Starting your new intranet can be a daunting task so we thought that we would provide you with some reading material to help you get into the zone and identify the different areas that you should consider before you start.
A key consideration when establishing an intranet is to distribute site, page and content management responsibilities amongst key staff and users. These responsibilities are typically enabled through a hierarchy of permissions or rights allowing assigned users to access broader areas of the intranet, enabling them to use tools to administer, edit and control content. Such a hierarchy is often constructed based on job titles or responsibilities (roles) or role groups (teams) within the business. For example, site administrators can distinguish various users by categorizing them as administrators, publishers, authors, editors and users. Clearly defining roles and role groups and the appropriate access levels of users during the site mapping or planning phase will significantly reduce the ongoing site administration. An example of such a hierarchy is evident in large public forums on the internet where anyone can view a post, but only registered users can create new topics. These guests and users are administered by various moderators who are themselves overseen by the owner of the website. Hence, creating a hierarchy of roles will enable everyone to understand their position and responsibilities.
Accountability is an important factor in determining the success of an intranet. Since the intranet is a communication tool it is important to identify the individuals who will communicate through the pages on the intranet. For example, important actions such as document version control, file modifications, editing of messages and publishing should identify the person who undertakes these specific tasks. Such accountability and identification procedures will ensure that the site administrator is able to identify and make staff accountable for those tasks.
Adoption & Participation
Perhaps one of the most significant factors contributing to the success of an intranet is the actual take-up of the new intranet site. Participation of staff cannot simply be assumed. Many companies fail to utilize an intranet effectively because their staff do not use the intranet as frequently as they should. Experts warn that even good intranets may not prove effective if employee participation is limited.
Therefore, it is critical for all site administrators to establish an adoption or launch plan, allowing staff to familiarize themselves with the new site. Adoption plans can include establishing focus and feedback groups, identifying intranet ambassadors or evangelists, holding training sessions and workshops and promoting launch parties and giveaways.
Page Layout & Navigation
While developing intranets, site administrators can forget that the end users may not be tech savvy and create site and page layouts which are difficult to browse or are overly complicated. Therefore, it is important that page layout and navigation are kept simple so that even a novice can easily locate the required information. Site administrators can also get a feel for different layouts by reviewing the websites of prominent technology companies. Most of these companies will have simple layouts.
News blogs and forums are not exclusive to the web. These types of social tools are also an inherent part of a good intranet. Logically, the purpose of the intranet is to close the communication gap, and news blogs and forums provide the most cost effective solution to communication. Remote access will allow staff to review and post messages from their homes and client sites, therefore allowing them to be updated and engaged at any time.
Keep it Simple
Simplicity is the key to the success of the intranet site. Industry specialists agree that intranet sites are different from traditional web sites because the sole purpose of the intranet is to distribute and share information quickly.
Before initiating an intranet plan, a site administrator should consider the follow steps:
- Conduct a survey of staff and management to gain a better perspective on the top priorities for what the site should deliver.
- Based on the survey, develop a plan that should include the objective of the intranet, its adoption plan, and its potential usage.
- Review other intranets and websites to get ideas on the best elements of intranet design, designate content ownership, which is a vital step in intranet design.
- Create a site map or plan including pages and modules.
- Conduct a post-launch evaluation to get feedback and continue to update the intranet as needed.