Communication within companies happens to be something a lot of people are asking about lately. Even with the uncertainty of today’s market, companies are trying to learn how to communicate better, streamline processes, and build informed and empowered teams.
Corporate Intranets have been around, yes for longer than Twitter! Companies have used them as a simple tool for file sharing as well as a more elaborate tool for giving departments a piece of real estate for communicating policies, events, org charts, benefits programs, and countless other features and functions. Many regard their Corporate Intranets as a critical asset however, common feedback and questions on the usage might sound somewhat like the following:
Top 10 Intranet Challenges
- “Our intranet has become a mess. We’ve lost our way in keeping the content organized.”
- “We have a certain portion of our team that uses the intranet daily. Then we have many who have never been to the intranet and certainly do not seek out valuable information that is already out there. How can we even out our team’s participation?”
- “Some of our content is up to date and relevant but we have tons of content that is no longer relevant. How can we be more proactive about expiring content when appropriate?”
- “There’s a lot of content there but I just don’t know how to find it.”
- “How can our intranet engage our users with some ‘facebook-like’ features?”
- “We want an intranet that champions the values of our brand.”
- “We’d like our style to be more cohesive and consistent across all assets of our intranet.”
- “Currently there’s nothing on our intranet that feels collaborative. The content is just there and there’s not really a way to engage contribution among our team.”
- “How can our intranet enable productivity?”
- “Our current intranet does not have any real sense of workflow, let alone a workflow that is consistent with the given processes in our organization.
More often than not, a Corporate Intranet is a result of a successful experiment. At some point in time, a rather smart employee may have decided to share files within his or her part of the organization. It’s likely that several users felt more informed and even may have enjoyed improved productivity. Since Corporate Intranets in the beginning may not have been attached to revenue, they were typically underfunded and any improvements would come from within, on open source or home grown platforms. As their companies grew and more users found these grass roots intranets, the organization and updates became more cumbersome. What was designed for just a few became something that many wanted….AND, now many wanted to contribute as well. This is where the intranets began to break based on a new user need that was likely not defined. Further, many early intranets were not built on robust intranet platforms and therefore would not scale to support the overall needs of the organization.
To be clear, it’s perfectly understandable why corporations often find themselves at a crossroad regarding their intranet. The good news is that they are thinking about it and they more than likely have a strong core user base. And certainly it’s not necessarily the fault of the early adopters…they created the need and the initial enthusiasm after all. It’s simply time to build real business value that reaches, engages, and activates their communities internally.
Onward and Upward.
Today we have tools and processes for addressing all of the concerns in the “Top Ten” (above). It’s not magic but it does require some very important decisions to be made and some aggressive planning. And don’t forget this is a branded space, and online property. A place that can help you to activate your community around and within your brand.
Your intranet is an incredibly powerful tool and the right planning, design, and implementation can build something of immeasurable value for your organization. Sometimes redeploying your intranet can feel like boiling the ocean. Instead of getting bogged down in the activities first, try thinking of a few things to keep your bigger picture focus:
- Learn from your existing intranet
- Identify your Goals and Objectives
- Establish a project communications workflow
- Establish a system of governance
- Establish a framework for making decisions
- Identify who’s using it
- Identify who should/could be using it
- Identify what they’re using
- Review how they’re contributing
- Interview your users
- Communicate user needs in the form of vivid personas
- Identify a scalable and relevant content taxonomy
- Design in-social tools for user contribution and conversation
- If possible, do all of the above before deciding on your platform
- Implement a User Experience Plan
These are a few hit list items that will help get the ball rolling. Again, it’s not magic. It’s a matter of process and discipline. We’ll soon be sharing more on work we’ve recently done to help clients with their Corporate Intranets.
Ah, corporate intranets, I love you and I hate you. I have yet to work at a company that had a good one. They tend to just grow on their own, after a while looking like an ornate garden left on it’s own after the Gardner died. Problem is, most people just want a place to stuff files (a la Sharepoint), but a company can literally grow around a good intranet if they use some imagination. I would love to build a great intranet, then build a company around it, just to do it.