Intranet implementation best practice

23 April 2021 | Sonja Wandrey

Implementing a new company intranet, or digital workplace, is a team effort and no small undertaking.

But managed well, you can avoid the common intranet implementation pitfalls and make the experience both exciting and rewarding. Principally, a successful intranet implementation means getting the foundations right, which are crucial to its long-term success and sustainability.

Approaching your intranet implementation

Keep users front and centre of every decision you make. This may seem an obvious point, but it can be tempting to make decisions based on tools and functionality, rather than user needs.  Ask yourself questions like:

  • What value will feature X, Y or Z deliver to our employees?
  • How sophisticated is functionality A, B or C? You may have allocated sufficient time for your implementation, but will you have the internal resources to maintain that functionality in the long term? 

The underlying technology plays a vital part in helping you achieve your ambitions for your intranet. But your project’s success – and the success of your new centralised portal over its lifetime, cannot be achieved with technology alone.

Great company intranets and digital workplaces rely on solid foundations and frameworks that their user communities comply with and support. 

Your high-level intranet implementation strategies

To make your intranet sing and keep the momentum going long after your launch, you’ll need three strategies:  

  • An intranet strategy that highlights what you want to achieve and the roles and responsibilities for the effective maintenance of your intranet
  • A change management strategy which outlines how you are going raise awareness, get users excited and overcome any resistance
  • A content management strategy listing the types of content you have and the roles and responsibilities for managing your content

Pre-intranet implementation considerations

Before your implementation project, set out the foundations for success with an intranet strategy. Your strategy should align with your organisational goals and include the below points.

Your intranet strategy

  • Your current position – what led to the decision to implement your new digital workplace?
  • Your vision – your aims and ambitions for your intranet
  • The beneficiaries – who will use your intranet  
  • The benefits – which improvements you will realise and which gaps your intranet will fill
  • How you will measure success – define KPIs and timelines to keep your goals measurable and achievable

Commence your intranet strategy by conducting user research to:

  • Identify the different user groups in your business
  • Understand their current practices to highlight their needs and where your current solution does not meet these

The goal of your user research is to understand how your intranet will contribute to your user community. For example, how the tool will aid productivity and improve engagement by making colleagues feel more connected to the business and one another. 

Involving your users and focusing on the needs of your various user groups will help you to formulate your vision and objectives and support buy-in.

Agreeing on your intranet strategy with your leadership teams and communicating it to your stakeholders is vital to ensure adoption.

A significant part of your strategy is agreeing on roles and responsibilities. Ownership is an essential element of good governance.

Your change management strategy

Intranet implementations are often complex because they impact many people.

You’ll want to generate excitement around your new intranet to help your users embrace it and look forward to its benefits. Their initial good experiences will help to encourage uptake after the fanfare of your launch.

Start early. Raise awareness of your platform, share your vision and show how it will benefit your employees. You can achieve these objectives through targeted and tailored communications to your user groups and leadership team. 

It’s also essential to ensure that everyone is comfortable using your intranet by delivering the appropriate training to the right people at the right time.

Mapping your different user groups’ training needs will enable you to sketch out a training schedule, which will inform how you formulate your rollout plan.

Finally, put a support mechanism in place. Provide a point of contact for different queries so that business users and content editors know where to go. It’s good practice to establish a champions network of super users who can sit in each user group.

Having champions within each area of your organisation will ensure that all user groups’ needs are represented and supported. Your champions will have an intimate understanding of their colleagues’ day-to-day tasks and how they will utilise the new intranet to streamline their processes.

As well as being on hand to answer questions and promote the use of your intranet, your champions can provide valuable feedback for shaping your intranet roadmap.

Your change management strategy needn’t be complex. Start by sketching out the pointers above and develop it from there. You may decide to pilot your intranet in one location or business unit, then roll it out across the rest of your organisation.

Your content management strategy

Many factors contribute to high intranet adoption rates, but the most important one is regular and engaging intranet content. If your content is consistently informative, accurate and helpful, your people will keep returning to your intranet.

You’ll want to see that your users have access to up-to-date information and can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. This means ensuring your content is continuously updated, tagged correctly and placed intuitively with your end users in mind.

Planning and managing your content will pay dividends by ensuring your intranet is appealing, relevant and delivers value to users. And your content management strategy will make it easier for your content editors and site owners to understand their responsibilities and see how they can contribute to your intranet’s evolution.

Your content management strategy should include:

  • Guidelines on how to create and deliver content to your intranet users. Your policies will help make your intranet portal intuitive and engaging and ensure everyone works towards the same goal
  • A list of your content categories. Your list will give an understanding of which types of content should reside on your intranet and which information will be accessed and managed elsewhere
  • The information structure (architecture) necessary for making it easy for your end users to find what they’re looking for
  • An outline of the mechanisms and processes for keeping content up-to-date, relevant and engaging
  • An outline of the permissions and security considerations that support your content management strategy
  • A clear overview of the roles and responsibilities for managing your content 

One common intranet implementation pitfall is to take a simple ‘lift and shift’ approach. Migrating old content onto a new platform without review and enforcing old ways of working may be missing improvement opportunities.

Moving from the old to the new will also demand an intranet launch strategy. Your launch strategy will depend on your vision for your intranet and your user communities needs and circumstances.

Your intranet and change management strategies will help to inform your launch strategy.

Building a digital workplace is an exciting time for your business and a tremendous opportunity to improve your users’ experiences. Following the guidelines here should set you up for success.

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Intranet Implementation FAQs

Why is a company intranet important?

It represents your brand and brings your employees together. A company intranet is a home for your organisation’s information – your users’ go-to place and gateway for everything they need. It enables them to collaborate and communicate in one place and feel connected to your business, from wherever they are. 

What should a company intranet include?

Include company information, from your strategy and goals to company policies and everyday forms. Other useful resources are employee directories, locations and directions, brand guidelines, digital assets and products and services information.

Make your intranet sing by updating it regularly with news and other information your users will find useful.

What does a good company intranet look like?

A good company intranet represents your unique brand and company culture. It should be fully responsive so that it works across all device types. Your users should find it intuitive and easy to use, and it should also be straightforward to update, maintain and govern.

How do you increase intranet engagement?

You will increase engagement by keeping your content fresh, useful and relevant. Regularly adding new content which is valuable and interesting to your users will keep them coming back for more.

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