How to successfully deploy an intranet or digital workplace

Our first blog in this series explored how an intranet can enable hybrid working, not only enabling businesses to operate more efficiently but empowering employees to work flexibly – in both cases in a secure and productive environment. 

In this, our second blog in the series, we look at how businesses can ensure that, having chosen to use an intranet to support the creation of a true digital workplace, their deployment is successful. 

At Fresh, our experience has shown that those customers who get their intranet deployment right are the ones that have the right support and guidance from the outset. 

We know the common building blocks that are required to deliver not only a successful intranet platform, but a system that’s going to evolve, grow and scale in a way that’s going to be manageable and continue to drive new value inside the organisation. 

The above is what we think of as the Fresh version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

This hierarchy for a Fresh intranet helps visualise the steps we recommend organisations take when deploying a solution. The obvious analogy here is building a house. If your foundations are rocky and you don’t have clearly drawn-up plans, it’s not going to last very long, nor will it be fit for purpose. 

In the past, the Fresh team has experienced scenarios where a group of people are tasked with implementing a new intranet and their steps look a little like this: 

  1. Find a new tool that looks good 
  1. Make sure it has a lot of shiny new features 
  1. Switch it on 
  1. Everyone loves it 
  1. We’ve got our new successful intranet 

What is often not properly considered are the features your users will actually use, and the UI they will see. Not taking these into consideration will without doubt cause issues at some point – most likely when you’ve switched on your shiny new intranet and no one uses it. 

How to create a solid intranet foundation

So let’s look at the two overarching layers for your shiny new intranet: ‘managing it’ and ‘using it’. And because you can’t have one without the other we need to consider two scenarios. 

  1. You already have an intranet and you have been asked to use it to support a digital workplace (no, they aren’t the same thing!) or 
  1. You‘ve been asked to implement an intranet or create a digital workplace from scratch (again, they aren’t the same thing – but you can’t have a digital workplace without an intranet). 

In the first scenario you are most likely tied to the technology your organisation is using. In the second you have more leeway, and you probably have an idea as to which platform you’ll use and why. In either case you’ll need a strategy and a roadmap. 

For the purposes of this blog, let’s pretend everyone’s starting from scratch (though the principles discussed could be applied to reviewing or auditing what’s missing from your current intranet). 

You’ve developed your strategy and have an outline of a plan. You’ve done your research and decided on the technology you are going to use for your new intranet and digital workplace. 

Now you need to think about people. Firstly, who are your stakeholders? Then, once you know that, you need to ask: 

  • Who owns this new portal? 
  • Who is the decision-maker driving the success?
  • What does the intranet owner role entail?
  • How much time does this person or team have to invest in this endeavour? 

[Sidebar: From our experience we have found that the very best implementations of an intranet have a full-time person looking after it. Without this, your intranet will not be as successful as it could. For example, if you have someone in your organisation whose job only allows them to focus on your intranet for 50% of their time, then the quality, adoption and chances of success fall by a similar percentage.] 

Two more people questions:

  • Who is going to provide the content? 
  • And who is going to (want to) consume the content being provided? 

It simply doesn’t matter how good your intranet is. Without well-organised, useful and easily accessible content, your employees will quickly drift away after the initial hurrah. 

Your content creators must have the skill and time to create, curate and deliver interesting engaging content. Then there’s the additional questions of how do they do this? Where do they get the content from? How do we train others to do it? How do we help them manage this? 

We then come to another subject that, at Fresh, we’re really passionate about, and it’s quite an abstract (or overlooked) concept for a lot of people. It’s called information architecture. 

This is where we think about is what type of information sits where and how our users access it. There are some simple reasons why it would be great to plan this out before you even start to deploy your intranet. They include:  

1. Ease of use, accessibility and adoption

Having a well thought out and intuitive structure to your information will make your intranet that much easier to use, both for your end users and your content creators and admins.

It also means your content creators will understand what it is they manage, where the different types of information sit, and how to ensure things are put in the right place. 

Whether we’re creating or consuming content, we want information to be at our fingertips. We don’t have time to go looking. If end users don’t find the solution straightforward, intuitive and clearly structured, then they just won’t use it. Worse still, they may advertise that fact. That’s clearly not where you want to find yourself after launch. 

2. Keeping things ‘Fresh’

Now we know the types of content we want to provide, and how, we need to keep it engaging, relevant and up to date. Not only do you want a structure, you want a schedule – a content calendar. Your intranet will only stay fresh, and your users engaged, if it’s the go-to place for all company information, new content, news and more.  

To do this your information architecture cannot be focused on a static sitemap. You have to factor in how you’ll surface your new content and how often, and consider when it becomes ‘old’ content and what you should do with it then.  

3. Location, location, location

You may work for a multi-national company, or maybe just a small company with lots of different and specialist teams. Or your business may be structured regionally within the UK. 

Whatever your particular scenario, you’ll need to think about the different groups of people (users) that will be accessing your intranet. Is news for one country relevant to another? Does an update for Team A really matter to Team B? 

A solid information architecture that factors in all of the above is an example of good governance. Set things up not to knock them down but to keep them standing. 

So, how do you get users excited about your shiny new intranet?

Now we’re coming to the question of how do to get users excited about the new tools. That’s business change and adoption. Think about your users: 

  • Who are they? 
  • What are the different groups? 
  • What are they interested in? 
  • What do they care about? 

And for our intranet and content owners, how do we know that the content we produce is actually valuable? How do we know who consumes what? What parts of the intranet do they spend time in? And are they actually engaged with it – do they ‘get’ it? 

Change management comes in various forms. It’s a mix of the right communication at the right time to the right audiences, as well as tailored training and support.  

Leadership comes in many forms too. It’s not just about top-down comms – it’s about leading by example. The impact of leadership driving and supporting change cannot be underestimated. It’s crucial to ensure you have leadership buy-in for your intranet, that they understand it and really get behind it – and that it stays that way to maintain momentum. 

Ta-da! The intranet foundations for your digital workplace are done 

We’re moving from ‘managing it’ to ‘using it’. Now, once we have got all these foundations in place, how do we get people excited about exploring and feeling ‘at home’? 

Well, a nice bit of furniture goes a long way, as do gadgets and a sense of comfort. In other words, make it look nice, make it fun and interesting to use – but keep it simple. So the place looks good. Can they find their way around? Is it easy to get from the kitchen to the living room? OK, enough with the house analogy! 

Whatever you put in front of your workforce has to look the part – enough so that they don’t dismiss it out of hand. They have to be able to get to the things that matter to them without any fuss and free of friction. 

If you roll your eyes every time you know you have to dig around your organisation’s digital workplace to find something, then you’re not going to want to do that very often, are you? Neither are your users. 

If you’d like to take a peek at what Fresh has to offer, and more importantly what the ‘House of Fresh’ has to offer, then you can request your very own demo right here.

In the final blog of this series, we’ll be coming full circle again, taking what we have learned during our planning and consideration phase and putting that to use in the deployment phase. 

So our next blog will show you how to determine how ready your organisation is to deploy an intranet or even a digital workplace. 

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