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50 Ways to a Better Intranet

There are a number of activities that will help you to deliver a more valuable intranet. In the list of 50 I have comprised, here's a look at the first 20.

In a recent blog post, Irish intranet thought leader, Gerry McGovern, said: "Most intranets are not seen as essential to the functioning of an organization. This is because management is not convinced of their strategic value." And Canadian intranet commentator, Toby Ward, in another blog post says that "intranets are paltry when compared to the corporate website, and in fact, nauseatingly underfunded compared to the .com site."

So what can be done to make intranets more useful and valuable? Using data from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) — a free web-based intranet benchmarking service that asks for feedback from employees about their intranet — it is possible to:

  • Identify intranet qualities that are most important to employees.
  • Identify the most effective intranets and the tips and tricks that these intranets have used.

This article lists 50 activities that leading organizations have taken to deliver effective intranets.

Note: The WIC has been completed by over 20,000 employees from 67 organizations.

Most Important Intranet Qualities

The following diagram shows which intranet qualities employees think are most important in adding value to an intranet and which intranet qualities need the most improvement.

WIC Results.png

Some interesting things to note about these charts are:

  • Despite all the hype around web 2.0, intranet 2.0 and {insert preferred buzz word here}, employees consider the ability for staff to be able to contribute to the intranet as the least important quality of a valuable intranet (in comparison to the other qualities listed).
  • Using the intranet to complete work tasks and enabling staff to contribute are areas that need the most improvement (along with finding information).
  • “Ease of finding information” is considered to be the most important quality of a valuable intranet and yet is considered to be the quality that is ranked as needing the most improvement.

How to Improve Your Intranet

Based on feedback from leading intranets, the following is a list of tasks that can improve your intranet. They are grouped into the following topics (which correspond to the intranet qualities listed in the charts):

  • Finding information
  • Completing work tasks
  • Interactivity (staff contributions)
  • Performance
  • Look and feel
  • Content
  • Maintenance (governance)
  • Other

Finding Information

The following table lists tasks that will help improve the ease of finding information, either through the search, menu navigation or a better home page.

Task Description/Benefit
1. Remove redundant content Improve the chances of finding information by removing all unnecessary content. This may involve conducting a content audit and examining user statistics to identify content that is no longer relevant.

•  Benefits of a Intranet Content Inventory
•  Intranet redesign, Phase 2: information architecture and content audit
•  Content audit guide and template
•  Intranets are not information dumps
•  The Death of Fluff Content: Content Strategy for Businesses
2. Implement a contextual view of information Provide multiple access paths to information making it easier for people to find information. This can include viewing content by task, category or type.

•  Contextual integration: how it can transform your intranet
3. Identify key tasks and content Identify information that is most important to staff and make sure this is easily accessible (preferably from the home page).
4. Implement meta data Ensure content is “tagged” with descriptive information. This enables different “views” to be automatically created and improves search tool results.
5. Implement a new information architecture A new user-driven taxonomy may improve the way staff navigate to information:

•  Intranet redesign, Phase 2: information architecture and content audit
•  Information Architecture 101: Techniques and Best Practices
•  A Practical Guide to Information Architecture
6. Identify popular search terms Identify popular search terms and ensure that the most frequently searched information is easily accessible — either from the home page or from a logical menu structure.
7. Implement “best bets” Identify commonly searched terms and manually create synonyms to ensure that the best matches appear at the top of the search match list.

Completing Work Tasks

The following table lists tasks that will improve how the intranet supports day-to-day tasks performed within an organization.

Task Description/Benefit
8. Identify tasks and roles Identify key tasks that are performed by role within an organization. Ensure the information component of these tasks is properly supported by the intranet.

•  Web manager: Top tasks versus tiny tasks
9. Provide instructions for completing work tasks Create web pages that provide short cuts to all the information, forms and applications staff need to complete work tasks. This could include access to policies, procedures, web apps and forms. See:

•  Building a task based intranet using SharePoint (AGL case study)
10. Automate processes/ online forms Provide online forms and workflows to allow processes to be completed from start to finish. Begin with the most important processes first.

Interactivity

The following table lists tasks ways to get staff more involved with the intranet, including publishing content, online discussions, collaboration spaces and providing feedback about intranet content.

Task Description/Benefit
11. Enable all staff to publish content Make it easier for staff to publish content. Consider what quality controls you will implement to ensure the quality of content is maintained.

•  How to empower authors
•  Migrating to a new intranet – how do you support the content owners?
•  Intranet content manifesto
•  Content Strategy and the User-Generated Content Conundrum
12. Enable online collaboration spaces Facilitate collaboration spaces that allow staff to save and access documents and share information with other group members.

•  Three Keys to Make Your Intranet a Collaborative Success in 2011
13. Enable discussion forums Create online discussion spaces that allow staff to post questions and receive responses to the questions.
14. Allow staff to comment on content Allow comments to be added to news stories, ratings of content items, and a continuous improvement process that allows intranet improvement suggestions to be submitted.

•  Intranet Lessons from Fortune’s #1 Company to Work For
15. Provide real time status updates Allow staff to post Twitter like status updates and questions. Yammer is a free tool that can facilitate this.
16. Provide the ability for staff to write blogs Allow staff to write blogs internally. Provide ways to recognize popular employee contributions.

•  Merit Badges For The Corporate Intranet To Incentivize Adoption
•  Feed The Monster - Part I: Turning Employees Into Journalists
•  Senior manager blogs: reality check

Performance

The following table lists tasks that will improve intranet performance.

 

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