Social Business, 5 Steps to a Strategic Intranet
As a growing number of multi-tasking millennials enter the workplace, companies are reevaluating their digital strategies and find themselves asking an important question: how can we create an engaging work environment for our employees?

There are several effective strategies to consider -- compensation, vision of the company, trust in leadership and a number of other factors that lead to employee engagement. Whatever the approach ends up being, businesses need to first ensure that their employees have the right tools to do their jobs effectively, and to keep them engaged. For example, a recent Kenexa Study indicated, “The most engaged companies have five times higher total shareholder return over five years than the least engaged companies.” 

According to the 2013 IBM Global C-Suite Study, outperforming organizations are 37 percent more likely to have a high degree of participation amongst employees -- soliciting their feedback, providing them with an engaging digital experience and empowering them with the consolidated, personalized tools that they need to be successful. But how can this be done successfully and ensure that your company's intranet is getting the job done?

Here are the top five elements that make an intranet project successful.

1. Align With the Big Picture Business Objectives

A critical first step is aligning with the company's key business objectives. With internal competition rising for limited funds, those projects that are not considered strategic can easily be overlooked in favor of others that are. Take a look at the annual report and determine how the intranet can contribute to solving some of the key objectives for your organization. For example, if product leadership is a goal, consider how you can leverage your intranet technology to increase knowledge sharing, and help get new products to market faster.

Consider CEMEX, the third largest building materials company in the world, with employees in 50 countries. To meet business challenges, the company leveraged a collaborative intranet platform to bring its global community closer together -- allowing their worldwide product development team to develop and quickly launch their first global brand of ready-mix cement products in under four months. When done wisely, the intranet can boost teamwork, encourage innovation and speed time to market.

2. Get a C-Level Executive Sponsor

As with most any project, your chances of success increase exponentially if you have the involvement of an executive sponsor. We've found that for intranet projects, this does not always need to be the Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO). In fact, getting a different C-level executive involved can help to push the project through with a broader vision of the issues, including non-HR issues which can then be tied back to the key business objectives. For example, how can the intranet help improve overall operations, customer service or other key areas?

3. Put Practical Governance in Place

Measuring the performance of your intranet is vital to its long-term success, continued budget support and return on investment. Even if it is already launched, decide on goals now.

For example, what business value do you expect the intranet to deliver? Don't get caught up implementing a specific feature or function for a stakeholder. Ask yourself, what is the overall value of that new feature and how can it become part of a larger objective that will really make a difference? It is often easier to measure quantitative benefits (e.g. hard dollar savings or annual productivity increases), however, the qualitative benefits of an intranet can be just as beneficial (e.g. “I feel smarter”).

4. Design from Outside-In

If you were designing a new customer-facing digital experience, what would you do? Think about how your customers or partners use the site and what features would enhance their digital experience.

The same applies for the intranet. Think back to the key corporate objectives, determine what capabilities will enable your goals and then speak with those employees directly involved to learn what would be most helpful to them. The experience should be personalized, delivered to them in the context of their role -- across any device that will help make them successful -- and be designed based on expectations of the 21st Century!

Consider OMRON's intranet, which was designed specifically to help optimize the time their sellers spend with customers. As a global leader in the field of industrial automation, success depends on fast access to experts and specialized knowledge about varied industrial processes and technologies. Through personalized dashboards, an integrated prospect navigator map and rich social capabilities, OMRON has been able to better tap into the organization’s collective knowledge and expertise to streamline their employees’ daily work processes and answer customer's questions faster.

5. Bake Training into the Project Plan

The most successful projects we see are those that have training baked into entire project -- who is going to provide content, and who will train the content providers? Who is training developers and users of the intranet? Is there any kind of launch, letting folks know what is new, why it is better and some kind of instruction or expectations of employees on how to use it? You could build the best intranet in the world, but if people don't know how to use it, how to manage it and what benefits can be derived from using it, it will never take off.  

Remember, if you provide your employees with valuable content, that is personalized to their roles,
enables them to be more productive and keeps them engaged, it will help meet your overall business objectives. The intranet can solve more problems than you think -- follow these key elements to make your project strategic, and see the impact it can make across all aspects of your business.

Title image courtesy of B Studio (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: For another view on the modern intranet, read Tom Petrocelli's Are Intranets Becoming Irrelevant?