In September, I attended the 18th “Intranets for Corporate Communications” conference hosted by Federated Press. Attendees and speakers were an interesting mix of marketing, corporate communications and knowledge management experts as well as intranet consultants. The focus of the two day course was on using intranets to better maximize internal communications, breakdown silos, motivate employees, promote organizational change and firm branding. The three themes that really stood out for me were the importance of an intranet’s usability, content and role in helping to communicate change through out an organization.
Don Hameluck, a usability expert, talked about the winning formula for a successful intranet, which includes providing value and a satisfying and engaging user experience that keeps users coming back. He also talked about the importance of having an intranet that is aligned with business strategy and goals
Don then discussed the different ways to assess usability which include:
- asking a usability expert to review the design;
- conducting task-based or contextual inquiry tests with actual users;
- gathering staff feedback through surveys or polls; and
- analyzing operational data such as support logs, analytics and other metrics.
Content is key to the success of any intranet and should be reviewed on a regular basis to determine if it is relevant, current and continues to meet the needs of employees. Loris Parekh, Director of Digital Communications for Revera, provided useful tips in considering content management, including determining ownership of content, intranet roles and responsibilities, centralized or decentralized publishing, delivery tools and internal/external sources of content.
Loris shared her motivational techniques for content owners. They included giving them the latitude, tools and training to add content. Promoting the business value of their content and publishing a list of the top ten pages visited by employees are other great motivational techniques for content owners.
Finally, Loris talked about content applications that help drive employees to the intranet which include: company news, blogs, wikis, forms, HR information, self-service tools, policies and procedures, phone directory, organizational charts, document repositories and contact information. This list certainly made me consider what could be added to our intranet.
Other presentations discussed using intranets as change vehicles for communications regarding company reorganizations, office moves, business transformations, and so on. Madeline Long-Duke, Vice President Corporate Sector for Weber Shandwick, discussed leveraging corporate intranets for change management initiatives.
According to Madeline, 70% of all change projects fail due to poor communication regarding the purpose, goal and benefits of the change. They also fail because the infrastructure, processes, incentives, skills and feedback mechanisms are not in place to support the change.
Results can be improved through better stakeholder management and a communications strategy. An intranet should be part of that communications strategy because it is an optimum platform to increase awareness and “buy-in”, connect all strategic initiatives in one place, send a unified message to stakeholders across business, functional and geographical units and validate the messaging. Intranets can also be used to motivate and engage employees by providing a forum where they can ask questions, brainstorm ideas, provide feedback and comments on the change project.
Along with other case studies presented at the conference, these three presentations help illustrate that intranets are never static and need to be continually assessed for usability, content and communication delivery. They rely on the expertise of IT, Marketing, Communications and Knowledge Management and can be effectively utilized for internal communications and change management initiatives.