Managing an intranet - what would you do?

I've been in my current post for just over two years and have been thinking about what I've achieved in that time. That time has certainly flown by, but I'm able to point at some tangible improvements I've made to both the intranet and to our enterprise search tool.

When I joined my current firm I'd never managed an intranet before, although I'd been heavily involved in looking after my previous firms intranet it had never officially been my job. So starting here and actually managing an intranet has meant quite a steep learning curve. So now we come to the real core of this blog post. What should you do if you're both new to an organisation and new to managing intranets? Here are my suggestions, these are by no means perfect and I'm certain more experienced managers will have other suggestions.
  1. Get to know your intranet. This doesn't mean understanding the technology. When I joined I didn't have training on the CMS for two weeks so couldn't get hold of the technology before then. This means understanding how your intranet works from a user perspective. What content is available where and how it's used. At its most basic this will involve spending some time navigating the intranet but it could also involve surveying intranet users, shadowing users or arranging focus groups.
  2. Understand the technology. As soon as you've had training (if required) you should start to look more closely at the technology that it is being used to manage your intranet. This doesn't just mean understanding how the CMS works but where and how it's integrated with other applications. So that might be an enterprise search tool, your DMS or your HR system. Understanding how each of the systems "talks" to each other will help you understand how the intranet works in more detail. Having said that some of the stuff on the intranet seems to happen by magic, so although you can try and understand how AD works, it's probably best to leave that to your IT Team.
  3. Get to know your editors. If you've got a de-centralised publishing model then I recommend getting in touch with the intranet editors to introduce yourself and to see if they have any issues that need resolving. You might find that by doing so you identify individuals who require additional training or actually don't need to be an editor anymore. Another worthwhile exercise if there isn't already a document which lists responsibilities is to create one. There always seems to be a few intranet pages that fall between the cracks, so identifying these quickly will help when someone needs them updated urgently.
  4. Get to know the organisation you're working for. This goes hand in hand with point one really. By looking at your intranet pages you can get a good idea about the culture and values of the firm and perhaps more importantly the firms strategy. For example is the firm looking to collaborate more, if so how could the intranet help. Does the firm what to integrate overseas offices more closely, if so how could the intranet help? It's also good at this point to try and identify what teams and individuals use the intranet regularly to see if you can identify an intranet champion/champions. Having an intranet champion will help you promote the value of the intranet to all users.
  5. Identify some quick wins. It's great to have a long term plan for the intranet, but when you first start a new role and especially where your managing what might be a new technology, it's great to be able to implement a very visible improvement. For example are there a group of pages that could do with updating. Is there something within the people search that could be changed to improve the search. Implementing these quick wins will help raise your profile within the organisation and show that you're passionate about making the intranet as valuable as possible. Of course they're only quick wins and there may well be more significant issues that you need to look at as part of the long term intranet strategy.
Those are my five tips for anyone who has just started managing an intranet. Please feel free to comment on any of these of suggest others.