We Kept What?

If you have ever had the un-enviable job of re-building a corporate intranet you will know where I am coming from. Corporate intranets tend to be a mass repository of just about everything, from everyone that your firm has ever produced. Intranets unintentionally become dumping grounds that are never cleaned up. Of course much of the content was important at some point, so how do you turn a vast wasteland of information into something usable, friendly and fit within your culture? It starts with a rethink.

There are many articles about how to get the project started, approved, launched, etc. What most of those articles don’t get into is the amount of effort required to actually update the intranet. Your external website is usually easier to manage as there are less people involved and you can decide fairly easily what content you wish to share. Intranets are different. Who is allowed to make changes and to what areas? Are controls needed to ensure everyone works to the same overall goal? And then there is the content. On an intranet you cannot just draw a line in the sand and delete all content that is more than 3 years old. What if a corporate policy was written and approved 10 years ago is still valid? Much more selectivity is required.

When we decided to replace our intranet in 2015, part of the process was to review all the content. When our current site was created about 6 years ago, the staff tackling the project did not have an overall theme for the site nor an understanding of how the intranet would be used. They simply put everything up and see what worked. With that mindset, we had well over 20,000 documents and a site map that included over 1,300 areas. Additional content areas and micro-sites had been used that skewed these numbers even higher. To make matters worse, rather than un-publishing content, it was often unlinked which meant it was still searchable. Our intranet was unmanageable and staff hated it.

Our new intranet launched early in 2016. By the time we went live, we had removed over 85% of the content, upgraded all the internal applications and searches, made it mobile friendly and improved overall usability. The intranet still has many layers and sometimes you are forced to go deeper to find content than you would expect on an external website but overall access and flow are much improved. We discovered ways to link content effectively, highlight areas of importance and improve how we share news. Of course we also used the opportunity to make it much more pleasing to look at.

Staff need to go to our intranet regularly – in some cases daily. It is used to look up benefit and pay information, staff details, corporate programs and entering of project time. The intranet stores our management reports, client information, project information, policies and procedures, etc. We use the intranet to share news and other pertinent information rather than using disruptive emails. Our main page includes general news, project spotlights and campaigns. Inner pages include highlighted content that is dependent on the area of the site. Our focus was sharing of content in the most positive way possible and making the experience a pleasant one for staff. We immediately noticed engagement improvement throughout the firm than previously experienced.

Moving forward we are going to allow individual practices to build out their section of the site. Part of the development included a collaboration component and sharing platform that can be launched at a later date. We have implemented a plan to ensure the amount of information never again becomes overwhelming. Staff will have the opportunity to ask for updates and changes however these now go through a small committee to approve.

A corporate intranet is the number one avenue for sharing information to all staff. Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that the experience they have on this vital platform is a positive one?

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