If you are looking to create a company intranet in the near future, then this article is essential reading. Let’s face it, creating an intranet can be a daunting task for anyone but if technology isn’t really your thing, then it can be an even bigger challenge. Don’t worry though as help is at hand with this post. Written very much from the perspective of the absolute novice, we examine the important steps that you need to take along the way so that the implementation process is as smooth and stress-free as possible. This guide will also serve as a useful checklist so you can be certain that you haven’t missed any critical elements. First though, let’s start at the very beginning with a definition of what we mean by intranet.
What Is An Intranet?
An intranet is an online private communications network with access restricted to only internal employees. An intranet contains a range of tools and modules that are designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s operations. With online interactive staff directories, news pages and blogs, collaborative workspaces, quizzes and surveys as well as automated business processes to name just a few, the intranet quite simply has the potential to help employees get the job done more efficiently. Intranet technology has been around since the 1990s; however, more and more businesses – from the small startup to the large corporates – are investing in intranets as a solution to a range of business issues.
What Types of Intranet Are Available?
The terminology around intranets can be confusing as often the terms are used interchangeably. Below we make it clear what the different labels mean so that you can make an informed choice as to what’s best suited to your company environment.
As we’ve seen an intranet is an online, internal communications network.
Think of a portal as being a gate or entry point through to external apps or enterprise systems. Often these are human resources apps or customer relationship management software or it could be external websites that staff members frequently refer to in the course of their work. The great advantage of a portal is that all these systems and apps are accessible from a single sign-on. Access is, therefore, quick and easy and there’s no need for multiple logins and passwords or for staff to have several browser tabs open at any one time. So, now that you have a better understanding of what an intranet is and the main types of intranet that are available as well as their different uses, let’s now turn our attention to how to create an intranet. Below we identify all the steps involved from the start of the process to the launch of your brand new intranet and beyond.
1. Set Up A Project Team
2. Be Clear About Your Goals And Objectives
From the outset the project team will need to be clear about what the business’s goals and objectives are for the intranet. What is it that you want the intranet to achieve? What difference will it make to the business? Tempting though it is, don’t jump straight into the design and layout. It’s worthwhile investing the time and energy in this analysis phase so that the company intranet is fit for purpose. The truth is for most companies there is a pain point or issue that is driving the adoption of an intranet as the solution. It could be that internal communications has been identified as a weakness. Or it may be that information silos are a feature of your business and you want to encourage more collaboration and joint working. For other organizations, it’s a desire to improve employee engagement across the business and develop a stronger company identity. Whatever the case may be in your company, conducting an intranet needs analysis will help the project team identify the organizational issues the intranet will need to address. It’s important that the team talks to staff and key stakeholders about what information and business processes should be available on the intranet. And it’s also a good idea to undertake a task analysis to identify any logjams that the intranet can address. A needs analysis is a very important first step in the deployment process. It will help refine the company’s goals and objectives as well as ensuring the intranet meets the long-term needs of staff and the wider organization.
4. Selection Of Intranet Software
With a comprehensive vision for the company intranet together with a sense of the information and tasks it needs to address, the project team is now in a position to look at software options. There are three basic options open to business intranet buyers and these are:
- Custom build an intranet from scratch to be hosted on the company server.
- Develop an off-the-shelf intranet using software downloaded from the internet and host it on a server connected to your company network.
- Use a cloud-based hosting service. Under this option, you pay an intranet provider to host the intranet for you.
The biggest advantage with online hosting is that there is no software to install or server to maintain and so deployment is much quicker and easier. Having an existing template also means that the features have already been tried and tested which could be a considerable time saver. Whichever option you decide to go for, you will want to draw up a shortlist of potential providers. There are a great many possible providers in the marketplace for both the network hosted and cloud options. Your shortlist should reflect the best fit between the product and the vision and goals you have for your intranet. Check out MyHub’s free to download evaluation checklist which will help you in making a selection.
5. Intranet Demonstration
6. Creating Intranet Content And Design
Now that you have selected your intranet software partner, you are at the very exciting stage of developing the design and writing the content. When it comes to the design, it’s important to make it as intuitive as possible. Try to keep in mind the whole purpose of the intranet which is to make it easier for staff to find the information they need to get the job done. Developing a site map at an early stage will help you to visualize the content, how it all connects and what makes sense for your business. A clean, uncluttered look will be fundamental to this. The six, six rule is a good one to bear in mind when working on the design of your intranet. The six, six rule suggests a maximum of six pages per section with six items of content on each is ideal. The rule will help you to focus on what’s really important and forces you to be economical with the design. Similarly, when it comes to content try to keep the copy as clear and concise as possible. Staff will want to identify the key messages quickly and easily without having to wade through a lot of unnecessary words and waffle. Use plain English and avoid jargon or technical language wherever possible. Make good use of headlines to draw the user’s attention and to give the reader a sound idea of what follows. Keep it visual. Lots of photos, images, pictures, even infographics will make your intranet more interesting and eye-catching and will engage the user. Try to stick with images that portray real staff members and real work situations as these will resonate more with employees than stock images downloaded from the internet.
7. Pilot The Intranet
8. Staff Training And Development
You are now almost ready to launch your intranet, there’s just one more step to consider and that’s a program of staff training. Even the most intuitive and easy to use intranet software still needs to be supported by a program of staff training. If you want to hit the ground running from day one, then giving employees the opportunity to get used to the intranet software in advance is an absolute must. What’s more, the training program doesn’t have to be of the traditional classroom-style variety. The online nature of the intranet lends itself to a variety of training media including:
- how-to videos
- quizzes and surveys.
Make it interactive and fun and don’t forget to utilize your intranet advocates in the shape of the project team members. By sharing their knowledge and expertise, project team members will be invaluable in making sure their colleagues are on board and fully appreciate the intranet’s capabilities. And a word of caution here: don’t be tempted to rush this step. A comprehensive staff training program will ensure the intranet is utilized to its full potential and so try and resist the urge to crack on until this critical aspect of the deployment is completed.
9. Go Live!
Finally, you are ready to launch your intranet, but the go-live doesn’t just start and finish with the click of a button! Devote as much fuss and fanfare to the launch of the intranet as you would to a new product launch. Have a countdown in place to generate some excitement and anticipation. And why not run a staff competition to give the intranet a name? Many companies have found naming the intranet is a great way to give it a brand and a sense of identity all of its own.And if you are looking for some inspiration, then intranet names that we have come across include:
- even Wikidelia!
Involving staff in a naming competition is a good way to create a buzz around the office. Make it worthwhile though by offering a team pizza lunch or some gift vouchers as an incentive to take part. Once you select the launch date, then make it compulsory for staff to use the intranet thereafter. Set it as the web default page and insist that employees use the intranet to complete tasks such as ordering stationery or booking annual leave. For those staff members that try to use previous paper or email-based processes, firmly advise them that the intranet is now where it’s at. Your employees will soon get the message and will start using the intranet for all their information needs.
10. Review And Refresh
Even after diligently and thoroughly going through each of the steps in this checklist, it’s unlikely that you will have a perfect intranet from the get-go. Regular review and revision will be needed to make sure that the intranet is still achieving the goals and objectives that you have set. In fact, the overall vision for the intranet may need to be reviewed from time to time in the light of changing business needs. So don’t disband that intranet project team just yet! In addition, it’s vital to renew and refresh the content on a regular basis. Static and unchanging intranet page images soon become boring and uninteresting for users. And there’s no bigger turn-off than accessing information that is out of date or just plain wrong. Setting up mechanisms and processes to regularly review and refresh the intranet’s content is essential from the outset.
Creating An Intranet: Plan For Success
Creating an intranet will be a challenging exercise for any business. Following these steps though will make that process that little bit easier. The secret is having a clear, well-thought-through plan. In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you by setting out the steps you need to take. Now all you need to do is crack on with creating your own intranet. It will be the best business decision you ever make, guaranteed. If you would like more advice about how to create an intranet for your business, get in touch with MyHub today. And while you are at it, why not take advantage of our no-obligation demo or 14-day free trial and see for yourself just how easy implementing a cloud intranet can be.