Using the intranet to inform, engage and inspire your users - ARK Seminar

At the end of last month I was lucky enough to be invited to present and attend the "Using the intranet to inform, engage and inspire your users" seminar organised by the ARK Group.

This seminar was designed as an interactive forum where attendees could listen to a series of case studies from intranet managers from a number of different sectors. My presentation was supposed to be on "Avoiding information overload" but I deviated slightly from this theme and looked instead at some best practices in relation to content management. I also talked about how some of the key information on your intranets (People Information and Policies) could be organised. More on that later.

First I want to talk about the presentations that preceded mine and in particular Angela Rossiters presentation on how they rolled out a new intranet at Linklaters. First though we heard from the Chair of the Seminar; Chris Schilling. Chris talked in some detail about how we can ensure we deliver intranets that provide value to our customers.

In this regard intranets should be designed to serve a number of different purposes. So whilst many of them are displayed primarily as communication channels, they should also be used to reinforce the organisations branding as well as promote value through the use of Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence tools.

To get to this point Chris underlined the importance of identifying Business Strategic requirements. In a nutshell these requirements should identify "What we need to do to meet our goals" and "How do we expect to do that" There are of course detailed requirements that will come out of any new intranet project and these need to be looked at carefully to ensure the intranet fully matches the requirements and the expectations of the organisation. To complete his presentation Chris provide three takeaways, which I think will lead to a successful intranet implementation, they were;

  • To ensure your intranet is user and organisation centric
  • That technology should follow function
  • That you need to define your value proposition and track against that proposition

Next up was Angela Rossiter from Linklaters who outlined the journey Linklaters had taken to implement their new intranet (built using SharePoint). Angela provided a lot of detail around the reasons why Linklaters chose to replace their existing intranet and some of the other business drivers.

For me what was more interesting, was hearing about how they went about replacing their intranet. This started with identifying and asking key stakeholders what they were looking for from a new intranet and subsequently what the scope for the first phase of the intranet should include.

Once the scope had been agreed a strategy and roadmap was prepared, which outlined the different stages of the project and what was and what wasn't in scope. They then looked closely at their requirement list and identified those that could be done and those that would be part of a wishlist for potential future development. I should say now it looks like there was a lot of documentation involved at this stage of the project as requirements had to be documented in different ways dependant on the audience.

After requirements has been agreed, the design could start, this is where things usually get really interesting, unless you're deploying an out of the box intranet, where you may be limited to a set design/templates. Once the design was agreed, it was then time to start building the new intranet, othewise known as where an organisations vision comes to life! Once built there were several tasks that had to be undertaken, including moving content from the old intranet to the new one and setting aside a period of time for both BETA and User Acceptance Testing. The latter of these is very important and Angela recommend a period of at least four weeks for this. Once testing had been completed the intranet could be launched.

Angela then provided us with statistics and feedback around intranet usage and these were it has to be said very impressive. Especially some of the feedback the intranet team had received unrequested from users. On the whole it looks like the intranet at Linklaters has been very well received, but as Angela stressed, rolling out an intranet is only 1/2 the journey, the other 1/2 is ensuring it continues to reflect the requirements of the business and its users.

The final presentation of the day was mine, as unfortunately two other speakers were unable to attend, my talk focused on intranet content management. I haven't included a copy of the presentation here, but I'm happy to share it with anyone who would like to see it.

In the presentation I argued that effective management of content requires:

  • Processes and rules around content creation
  • Motivated and active content providers
  • The right solution/design in place to support the content
  • Owners

But in order for these content owners to continually add content to your intranet, you need to ensure they're engaged fully. There are several ways you can do this; for instance by providing them with a forum in which they can discuss issues. In my presentation I also looked at some of the ways in which People information and Policies can be displayed on intranets. This subject coult take up an entire blog post, so I'm not going to discuss it here.

It's sufficient to say that these are key pieces of information and due care and attention should be given to how you display and maintain this information on your intranet. Overall I thought this was a really informative seminar, it was just a shame the two advertised speakers weren't able to attend. Although this was most likely down to the tube strike rather than anything else.