The New Age of Intranets Planning Corporate Communications

When you’re in corporate communications, your job is communication first, technology second. Of course you need the right technology for your intranet (among all of the other things you do), but that technology is a means to an end. What your career is built on is the communications.

When the corp comms group owns the intranet -- as is true for many enterprises -- they aim to provide an intranet filled with engaging, relevant content that truly enhances the experience for employees. On an easy-to-use platform that lets the team focus on communications and not the hassles of daily updates.

Those of you who are actually in charge of intranet content as part of your job are laughing right now. That’s a unicorn, right? No such thing. 

If you can’t achieve perfection (and I’m not saying you can’t -- just for the sake of argument), then how do you create something even close to that ideal? And how do you partner effectively with the technology members who will be core to the success of your project -- both for launch and well beyond?

There's a lot of topics to explore as the new age of intranets dawns. This month let's focus on the planning side for publishers. Over the next couple of months, we'll cover strategy, design and development as part this new era.

Start with 'Simple' Questions

First off, there are several deceptively simple questions to ask yourself and your teams. I say “deceptively” because it’s well worth spending weeks, talking with multiple groups, to understand the answers throughout your company. Be thorough and be honest. Get input from all stakeholders to get a full view:

  • What is the current state of your internal comms tools? Think beyond your intranet.

  • What are the guiding principles? What is the purpose you wish your next intranet to serve? 

  • What tasks do you need to start doing to achieve the vision? Often these are cultural questions. 

  • Similar to the previous point, what do you need to stop doing, to achieve this new vision of the intranet? How are you getting in the way of yourselves?
Start Stop
Unifying tools Doing duplicate work because systems aren’t integrated
Using contextual enterprise social tools for smarter collaboration Using email for document backup
Reevaluating processes for opportunities to use technology to streamline Having a negative point of view about changes in technology

The list could go on.

Tremendous benefits can be gained by taking the time to conduct a deep internal exploration of your company culture around collaboration and communication. What are you doing today? Where do you want to go? Business owners will share the vision, in partnership with the technologists to provide the context and explanation of the foundation of their systems, technology needs and how their intranet fits into the enterprise-wide technology use and roadmap.

Next Steps

Once you’ve explored the first set of questions, the project should go deeper, into the planning and envisioning phase. 

Think bigger

Give yourself a little distance from your current day-to-day experience with your intranet, which may have some clear pain points that you are trying to address, so you can prioritize your needs. Those pain points are important, and they are part of the bigger story.

Be creative

You know -- no bad idea in a brainstorm. If you can get a clear picture of what you want and need, you will have a significantly better chance of getting there than if you start with everything you can’t do -- whether due to technology, time constraints or costs.

A subset of this: Ignore technology, at first.

Don’t start by picking your platform. If you are not knowledgeable about IT, then it may be tempting to get that decision out of the way. Maybe your IT team has a solution they already prefer, and are lobbying for it. It’s a good idea to include your IT team, while also not worrying too much about platforms and limitations thereof initially. Focus first on the users’ needs and your business goals. Don’t rush the strategic part of the process -- that’s the most critical step. The right technology decisions will follow.

Build the team  

Having the right team members in place can ensure that all aspects of the project are properly represented. Many an intranet project has failed in a silo. One of the first actions of this team is to create the RACI chart for the project. 

Step by step

Break the project into phases if you can -- and create breathing space in between to capture key learnings from one phase before moving on to the next. The vision and the roadmap, along with some quick wins that prove you’re on track, establish the foundation for even greater success. KPIs are your friends. Use them well and they will provide fodder for your well-deserved raise and promotion.

Intranets aren't new. The term has a lot of baggage, filled with the broken dreams of collaboration and communication. Overcoming that baggage is essential. The great news is, there’s no better group than the corporate communications group to figure out how to communicate the great new intranet that they have collaborated effectively to launch. Stay tuned next month for our new age of intranets.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image cropped from original by  Sam Howzit