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Intranet teams must tackle three different tasks to make their project a success, but each requires its own timeline PHOTO: David Lee

The complex business environments most organizations operate in can stop them from taking advantage of the many opportunities intranets offer. Teams are tasked with the rapid delivery of outcomes, while at the same time managing the conflicting stop-start-stop messages coming from senior leaders.

In this environment, teams can end up constantly chasing their tails, always addressing short-term priorities. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, teams can get stuck waiting for approval of the "big project," with nothing happening in the meantime.

To avoid these common pitfalls, multiple activities must happen in parallel: teams must deliver fast and think slow.

Avoid These Common Intranet Traps

Running an intranet is no easy task. The to-do list is long, expectations are high and resources are often tight.

Having worked with hundreds of intranet teams over the last two decades, I’ve seen three common traps:

Teams can get trapped in project mode, reacting to requests that only address small needs or issues. Without the chance to take a breath, the team finds it impossible to do strategic planning, let alone articulate a high-level vision.

There is also a danger of waiting for approval of a strategy, in the hope that this will allow a big leap forward. This trap becomes all planning, and no doing, and decay takes hold while the team is sitting still.

Teams or individuals who spend all their time talking about the distant future can be seen as idealists (or even crackpots). With no projects underway, and no concrete strategy, these visionaries can be quickly sidelined in the business.

Tackle 3 Tasks in Parallel

The most successful intranet teams combine a relentless focus on delivering improvements, while maintaining a focus on the longer term.

This is best articulated in the following diagram:

Intranets Fast and Slow

Intranet Projects

At any given point, intranet teams should be making improvements (or fixes) to their site. This is most effectively done as an ongoing series of projects. 

At a minimum, projects should deliver every six months, or quicker if using agile methodologies. Wherever possible, these projects should deliver tangible and visible improvements. Beyond just addressing short-term issues, these types of deliverables help to strengthen the credibility of the intranet team, as well as building momentum for bigger improvements in the future.

For all these reasons, it’s critical to ensure you pick the right improvements. Step Two’s 6×2 methodology provides a robust approach.

Intranet Strategy

Alongside steady enhancements, teams should always have a strategy in hand. The strategy must articulate medium-term goals, the roadmap of projects required to achieve those goals, as well as the necessary funding and resources.

If for no other reason, teams should use their strategy to request funding or resources when budgeting comes around every year. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Intranet Vision

The slowest activity, and the one that requires the greatest thinking, is the future vision. Articulate this whenever possible, building consensus one discussion at a time.

By its nature, a strong vision is speculative, presenting possible futures that are beyond the medium term. It should engage and excite, as well as provide clear "stretch goals" for both the intranet team and the wider business. 

Narrative and imagery are often the most powerful ways of articulating a vision, to avoid creating a bland ‘B-grade science-fiction’ document. Deb Lavoy outlined a practical approach to testing the strength of a narrative. When well done, a future vision document inspires employees and creates a higher level of engagement with your intranet. 

Deliver Fast and Think Slow

Each layer moves at a different speed, from rapid projects to a slowly emerging vision.

Use this model (and the mindset that goes with it) to ensure you’re taking the most productive path to delivering a great digital workplace.

Where does your strength lie? In getting things done, or talking about the distant future? Make a clear self-assessment and then recalibrate your focus so your intranet can have the greatest impact on how the business works.