that they face. Some of the intranet problems we see often are:
- Slow performance
- Errors when updating content
- Bad search engine
- Problematic login system
- Difficult navigation
- Information is hard to find
- Integrations of third-party systems are not supported by the intranet
- The intranet is not mobile-friendly
Use this list as inspiration when evaluating the current state of your intranet. Evaluating your intranet technology helps you define what features you need in an intranet. Consider if there are areas of your current intranet that make your work less effective.
Translate user needs into features and functionality
Write the current state of the intranet in a clear way, with the goal being to highlight the existing deficiencies and issues. After you have completed this step, you should have a clear picture of where you are today.
- Translate strategic needs into features and functionality
- Capture the key user needs and represent approaches to meeting them
- Indicate potential integrations that would improve the employee experience
- Define areas of content that might be suitable for personalization
- Illustrate how mobile users may view and interact with intranet content.
These starting points provide a framework for ensuring that stakeholders are aware of the possibilities of a new intranet.
From the gathered data, you will now be able to set up goals for the intranet.
If the goal, for example, is to close more leads, then you create a tool that supports that goal. Then, the goal becomes the number of new leads and not the number of employees using the tool.
In brief, how well does your current intranet support the advantages of a well-functioning intranet?
2. Potential solutions
The next step is to make a list of wishes and objectives for your intranet renewal process, based off of your discoveries in step 1. Your wish list should list clear objectives that your future intranet should be able to meet.
Consider how an intranet will be able to support your goals on a strategic level. A wish list with clear objectives makes it a lot easier when you need to convince management that investing in a new intranet provides great value.
An example of objectives could be:
- Improve internal communications
- Increase collaboration across dispersed geographical areas
- Create consistency in policies and procedures
- Prevent silos of information
- Make it easy to find things
- The intranet should be available on-the-go
- Increase effectivity
- Create an overview of daily tasks, work processes, and guidelines
Add your own objectives so that they apply to your specific organization.
Explore intranet software suppliers
When you have your prioritised list of functionalities, a so-called requirements specification, you are ready to explore the market for intranet software. Here are a few ideas to make your search easier:
- A Google search can reveal a set of suppliers. One tip is to search for business software listing tools such as Capterra.
- Use your contacts: Participate in intranet communities and get insights on what intranet software solutions similar companies use.
- Target experts: Ask intranet experts what intranet software they would recommend, accommodating your requirements.
- Watch demos: Contact several intranet software suppliers and ask for a demonstration of their software. Ask them to make you an offer.
Have your wish list in mind when looking for intranet software suppliers, to make sure that the supplier meets your requirements.
You will almost certainly have more needs than can be realistically fulfilled in the initial phase of an intranet renewal project. You will need to make hard decisions about where priorities lie. These decisions need to be informed by four factors:
- How much business value does a given feature deliver?
- How important is the feature to intranet users?
- How difficult or expensive will it be to implement?
- What other costs – content creation, user adoption, governance – are associated with the feature?
Use user stories and do a prioritisation workshop with key stakeholders to manage the prioritisation process.
When you have decided on your priorities, make a clear wish list with the features you expect from your intranet software.
3. Create an intranet strategy
With a clear list of the features and functionalities of your new intranet, you are ready to create a plan with clear objectives. This plan should result in a concrete strategy. Your intranet strategy should be created very early in the intranet project, to ensure that there is a stated set of objectives, along with an overall plan. This way, stakeholders know what is at stake and can add support and funding.
Your intranet strategy should include:
- Current situation of the intranet, along with the organisation's needs
- Desired features for a new intranet
- Specific deliverables and KPIs
When the steps are combined, you have a complete picture of where the intranet is in its current state, what features your organisation demands in a new intranet, what specific tasks a new intranet is trying to solve, and what this will mean in practice. This strategy is a document that sets the agenda for further work in the intranet purchasing process.
Once you write your strategy, consider making a full, detailed report and a summary where key objectives are summarised.