You’ll hear it all over the place. One of the most important parts of implementing and launching a company intranet is the pre-planning stage. These are steps that come long before even choosing a vendor. Although having the proper product and support is invaluable, you will have more success choosing the right vendor with having a proper plan in place. With all the product options (and number of features available in each product) on the market, it can be daunting to know where to start, want what to look for. There are a lot of helpful blogs discussing this process (like this one!) but some are filled with jargon or address situations or needs that do not fit your business.
In this blog, we will look at useful tips to plan your intranet project in layman terms to help give you a quick strong start on your journey. Again, we will be focusing on the “pre-planning” meaning we will not be discussing how to choose a vendor (as we touched on in this previous blog) or launching an intranet (also covered in this blog.) So let’s get started!
1. Identifying Needs
The discussion of launching (or improving) an intranet was likely spawned from at least one problem. Maybe sharing documents over a shared drive isn’t an option anymore as you are hiring more remote employees that wouldn’t have access to your local servers, so a cloud solution is required. But while researching different solutions for this (such as Dropbox, Office 365, Google Drive etc) you found that you also need a way to share calendar information with these employees. How do we communicate with these employees in a collaborative space? Thus, the search for an intranet solution begins. Before you move any further from this step, you should take inventory of these needs and prioritize them based on the most urgent need to least. Don’t look for solutions right away (that’s our job) but rather look at the problems you would like to solve. Is your company experiencing growth? Going through corporate changes and need more effective communication? Are your employees spending more time trying to find information, rather than getting work done? Think about, discuss and record all current operational holes that may be able to be improved by a company intranet.
2. Areas of Improvement
After discovering your urgent needs, you can start to look at what current processes you have that maybe able to be improved by an intranet. These are things that may not be the highest priority, but could still improve the culture and morale of your office or make your employees job easier. Do you want do display a calendar of all employees birthdays? Post status updates of what they are working on in real time? Provide information for company events? Allows employees to share photos of their family and vacations with each other? Allow users to buy/sell items using a classified ad system? These type of things help get the employees engaged on the intranet and improves morale and communication by helping the employees get to know each other and communicate better, especially if they are not located in the same office.
3. Planning Committee
Sometimes the task of planning an intranet falls into the hands of one or two people. Regardless of this, you should try to include as many others as you can for, at least, the research stage. Let’s say you work in HR and are tasked with researching an intranet platform. Immediately you may be able to identify and record all the tools that would be useful to you and your department. But, you may miss some needs or concerns from the Marketing team, or sales team. Training may want to have different features to communicate with new employees. Even if they cannot donate their time to the planning process, a brief discussion with a member of each participating group should be included to identify the needs of employees from all over the company. This can be done in the form of one on one or groups discussions, surveys or suggestion boxes. A simple and useful way to gather information from these employees is asking: who the audience is (Sales, Manager, Accounting etc.), what they would like to do (Share documents, post blogs etc.) and the resulting benefit (improve communication, provide up to date information etc.)
4. Set Goals
Once you have identified everyone’s requirements (or reasons why you need an intranet), you can put together some overall goals for your intranet. This will help you when choosing how to accomplish these goals. List your goals and objectives of your intranet and use this to plan what you will need to meet these goals. This could be applications or tools, or change in company culture. Since you have gathered information from different stakeholders, you will notice that some users will have different needs. With those needs, are there any conflicts that could cause issues in implementing these goals? What other obstacles could arise from a desired solution? How can you overcome these problems/conflicts? With a clear list of goals and and overview of needs/wants and challenges, you will be better prepared for the next step. Also included in the goals, could be a timeline or schedule of the intranet project. This could outline the following steps, the timeline to choose a vendor, building the site and migrating content, adding users and launching the intranet.
5. Site Map and Applications
There are some vendor specific applications, but in general, it’s good to have a plan of what type of applications you would like to have on your intranet to help accomplish the goals you set in the previous step. Do you want a blog? Document folders are normally a must. Use an intranet calendar, or continue to use your Outlook calendar? Media album? You can use the Noodle “Features” page to help give you an idea of different applications available in a typical intranet.
6. Set Groups and Access
What type of intranet groups do you want to include. Groups may be used for messaging and sorting employees, setting access rights, and for workflow steps and notifications. The access rights are also very important as you should know A) What content to show to each group? B) Who should be able to add content or make changes? C) Who will administrate or manage the site/sections? Is there content you want to keep private? Other than privacy, keep in mind that ‘less is more’ and it could be beneficial to restrict access to information that is not just private, but irrelevant to the employee. For example, a training person doesn’t necessarily need access to the content from the Account team’s section/page. So it may be best to remove their access to avoid confusion. Users will utilize the intranet more if they are seeing specific content related to their work, and not seeing content that is irrelevant to them.
7. Take Action
You have a clear defined goal and path for your intranet project. It’s time to dive into the deep water of finding the best intranet solution for your business. Start with speaking to a Noodle Technical Consultant to find out how Noodle may be the best product for your venture. The consultant will be happy to provide you with advice and guidance and walk you through a free demonstration of how Noodle can help you achieve your goals, improve your employee morale and receive a high return on investment.