Anyone who's been through a website migration knows they involve hard work and planning.

Planning an intranet migration is largely the same as planning a website migration — but requires more careful attention in some areas.

The following good practices are the result of a number of projects I worked on with Martin White, managing director of Intranet Focus, including a recent complex intranet migration. 

Where Intranet and Website Migrations Differ

A few differences affect intranet migration planning that do not apply to most other migrations: 

  • Intranets are usually distributed
  • Intranets are usually transactional in nature 
  • Intranets include many different stakeholders

And so the following areas need more attention in intranet migration planning

  • Rollout planning (planning the sequencing of involvement by different teams, since they are usually distributed)
  • Disposition planning (clearly thinking through how different content, applications and sites will be handled in the migration, since there are many integrations to consider)
  • Quality planning (clearly defining the quality levels that are expected and how teams will attain this quality, since stakeholders have different quality expectations)

While it's true that website migrations (especially complex ones) include all of these elements, they require special attention in the case of intranets. 

One underlying aspect must be planned as an anchor of the entire process: content quality. White proposes seven dimensions of quality, but two important considerations from my perspective include: 1) quality is actually in grayscale and not simply a “high quality” and “low quality” option and 2) estimating migration effort level is an effective way to ground discussions of quality (and is related to content inventory).

Distributed Intranets Call For Rollout Planning

Migrations often aim to consolidate a proliferation of sites, but on a single intranet it makes sense to continue having multiple teams, multiple sites and applications, and multiple types of sites and applications after an intranet redesign. Opportunities may arise to streamline and consolidate intranets (and it may even be a primary goal) but you will still have to coordinate multiple teams. 

Although highly related, I draw a line in the sand between rollout planning and migration planning: 

  • Migration planning is how you move content items between platforms 
  • Rollout planning is how you sequence sites (and teams) to the new platform. 

Global rollouts of external web presences (with multiple sites, for example by country) require careful rollout planning, and given their distributed nature, intranets are no different. Doing intranet migration planning without rollout planning would be a mistake. 

A related question is how to launch sites and sections of the site. Two approaches work here: big bang and phased. A big bang launch could still have a backend rollout process that sequences involvement in various teams. 

Any phased launch approach should set in place a redirect engine to ease the transition (and reduce confusion) when both old and new pages are being served. 

Intranets' Transactional Nature Necessitates Disposition Planning

Although some rudimentary intranets may be purely informational in nature, most are fairly transactional, involving a variety of integrations between the core intranet and other systems. 

The collaborative nature of most intranets implies that a wide range of potential dispositions for both the content and sites exist. While simpler migrations may only need simple dispositions such as “delete,” “move as-is” and “edit,” intranets often demand more complex dispositions.

Format plays a big role as well, to aid the intranet in supporting work getting done. External websites also rely on format to help visitors accomplish what they need to accomplish, but this point becomes more pronounced on intranets since employees often use them as dumping grounds of PDFs — a less than ideal format for getting work done. 

Agree on Quality Standards

Virtually all the stakeholders of an intranet migration are insiders — the “visitors” are the same people as contributors and site owners. A methodical approach to stakeholder involvement prevents a proliferation of junk or inconsistent quality. Consider the wide range of audiences on the intranet, from top executives to junior staff. A clear and compelling vision, and a well thought out rollout plan that helps to sequence the implementation will support all of the different stakeholders. 

For those familiar with my writing on website migrations, a lot of this will sound familiar — most of the aspects also apply to intranets. That said, pay special attention to rollout planning, defining dispositions and quality. 

Read more of White's and my intranet migrations good practices.

Title image "Le Jeweler" (CC BY 2.0) by  felideni