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An intranet is a key tool that can help you to implement your internal communications strategy, but it only works if employees engage with it, so here are 7 practical tips to ensure that your intranet is a success.
Whether you are looking to replace an out-of-date intranet or launch your first, there are many elements to think about when planning your new internal communications tool, especially when operating within a professional services environment.
In this article we highlight what you need to consider before you embark on your journey to creating an effective, new social intranet.
In order for your intranet project to be a success, it needs to be willingly accepted by the users. One of the best ways of achieving this buy-in is to clearly understand the people who will be using it.
A Discovery Workshop with key stakeholders will help to identify the needs, wants, expectations and frustrations of users, as well as define the most important requirements and priorities for the project.
As with any digital project, it is essential that you also include research with end users, however with an intranet project, your end users are also your internal stakeholders. Ensure that you involve individuals from all levels across the organisations, from management who want to see the KPIs, to those people who will be updating the content as well as a cross section of those ‘end users’ who will be accessing and viewing the content.
This act of involvement, in addition to the insight gained from the key stakeholders, will be the foundations for success. The outputs from the Discovery workshop session are analysed to develop user personas, user goals, tasks and scenarios, all of which feed into mapping user journeys.
If your current intranet issues include the content being difficult to find, confusing navigation and unintuitive interfaces, User Journey Mapping can help to resolve these problems.
The sign of a successful intranet is the levels of use. Reducing the number of internal emails, creating a sense of community and providing a social intranet, can all be achieved with the design of an intuitive site.
Social media-style feeds are a recognised environment in which people are happy to interact. Taking inspiration from platforms like Facebook, will mean that your intranet will provide a familiar experience meaning limited training will be required.
Trying to manage large volumes of content into a logical flow can feel like a daunting task. There are however a variety of techniques, such as card sorting, that can be used to help organise the structure of a site’s content (this is known as Information Architecture).
Undertaking a review of the Information Architecture based on insights gained at the Discovery phase will ensure that the navigation is improved, there are relevant interactions between pages and that users can easily and successfully complete their desired goals.
One of the most beneficial investments you can make in your project is the design of an interactive prototype. Wireframes and visual design can give some indication of the appearance of the site, but there is no substitute to actually experiencing how your intranet will work.
Depending on budget, different levels of detail can be incorporated into a prototype. A low-fidelity version will give a simplistic indication of where content will be placed and the interactions between pages, whereas a high-fidelity prototype will give a more designed and detailed experience of the end product.
By investing in a prototype it means the experience can be tested with your users and then any feedback and changes can be incorporated much more quickly and cost effectively.
The content management system (CMS)
In order for the system to be managed effectively by the administrators, it is important that the CMS is easy to use. A bespoke platform can ensure only relevant functionality is included, allowing scope for future development. Whilst an out-the-box solution can appear to be more cost effective at the outset, if it isn’t tailored to your users and your business requirements, it can be a false economy.
Using a recognised PHP framework like Symfony means that a bespoke solution can be developed efficiently. Combining tried and testing pre-built generic components such as forms, will save time and enable development resources to be focused on more tailored, complex tasks.
One of the main goals of a successful intranet is to improve, rather than hinder, efficiency.
Integration with the Active Directory means that there can be a secure ‘single sign-on’ for each user. Each individual will have a universal log-in which automatically logs into the intranet upon logging on to their device, ensuring the hub is effortless to access.
Integration with information tools
Secure integration with relevant industry websites and portals such as Mintel, EBSCO, LexisNexus, Westlaw etc can reduce the need to remember cumbersome passwords and ensure only current employees have access to the information contained on the intranet.
Integration with internal systems
If you want to integrate HR and payroll systems, you need to check if an API already exists for the software, if not these can usually be built from scratch. Development scripts can also be written to ensure that updates are synchronised across platforms, so that consistent data is stored. This will be especially important in light of the upcoming GDPR requirements.
Having robust audit trails on the intranet will ensure there is a record of all activity undertaken on the site, from what is viewed to what is posted. Content should only ever be soft deleted so that it can always be retrieved.
When you have potentially hundreds of people logging on to an intranet at the same time, you need to ensure that you get your hosting right.
“Ensure you select a hosting package that has sufficient processing power to cope with high surges in demand at peak times,” advises Adam Frame, Lead Developer at DotLabel. “Check that your hosting service provider will respond quickly to your needs if you want to change the hosting environment or scale up your existing package”
The areas covered in this article should provide a useful basis to begin planning your intranet. At DotLabel, we helped a leading law firm plan, design and develop their new ‘Hub’ intranet, here is what they had to say about their experience…
“DotLabel ran a discovery workshop day with a focus group at the firm and the information they gleaned from this exercise meant that the initial designs and structure of the Hub remained largely unchanged as the project developed.
DotLabel have been easy to work with and have responded well as any challenges have arisen.”
Helen Dewar, Head of Information Services, Leigh Day
We have a wealth of experience at helping organisations understand their users to create digital products with impact. If you are considering a new intranet and would like some expert advice on how to ensure you get it right first time, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01256 329972