Chaotic or consistent: What is your intranet experience?
We’re thrilled to have a guest post from Mark Morrell, an intranet and internal communications consultant who has been working with intranets since 1996. Over to Mark.
What is your experience when you use your intranet? Is it chaotic or consistent? Let me give you two examples:
You start your intranet journey with your corporate homepage. It has a lot of information, images, and alerts but they don’t have any relevance to what you need to use your intranet for. The links to other content are not easy to find or use. Navigation menus are shown on some pages but not on others and in different places to confuse you further. When you do find what you need, you can’t check who can help answer any questions about it, and you’re not even sure if it is reliable or out of date.
You start your intranet journey with news, information, alerts, and activities that are relevant to you. You can easily assess from how it is presented what you need to use first. With clear navigation headings shown in the same place on every page you can easily move from one part of your intranet to another. You can trust and have confidence in what you use by the features – content owner, review dates, etc. – and format used to help you.
From chaos to consistency
You can see from these two examples what a big difference in the experience people have when using an intranet that is chaotic from one that is consistently managed. This can be achieved by taking the following steps so your intranet experience changes from chaotic to consistent:
Make sure you have an agreed set of business requirements that your intranet can help support. This should feed into an intranet strategy that shows how it will support the business strategy, values and goals.
Be able to prioritise the requirements and measure the benefits of your intranet. This will help show the value it provides. Your intranet should also be able to adapt when business requirements change.
Make sure your intranet technology meets your business priorities. It is vital the features it provides match the requirements of people using your intranet. This may mean less but clearer functionality or tools that help improve productivity.
Have a governance framework that outlines the scope of your intranet. It should cover:
- An intranet champion or sponsor responsible for the strategy. This maybe a senior manager or group of senior people affected by or influencing the intranet’s priorities.
- Roles for your intranet manager and publishers. This describes the responsibilities for managing the intranet and how the hierarchy for the intranet champion, manager and publishers link and will work.
- Publishing standards that cover legal, business and user requirements. These will include the usability and accessibility of the intranet as well as making sure people are confident in the integrity of the intranet.
- Publishing templates for everything on your intranet. This helps ensure people have a more consistent experience across your intranet. It will also encourage more frequent and extensive use of it.
- Support, approval processes and training for publishers. This gives publishers access to guidance to create a good user experience with training for new publishers and process with approval of who can publish on the intranet.
A plan of action will be needed to turn your intranet experience from chaotic to consistent. What steps should you take to make the changes?
- Research what people using your intranet need most from it. Is it finding content easily? Is it the latest news? Or is it being more confident in the reliability of operational information? Don’t try to guess; spend time finding out exactly what will have the biggest impact.
- Create publishing template concepts that have the right features, design and layout for a more consistent experience. Test out your concepts first with users and publishers until you get them right before you spend more time, effort and money developing these into final designs.
- Develop a strategy which sets the right direction for your intranet to support your business. Make sure it is approved by your sponsor and agreed with senior people across the key business areas and functions.
- Your plan to implement your strategy needs to create a more consistent intranet experience as its top priority. You need to assess and measure the benefits to be gained from achieving this.
There are many benefits to be gained from a consistent intranet experience. These will include:
People will save time finding the right information with more consistent navigation and headings. Being confident in the information’s reliability also saves time checking with the content owner. Time saved by not having to call people in helpdesks or other team members stopping their work to try to help you should be included too.
People who have a consistent intranet experience will be more satisfied and it is likely they will be more engaged with their work and your business. This will mean they can be more loyal and less likely to change their employer. It can also mean they are more forgiving with the intranet if they can’t always find what they need.
Having one set of publishing templates makes it easier to manage with publishers only able to choose from these as the costs of developing the designs will be less. The overall consistency will also be better for intranet users. Training publishers on what to use is simpler and cheaper with fewer templates to use.
Changing a chaotic intranet experience can be achieved by taking the steps set out here and laying the foundations needed to build more consistency. A clear intranet strategy supported by a governance framework with publishing standards embedded in a smart way into the publishing templates used can encourage people to use your intranet more frequently and productively to your business’ benefit.