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In this post for Intranet Managers, Kim Jones outlines the key considerations when planning an intranet for a medium-large organisation. Examples shared are based on Kim’s experience in a large financial services company.

At what point does your organisation need an intranet?

There comes a time when business communication issues and pain points caused by current systems can no longer be ignored and we are forced to look for an intranet solution that fits within our budget yet meets long-term business needs.

As discussed by Karen Pernice (2015) and experienced in my previous working environments, here are some reasons that indicate an intranet is a timely investment:

  • Growing number of employees
  • Increased staff turnover
  • Restricted access to otherwise shareable documents
  • Overflowing inboxes
  • Low employee productivity
  • Multiple business locations, remote workers or third party partners/contractors
  • The need for more secure access provisions
  • Inappropriate internet usage compromising business productivity.

Delivered correctly, an intranet aligns the employee’s ability to deliver business goals by providing a relevant map of internal business processes, systems and information.

The hardest step, I think, is to find an intranet design that aligns to your business needs AND supports users in their ability to deliver.

How did we select an intranet?

In a global financial services organisation with more than 1,500 employees, we needed an intranet solution to solve many of the issues mentioned above as well as providing us with three key functions:

  1. A knowledge management system
  2. A directory, and
  3. A communications channel for notification, governance, training and feedback.

Once we identified our main pain points, we were able to source the right intranet solution.

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Key selection criteria for an intranet

The following outlines key intranet selection criteria when assessing and choosing an intranet solution:

  • Analysis of business needs
  • Security and compliance
  • Compatibility
  • Due diligence
  • Flexibility
  • Nimbleness
  • Maintenance
  • Management

Addressing these selection criteria is not always straight-forward.

Here is the process we went through when planning and choosing our intranet solution.

Analysis of each business unit
Each business unit worked out what would make them more effective and productive. For example, we found that our business development team needed an easy to use customer relationship tool so that they could understand what their clients needed.

Security and compliance processes
Each business unit identified security issues in the communication process. For example, we needed permission levels in place to protect documents. We agreed and managed, reviewed, reported and amended in real-time responses to requests or changes in access or employment. We needed the solution to be able to flag and report misuse of the system. For example, In a large company, it’s important to have an intranet that can report any fraudulent or misuse of confidential information. It’s too late when one of your regulators is knocking on your door so the security on your intranet needs to provide protection for your business as well as your employees.

Compatibility with others
Others being, client, financial or human resources software and systems core to your business. For example, a stand-alone intranet would have limited us. Part of our checklist was to ensure that the intranet connected seamlessly to our financials system so that project teams could retrieve real-time up-to-date financials whenever required.

Due diligence
We needed a robust functionality that provided searching for keywords in filenames as well as content within documents and spreadsheets. For example, there is nothing more exasperating to know that you have an original source document that verifies your governance in an annual report yet you can’t find it. A good intranet system will have a well-developed search functionality to find information or data.

Flexibility
Identify which business units will use the system, from which location and on what kind of device. For example, we had employees who worked from home, remote areas and often from offices around the world. In addition, there were third parties contracted who also required access to specific information while not being able to access other information. A reliable intranet needs to be able to deal intelligently with these permutations and permissions and also have an ability to modify those permissions if the business needs to withdraw permissions for a specific employee or topic within an urgent time frame. You can also read more about how we used this flexibility mapping to find the right people in project teams. To find out more, please read one of my previous posts about connecting skilled employees together as a project team. We will also revisit this in the future to talk about remote workers and their needs.

Nimbleness
Nimbleness in response to changes in real time, responding appropriately to requests by management or external sources. For example, a regular media request was for approved images of management staff. All approved images (in the right format and size) were kept in a folder that could be accessed, ensuring that usage was monitored and our external visual profile could be managed.

Simplicity
Simplicity in structure and accessibility of information. For example; you find out very quickly that one’s person logic in filing information is not the same as the next, so having a well-thought out taxonomy is essential. We were constantly dealing with multiple copies of the one document being saved in many different folders. In order to manage the size of your intranet, it is imperative that your employees are trained to create shortcuts to the original document.

Maintenance
Maintenance ensures that the architecture and quality of information is not compromised. For example, as businesses changed in complexity, we found that occasionally some business units would start to build their own empire of knowledge. It is important to review how each business area uses the intranet and avoid silos.

Management
Managing the size of the intranet, including archiving architecture. For example, time and time again it’s managing that one document, ensuring it appears once, that iterations of that document are deleted and only final signed off versions are accessible for people to reference.

Commitment to ongoing improvements of your intranet
A successful intranet solution relies on it being monitored, managed and maintained. Your intranet is a valuable business tool that needs attention. Neglect can be costly. By ensuring business units are trained and continuous improvement is encouraged, your intranet is likely to be most your most valuable tool in the organisation.

It’s now up to you

It’s time to take control. As an intranet manager, your job is to identify the key issues across your business units and help them with systems and processes that make your company more streamlined, connected and productive. Remember, the intranet solution you choose will be a reflection of each business unit’s needs, provide features, systems and content that will help teams and individuals collaborate and be more effective and efficient in their job, and enable the whole business to deliver business goals.

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