Intranet Planning – 19 Tips for Staying on Track by Tim Eisenhauer

collab_graphicOne tool that has helped thousands of organizations get ahead in today’s world is the social intranet. This allows people to communicate and work together no matter where they are located. Take productivity, for example. An intranet allows community members to multitask and handle their responsibilities without having to jump from one piece of software to the next. Improvements in communication are also seen, as most intranets are equipped with a messaging system that allows colleagues to communicate in real time. Add to this the project management capabilities, and the benefits become quite clear.

As with anything else, rolling-out an intranet requires a fair amount of planning in order to get things right. The following tips will help your intranet planning process.

1. Start with the Right Platform for Your Organization or Company

When you set out to create a company intranet, the first thing you’ll think about is what platform to use. There are so many different options on the market that it can make the process quite head-spinning … and those who don’t know what to look for often find themselves getting overwhelmed and forced to make quick decisions.

Do your homework and find the platform that fits your business’s needs. Do you need certain features? Does the platform need to be extremely flexible and scalable? Are you on a specific budget? Compare and contrast different intranet solutions, and find the one that works for you.

2. Pinpoint Key Leaders in Your Company to Help Drive Your Planning

Pinpointing key leaders is one of the most important things you can do when developing your intranet. Look for individuals who are well-versed in technology and who have team-leading experience in the past.

Ideally, you should appoint 3-5 people to moderate and lead your community, but it’s alright to start with less in the beginning. These people will ultimately keep your intranet on track and keep everything running smoothly.

3. Define Your Objectives. What Do You Want to Achieve?

Practically every type of organization will benefit from having an intranet, and it’s important that all staff members know exactly what you’re hoping to get out of it. Defining objectives early-on is a must.

When you’re working on your intranet planning and defining objectives, it’s best to start off with achievable goals. When you set the bar too high, it’s almost a given that you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. This can come along with a number of problems, including alienation of your employees. Be careful when defining objectives, and remember that you have little to lose if you take things slow.

4. Determine Your Needs. Start with Why.

It’s important to realize that needs and objectives are two entirely different things. In this case, needs can be viewed as features that can help streamline daily business processes. Calendars, communication systems, and CRM fit in this category, and since every business has its very own specific set of needs, it’s essential to put a bit of time and thought into this.

What does your organization require on a daily basis to get things done? Ideally, your staff should use your intranet to handle as many tasks as possible, because the more you can keep things in a single spot, the more likely it is that productivity will soar. If your current intranet platform doesn’t meet your needs, it may be time to look for a different intranet solution. See #1 above.

5. Focus on User Experience

If your users have a hard time navigating your intranet, chances are they won’t use it. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common issues that plagues intranets, and many people don’t know how to fix it. One thing is for sure — user experience should never be overlooked.

Focusing on user experience is all about keeping things organized and easy to maneuver … and understanding what your employees actually need in order to do their job.

6. Launch Your Intranet in Phases

When planning your intranet, it’s easy to assume that you have to roll everything out right away. If you make the right moves, this can be effective, however you’ll almost always be better off taking your time and launching your intranet in phases. This allows you to maintain complete control over the launch process.

If you decide to launch your intranet in phases, be sure that each phase has a purpose. You may want to start with the “planning” phase, followed closely by “training” and “implementation.” Each of these phases requires unique actions on the part of you and your employees, and the end result will be a functional intranet that can be used to make life easier for everyone.

7. Don’t Neglect The Training Process

When training staff members to use your social intranet, remember that everyone learns at their own pace. This is especially true for new hires, because they will most likely be overwhelmed already.

It may be helpful to schedule both individual and group training sessions for your employees and taking a multifaceted approach is no doubt the name of the game. As long as everyone gets proper training, they will end using your company intranet with ease.

8. Hold Your Employees Accountable

Don’t give your employees the option to either participate in your intranet or watch from the sidelines. Holding users accountable doesn’t necessarily mean ruling with an iron fist, but it’s important that people do more than sit on the sidelines if they’re going to be a part of the intranet.

Every member should be posting, commenting, and contributing on a regular basis, as this is what makes for a healthy intranet. The more people who take the time to add content, ideas, and solutions to your intranet, the more effective it will be.

9. Ensure that a Robust Search Feature Exists

With any intranet, the need for a robust search feature will always be present. If you can’t find what you’re looking for without having to dig for hours, you’ve got major problems, and finding a platform that has a built-in search feature is only part of the solution.

There are also plenty of things that can be done on the part of you and your employees. Tagging content, for example, will make it far easier to recall .. and finding it is as easy as typing in simple search term. This is especially helpful when it comes to cataloging internal materials such as documentation, something should never be hidden or misplaced.

10. Always Ask for Input

There are a number of ways to develop an intranet, and taking the right steps can only be done if you have a strong idea of what your staff needs. In this regard, it’s essential to ask for input whenever possible.

There are many ways to elicit helpful feedback from your employees, for example, a virtual comment box. You can also simply reach out to each member of your social community and ask them to weigh-in on how things are going on their end. If you can isolate effective feedback, you can use this information to better your intranet.

11. Create a Knowledge Base

A major reason why organizations are implementing social intranets is because they serve many different functions. The right intranet can replace email as a main vehicle for communication, not to mention serve as an excellent tool for customer service. It can also be used to house a knowledge base, which is something that every organization should have.

When building a knowledge base, you should focus on content and organization. Hierarchy can make all the difference in the world, as you’ll want important documents to be readily available at all times. Your knowledge base can extend beyond internal documentation, as it can also be used for external purposes, with customer service being at the top of the list.

12. Encourage Blogging

It’s no secret that blogging is one of the most effective modern marketing techniques. Blogging with intranet software is a breeze, especially once your staff members get the hang of the process. Blogs can be used externally to bring in an entirely new audience or cater to current clients and customers, and there are no restrictions in terms of how often or how sparse your posts can be.

When you encourage blogging within your organization, there are a number of things that need to be kept in mind. For one, blogs should always be posted in a consistent manner, regardless of whether you’re posting them frequently or just on occasion. It can also be helpful to task one or a few individuals with blogging responsibilities. This helps keep a consistent voice among your posts.

13. Create a Space for Discussing Hobbies and Interests

One great thing about a robust intranet platform is segmentation. Spaces, or groups, can be created for anything – business related or perhaps something a bit less formal.

Creating a space for discussing hobbies and interests will give your employees an opportunity to de-stress throughout the workday, which typically results in an increase in productivity and focus.

14. Ensure Mobile Access

So many of today’s professionals are using smartphones and tablets to access the web that many believe these tools will eventually overshadow laptops and PCs. In order for a website or intranet to properly work on a mobile device, it has to be designed in a very specific way.

This can require a bit of extra work in terms of development, but it also means picking the right social intranet platform. If mobile access is limited, you’ll only be setting your intranet up for problems in the future.

15. Create a Sense of Community

It can be easy for someone to log-in and post something without taking the time to actually get ingrained in the conversation, and this can make for a rather cold intranet. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to increase the sense of community inherent in your intranet.

The first step in creating a proper sense of community is to give your employees a voice – let them be heard. You can take things further by incorporating contests, random trivia, and other fun aspects into your intranet. As your intranet grows in size, focusing on community will only become more and more important.

16. Always Pay Close Attention to Security

Given that so much sensitive information goes into your intranet, it’s essential to have a social intranet platform that features the utmost in effective security protocol.

The good news is that many of today’s best social intranet software platforms already place a strong amount of focus on security and thus require very little work on the part of the user to keep things on track.

The bad news is that there are still plenty of options out there that don’t, many of which market themselves as being so inexpensive that pricing can often seem too good to be true. Avoiding these options is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a secure experience with your company intranet.

17. Lead by Example. Walk the Talk.

Leading by example means actively participating in your social community as often as possible. You can create forum topics that get the wheels of innovation turning, for example, or focus on reaching out to employees and congratulating them on a job well done for posting great content.

In the end, the most important thing you can do if you want to see your community thrive is to show your employees what it means to be an active participator.

18. Take a Multimedia-based Approach

Text is often considered the most effective medium for relaying information in a social intranet, and there are many benefits of outfitting your community with a variety of blogs, wikis, and articles. To say that text is the only option at your disposal, however, would be overlooking a huge part of what sets today’s social intranets apart from those of the past. In many cases, it’s more effective to take a multimedia-based approach.

In addition to text, you can incorporate videos, images, and other types of media into your intranet. Infographics, for example, can be extremely useful in this regard, as can tutorial videos. The possibilities are endless when you go beyond text as a primary medium, and the more innovative you can be, the more likely it is that your staff members will benefit.

19. Use Your Intranet as a Customer Service Portal

If you don’t provide great customer service, you’ll no doubt find yourself running into issues. A lot of people don’t realize that customer service traditions have changed over the years, and more often than not, finding success means looking towards modern technology. This is exactly where the modern intranet comes into play.

You can use a well-designed intranet as a platform for providing top-notch customer service … where customers can submit help tickets, chat with representatives, post in forums and more, all without having to listen to 20 minutes of “hold” music on the phone. Customer service simply cannot take a backseat in today’s world, and thanks to social intranet software, it doesn’t have to.

In Conclusion

Intranet planning may seem like a difficult process, but the benefits that can come about from putting in the work are impossible to overlook. Tread carefully, and things should come together smoothly.

Find the Original Post on Axero Solutions Blog here.

Techpoint Information Systems is your #1 Intranet Solution consultant for Africa. Email us: intranet@techpoint.com.ng

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