Implementing a new intranet is most often quite a challenge. Sticking to a budget and a time plan, considers hundreds of requests, deal with countless technical challenges and train maybe thousands of users. In other words; months of hard work that has the potential to be both fun and brutal at the same time. Enough to keep one awake at night, worrying about the outcome and the responsibility resting on heavy shoulders.
Most companies see a new intranet as something that has to be produced and implemented in one big (enormous) bang. More or less like a product. You implement a new intranet. You manage it throughout a couple of years, make a few necessary modifications and add lots of content. Then- one day, when the gap between the constantly changing business needs and the intranet become too wide the process start over with a new intranet.
Feel familiar? Let me suggest an alternative approach.
Let’s first outline the basic problems that we need to consider and find a new approach to.
- Implementing a new intranet tend to become a huge project. Companies often tend to try to do everything, solve every problem, at once, in one huge bang.
- Most projects focus on the current business needs and tend to forget the fact that the company is a living thing that constantly changes and adapt to the world around it.
In a worst case scenario you wake up with both of these problems on your hands. You have the highest ambitions and plan to implement a huge intranet. You spend a year (or even more) to plan, develop, train and migrate to the new intranet. After more than a year and a small fortune spent you may, in a worst case scenario, end up with a huge and complex platform that already is out of date since the world and business needs have change.
Tilt your focus
The alternative is to shift your focus. Your whole focus. From implementing a traditional technical platform to implementing a process of working with the intranet over time.
Don’t start of by planning the new intranet itself. Instead start of by planning how the intranet should be maintained and governed over time. Define a process and put together a basic and initial competence center that will be able to manage and govern the intranet over time. Focus on the whole lifecycle of the intranet, from day one.
In order for us to do that we need to establish a solid process. Not a project process for a 1.0 version of the intranet but rather a small and repetitive process that continue to repeat itself over time. You should be able to initiate the process today and then repeat it indefinitely, or at least over several years. This may sound similar to different agile development methods, and it is.
Some companies see governance as something you establish by the end of an intranet project (if there are enough resources and funding left). I say you should establish this even before you start to analyze the separate business needs and discuss technical challenges and solutions.
We need to implement a process that not only doesn’t fight change but rather embrace it. The world is in constant change and companies have to change with it. A company with a dynamic organization that quickly adapts to the surrounding world and its customers needs have a huge competitive edge. We also know that constant change apply an enormous pressure on an organization, its employees and infrastructure. If we manage to implement a governance process for our new intranet that embraces change, we will not only have an intranet that manages to cope with the changes but also help and guide the rest of the organization in their process.
Remember that the process should include and support all the aspects of constant improvements of the intranet. From analyzing the business needs, developing the technical solution and train editors and end users. Try to design the process so simple that you will be able to manage between two and six iterations per year.
Collect user feedback, analyze site metrics, business requirements and priories the product (and sprint) backlog.
Develop new functions, improve training material and prepare to install and promote the new improvements.
Upgrade your infrastructure, install technical changes and, important, promote it to the editors and end users through training and marketing.
Try to implement and introduce a first version of the new intranet as early as you can, after the first or second iteration (sprint). It doesn’t matter if it only offers some limited functions. Build, implement, promote it and constantly improve it from there.
Don’t forget, this is important, don’t design a technical process but a business process.
You will also need to establish a few key cornerstones. These cornerstones are for you to lean on throughout the whole lifecycle of the intranet.
You will have to clearly define your goals with the intranet.
Form a competence center. Form a competence center for your intranet, including customer support, infrastructure, external consultants, marketing etc. Roles and competence rather than individuals.
You will need a yearly budget. Not a huge pile of money for your first release and then a few bucks for maintenance but rather a budget that is similar each year and will allow you to continue to improve and modify the intranet as well as serve your customers over time. An intranet is not an investment that you pay for once and then leave hanging. A great intranet is a living thing. A living thing that need care and a proper yearly budget to stay great.
Information classification model
You will need a solid information model, or strategy. Preferably a simple model that you can rely and lean on for the whole lifecycle of the intranet. Remember, it should be about the information, not the technical platform. The model should be independent of the technical platform and fulfill its purpose no matter what platform you work with. Find and outline the fundamental and important aspects of the company’s information on build your information model or strategy upon them.
You shouldn’t even start to tangle with the first business needs and technical challenges to fulfill them until you have established these key elements that will last the intranet’s whole lifecycle. A solid budget, a repetitive process, a competence center and an information model. Only then should you start to look at the business needs. Utilize the process and implement and improve the intranet one step at a time.