Evaluating Intranet Solutions

There have many times where our clients will ask us what the typical steps are for evaluating intranet solutions. We've put together the following article to guide you in your search with the tangible steps for evaluating intranet solutions and questions you should be asking. We have mapped these with the steps identified in our complimentary article, 5 Steps to Launching a Successful Intranet: Researching, Navigating, Customizing, Pre-Launch, and Launch.

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Researching Intranet Solutions

When initially researching intranet solutions, as mentioned in our previous article, you will want to establish your business objectives, and understand the different definitions, and language used to describe aspects of those intranet solutions. For example, different providers may refer to integrations, while others (including Noodle) might be more open to connecting to external applications via HTML, iFrames and Javascript or opening web applications in frame via external links.

Another key difference in more modern software is the introduction of the social intranet. The social intranet allows for all users to create and share content, encouraging more free flowing and horizontal communication, as opposed to a top-down communication model. Some clients' business objectives align with a more social intranet, while others are seeking a more traditional intranet solution. In some instances, the platform might fall in one of these categories, while others, like Noodle, allow for permission control, that can be adjusted accordingly.

At this stage you will want to gather a prospect list, and note the features that are offered by various providers. Previous clients have also taken this time to put together a survey around what features are important to circulate to colleagues. The priority at this point is to build a consideration set list of intranet solutions, a feature wishlist and establish criteria to judge against. Some crucial aspects you will likely want to consider would be the pricing, features, ease of use, deployment (on-premise vs cloud intranet), flexibility and support offered.

While you will have an opportunity to dive into the features, ease of use, flexibility, and support at later stages, you will want to get a good sense of the pricing, and deployment options at this point. Your choice of deployment will likely affect your pricing and possibly the available features. In most instances, our customers will go through the process of evaluating both the cloud and on-premise intranet options. However, some will rule out one option from the beginning of the evaluation process based on compliance requirements or their company preference.

Typically once these lists are generated, our clients have provided us their requirements list as a Request For Proposal (RFP) for our review. In these instances we check off items, so you can get a first impression of which intranet solutions closely match your feature wish list and criteria.

This leads us to the next step.

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Navigating Intranet Solutions

Although having vendors fill out an RFP will help in the initial vetting to eliminate those that do not come close to meeting your criteria, you will want to ensure you have a large enough list to test out different intranet solutions firsthand. Scheduling a demo is the best way to evaluate whether the intranet solution will be a good fit. With a demo you will be able to have your questions addressed and can better assess which intranet solutions can achieve your business objectives. You will likely find that different vendors achieve the same result in different ways. Sometimes this will be a matter of preference, while other times there will be a clear advantage or disadvantage to one option. Starting a trial is the second best option for evaluating different softwares. If you have any questions during your trial period, you should be sure to reach out to the provider. This will also give you a first impression on their level of support. Also check for online resources such as guides or video tutorials to see the amount of instruction readily available when you or your users try to accomplish something on your social intranet.

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Customizing Intranet Solutions

Once you have gone through the process of researching, and navigating through the intranet platform, either guided with a demo, or discovering it yourself with a trial, you will want to begin customizing it to your specifications. Our clients often follow their initial demo, by building up their trial site structure further themselves or by sending their desired structure and specifications to our Noodle Advisors to create. Once this is completed, the next step is typically to schedule a second demonstration to show the changes made to the site, and to invite additional stakeholders to view a demo with the more polished site. This version of the site should reveal a lot more of the functionality of the intranet solution, and show how it would specifically address your company's business objectives. This step should consist of the most back and forth between you and the intranet provider with revisions and tweaks to the site, and thus this is another opportunity to gauge the level and quality of support you will receive. At the conclusion of this step is the final decision making process, including the preferred deployment, storage and user options. This is the time you would want to review your original criteria and compare how each providers offering measures up, considering the weight of crucial elements to achieve your business objectives. Our clients would then be sent a final proposal, and an invoice upon approval. By now your evaluation should shift from feature focused to the support provided.

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Pre-Launch

At the pre-launch stage the back and forth between your company and intranet provider should continue. You certainly do not want to have your support seemingly disappear following your decision. At this time, your users and documents should be imported, as well as permissions set, so that at launch each user can see their respective sections on the site, and do not have access to privileged information from other departments, teams, or users. Much of the logistical pieces come together at this point, and having a dedicated account manager on hand is crucial. They can provide insight on what uses different teams or departments might have for the intranet, such as the human resources uses, or sales and marketing uses.

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Launch

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, at the launch phase, you will also want to assess the support, both live, and help documentation. Best practices can guide you in having a successful launch. Employee engagement is an important aspect at this step, and activities that promote this can help immensely to get buy in and increase adoption. It is also a good idea to gather feedback from your users at this time to evaluate successes and identify possible improvements. Building and maintaining an intranet is an ongoing process and there are many articles that can offer inspiration, such as how to name your intranet, or how to refresh your intranet periodically (especially in those summer months when employees often take vacations). While these articles are a great resource, your intranet provider should also act as a resource, with up to date and firsthand information on how to make the most of your intranet.

If you would like some more related information, you may want to read our article on the 5 steps to launching an intranet.

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