Whether you are looking to introduce a company intranet or are revamping an existing one, you will want to ensure that the intranet meets the needs of your staff and organization. But how do you go about doing that? In this article, we outline five steps that will help you identify the information and tools that are relevant to your company. For an intranet to be a success, it needs to deliver both in terms of being usable and useful. The five steps we identify will help you to achieve just that.
Intranet Needs Analysis
Too often all the effort is directed at the design of the intranet, making sure that it looks flash, and that information is quick and easy to find. These are indeed important considerations. A successful intranet must be easy to navigate, should be visually appealing and intuitive to use. Above all, it must be useful to staff. However, usefulness goes beyond simply including on the intranet every piece of company information, every guideline, and manual or every business process. It involves an understanding of how staff work intertwined with an appreciation of the information the staff need to do their jobs.
Conducting a needs analysis will help you to identify the organizational issues that the intranet will need to address. The step-by-step process below will help your organization identify the key issues.
1. Consult With Staff
Staff will be the end users, and so it is important to involve them at the outset. It is also a useful way to enhance employee engagement as staff members will feel that their opinions count and they have a contribution to make to the greater good of the company.
A survey is a good way to gather views from staff across the organization. Surveys work best at assessing the opinions of staff rather than their actual needs. Try and make the questions closed and as specific as possible. For example:
How often do you refer to the intranet to source information for your job?
- Once or twice a week
A closed question such as above as well as being easier to analyze, is more likely to give meaningful data than the following example:
What information do you think should be on the intranet?
This type of question will result in staff coming up with a wish list of features without any assessment of their usefulness. It also assumes that staff have an understanding of intranet technologies and their application which in reality is probably not the case.
A survey is the first step in assessing the organization’s needs and issues. Remember to feedback to staff on the results of the survey and if possible, be seen to be acting on those results. Failure to do so could result in dissatisfaction with the intranet project and will have a negative impact on employee engagement.Failure to do so could result in dissatisfaction with the intranet project and will have a negative impact on employee engagement.
2. Focus Groups
Focus groups are a well-known research technique and are a great way to elicit more in-depth information on actual issues and problems. Wherever possible staff from similar levels of the organization should be kept together as having a manager present could stifle open discussion. Staff members’ views may be eschewed to reflect what they think management wants to hear.
Try to have a broad cross-section of staff at focus groups with an emphasis on operational staff rather than managers. It’s important that the actual views of staff that will be using the intranet are collected, rather than managers’ views of what they think staff need.
In addition, the focus groups need to be well-managed to ensure that a small number of individuals do not dominate. And it’s important that staff are assured of confidentiality so that they have the freedom to speak out without fear of repercussions.
The results of the surveys and focus groups when combined, provide a rounded view of both issues and opinions within the company
3. Task Analysis
For a truly comprehensive need analysis process, a task analysis is a very useful tool. With a task analysis, key business tasks are identified and investigated to gain an understanding of the steps involved and the information required at each step. This information will then be used to determine how the intranet can be used to support staff in their day-to-day activities.
For example, a task analysis may identify that call center staff are referring to photocopied manuals of frequently asked questions and problem resolution flow charts. Digitizing the flow charts on the company intranet will do away with the need for paper-based manuals. It will also ensure a consistent approach from all call center staff. Furthermore, procedures can be quickly and easily updated.
A task analysis can have a tangible and measurable impact on business outcomes and is a great way of determining the return on your investment in relation to intranet development.
4. Analyzing The Findings
Once the research has been completed, the next step is to distil all the information into key themes and recommended actions. All the data from the surveys, focus groups, and task analyses will need to be reviewed for any patterns or areas of commonality. For example, if a number of staff across each step of the process are commenting that their main source of information about corporate news is by word of mouth, then clearly there is a need for a systematic distribution of corporate news which the intranet could easily provide with a news feed.
The analysis of the findings will need to address the following issues:
- The main sources of information within the organization and the key information needs.
- The key business processes requiring information support.
- Opportunities for the intranet to improve the flow and delivery of information.
- Any additional aspects that an intranet could assist with such as addressing social needs with a social intranet or enabling staff to be more involved in decision-making with forums and interactive discussion boards.
The analysis should conclude with recommended actions and a time frame for delivery. It may be that not all action points are capable of being resolved immediately. Some may need to be addressed in the long term. It’s important though for the credibility of the organization in the eyes of staff members that all issues are acknowledged in the report even if their remedy is a long-term project.
The final step in this whole process is implementation. Whether that be introducing a company intranet or modifying an existing one, it’s important that implementation follows on swiftly from the needs analysis phase so that the momentum is maintained. In this way the intranet can get on with assisting staff to do their jobs, making their working lives easier and improving productivity and efficiency across the business.
How Long Will The Needs Analysis Process Take?
The answer depends on the time and resources available; however, it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. These steps can, in fact, be undertaken simultaneously which will serve to speed up the process.
It’s important to recognize, however, that it is an essential process that will result in a better return on investment and a better end product. It is, therefore, worthy of the investment from the company in terms of the necessary time and resources.
The process doesn’t just stop there. It’s important that the effectiveness of the intranet is reviewed on a regular basis so that it’s fitness for purpose is continuously affirmed.
Contact us at MyHub if you are considering setting up an office intranet or are modifying an existing one and you want some help undertaking the needs analysis.