Our last post focused on the planning stages of deployment. With those foundations in place, it’s time to tackle phase two of your social intranet success strategy with these ten essential implementation steps to create the best intranet possible for your workforce.
It’s important not to rush your project or cut corners – the length of time this stage takes may vary depending on what product you are using and what you are trying to achieve.
1. Get to know your users inside-out
It really pays to do some research into the types of information your users need. This will mean you can design an intranet based around real needs, rather than what you think they might want. There is an abundance of useful data and techniques you can use to get to know your workforce, including using metrics to see which parts of your old intranet worked and which didn’t, running focus groups for different parts of your company or organizing a general survey to gather information and obtain feedback.
One of the easiest approaches can also be the most effective: chat with staff, but instead of asking them about the intranet, ask them about their jobs and how they do them. They’ll have the opportunity to share a lot of insights into their working practices that will present you with ideas and opportunities. Employees who feel that they made some kind of contribution to the intranet are far more likely to want to use it, and to tell their colleagues about it.
2. Identify areas of value
By this stage certain areas and features of obvious value to your new intranet should emerge. The focus of this process should be to help employees in their everyday work as well as to deliver organizational-level benefits.
Typical areas or features of value might be:
● CEO communications via news items or a blog
● Business area sites delivering relevant information to the employees in that section of the organization
● Location of experts throughout your organization via the directory of employee profiles
● Place for sales teams to share leads and stories
● Area for all HR related information, including orientation for new hires
● Central place for your organization’s official policies and procedures, and for all your brand and marketing collateral
● Places for project teams to interact
● Social groups for staff who want their own space on the intranet
And then there’s the perennial favorite on virtually all intranets…the latest staff cafeteria menu!
3. Create an advocate network and encourage early adopters
It’s worth creating your advocate network well in advance of launch. These enthusiastic individuals from all parts of the company will act both as local champions to promote the intranet, and as local experts. They should provide input into the design and content, which will further build up momentum and excitement.
Make sure you encourage these early adopters! Their experiments can produce some of the most valuable areas, providing essential insight into what works, as well as generating success stories that can be used to promote your new social intranet.
Advocate or champion networks play a key role on the ground in global or geographically widespread organizations, where it is impossible for a small central intranet team to promote the new platform in every location.
4. Identify sites and communities (and assign owners)
Sites and communities are the bread and butter than can make your social intranet truly impactful.
• A community or group will likely be project-based or departmental. These colleagues need a place where they can swap updates, have discussions, share resources, ask questions and collaborate on ideas.
• A site is often based more on content, with separate areas for news, documents, events and other features; it might also include a space for discussions, depending on your intranet software.
Assign a business owner for each site or group, and possibly an additional person who is going to manage that site on a day-to-day basis. Try to get a good cross-section of sites and communities that have different users, such as some non-business groups.
5. Create a balanced homepage
Of all the areas of your intranet, the one that’s probably most important to get right is your homepage. This is the place your employees will see every day when they log in, and it’s also likely the area on which your stakeholders will judge you. So spend some time on it!
As a rule, make sure your homepage:
● Creates a good balance between different elements, e.g. corporate news, social activity, operational content and “fun” items
● Is aesthetically pleasing and uses relevant images
● Is not so dense with content that it becomes overwhelming
● Is tested for reaction with both users and stakeholders
6. Start to populate key areas
This can be one of the most time-consuming activities in creating your new platform, so it’s best to start as early as possible! This process may involve migrating content from your old intranet or from a bunch of documents sitting on a shared drive; it will also likely require creating new content from scratch.
Spend the time to ensure that only truly relevant content goes onto your new intranet, which will send the positive message that your intranet will be useful and valuable.
7. Populate employee profiles
People are the lifeblood of organizations, and they’re at the heart of your social intranet. Ensure everyone has an individual employee profile from the outset. You will find this to be one of the most-used parts of the intranet, helping employees to find the right people and to get to know each other.
Organize the pre-population of employee profiles with the right contact and job information and, if possible, individual employee photos. This may feed directly from your existing Directory or, if you had an existing intranet with employee profiles, you may need to work with your IT and HR folk to see if you can migrate content over.
8. Develop policies around usage
Two central tenets of any social intranet usage policy are: 1) don’t allow anonymous posting, and 2) have a mechanism to report any questionable content. Most organizations have found that putting both these measures in place greatly reduces the chance of any problems around misuse, but you’ll need a policy that covers processes and the legal side of things in the event of someone misusing the intranet.
When actually rolling out the intranet, make sure you focus on a simple communication to users. This might list five or six simple rules or tips that spell out the major things to consider in using the social intranet. This usually involves being respectful, not mentioning confidential data, avoiding any copyright issues, etc.
9. Coach owners and managers
In preparation for launch day, you’ll need to train owners and managers, define their responsibilities, let them know what is expected of them and communicate best practices. For example, those responsible for community areas should know the basics of community management, while site managers should know the importance of tagging content and discussions.
You’ll almost certainly want to create some resources to help everybody. Housing these in a dedicated support site on the intranet itself where site and community managers can also swap ideas, tips and tricks is often the way to go.
10. Make a communication plan and create targeted materials
Like any internal launch of enterprise software, you’ll need a communications plan. Reach out via multiple channels, including things like videos and posters, or socialize your launch with a special treat, like branded chocolates!
If your internal communications team isn’t already involved in your intranet, it’s worth leveraging their skills for the launch – you want to make sure the whole organization knows about your social intranet.
Deploying Your Intranet on Launch Day
Ready to deploy your intranet? Read our last part of our Best Practice series: 5 Tips to Deploy Your Intranet on Launch Day- Part 3 of 3