The Communicator’s Guide to Building a Corporate Intranet: Part 1
For years, organizations have struggled with their intranets. These platforms, frequently and rightfully built out by IT departments, often start out being primarily for content and document management and storage, but then evolve into unwieldy, difficult-to-use behemoths. This can happen when too many business units access the site for their own particular purpose, giving rise to an “Intranet” inconsistent in style, organization and usability. Fast forward to now, and companies large and small are struggling with aging systems that have become impractical and ineffective.
This does not have to be the case.
With the emergence of new intranet solutions and other employee communications tools, companies now have the opportunity to rethink how to create a top-notch and modern intranet that allows employees to easily and quickly access information, content, communications, tools and systems.
But where to start? Who should take ownership of such a daunting project? Should IT be the sponsor and the party responsible for seeing it through, or should some other business unit be the one? Should the company stick with the current intranet technology backbone in place, or replace or supplement it with another solution? How does one get their hands around all the content, tools and systems that have grown over the years into the current intranet platform and weed it down to only the necessary? What does an excellent intranet employee end-user experience look like and how can you ensure that a new intranet will really address the difficulties and challenges that presently exist? How will it be possible to get so many people to let go of something they have used for years and change their ways of doing things?
These are all important questions that need to be addressed. The good news is, there are answers for all of them, and the process for rethinking a new corporate intranet does not have to be as daunting as it may seem at first.
Our five-part series, starting with this article, will serve as a guide. We’ll address each of these questions and provide practical steps to design and implement an amazing new intranet through which all employees — including the more than 3 billion individuals in the world who don’t work sitting at a desk — can access information, news, communications, tools, systems and processes in a way that is intuitive, familiar, easy, convenient and even fun — making for an excellent, more effective and efficient end-user intranet experience.
A Partnership Made in Heaven: Communications and IT
First things first: let’s talk about who should own the project. The short and easy answer is, building an intranet should be a partnership between the communications team and IT.
Human Resources should also be involved, given the importance of their content to employees. Marketing will definitely want to have a voice in the discussion, as will other knowledge management and operational teams. Nevertheless, since it is most likely those in communications who will be responsible for managing, or at least overseeing, the content after launch — helping to ensure consistent style and organization going forward — it makes sense that the communications team take the lead, in partnership with IT.
IT should understand organizational needs with issues such as database management, security and the technology infrastructure available that needs to remain in place. They are the ones who will be responsible for the technical aspects of the intranet, such as the hardware, software and network infrastructure.
Communications professionals, on the other hand, understand content, how to organize it and what employees need most. Ultimately, Communications will be responsible for maintaining and updating the intranet to meet employee needs. Working together, IT and Communications are best suited to advance and modernize intranet platforms to ensure that all employees are able to obtain information and communications relevant to them, through the most convenient channel, based on who and where they are in an organization.
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Now that we know who should run the show, it’s time to get into the fun stuff of strategizing, concepting, building and then launching a new intranet. To do this, I have broken the process down into seven steps, each critical to the success of the platform. We’ll tackle the first one today, and the remaining steps in the rest of the series.
Setting Objectives, Understanding Challenges and Pinning Pain Points
The covid-19 pandemic, which upended nearly every kind of workplace, has led many organizations, large and small, to realize their internal communications and transparency could use an overhaul. In the past few years, complaints began to surface at every level regarding the difficulty employees were having obtaining necessary information to do their jobs.. Moreover, with so many working from home, in-person communications drastically declined and employees were often left out of touch with what was taking place in their companies.
To address this, companies have been forced to review their employee communications tools and to evaluate them not just from the productivity and efficiency standpoint, but also from the employee experience point of view to ensure transparency and demonstrate continued empathy and workplace support — especially in hybrid work environments.
Many companies I work with have identified common challenges and pain points they are looking to address through a reassessment of their intranet and other employee communications technologies:
- Old technologies no longer scalable to workforces that have grown significantly over the years.
- Desire for bona fide intranet for all.
- Inability to reach/communicate with employees who are not desk-bound.
- Disparate systems — desire for a single place to obtain all content and communications.
- Perpetuate culture/create connections when not in person.
- Need more or more accurate data to inform important business decisions.
- Unable to communicate simultaneously with all employees and/or segmented groups of employees.
- Desire to create more relevant and personalized communications with different employee audiences.
- Ineffective search capability.
- Shared understanding and clarity surrounding business plans and priorities.
- Increased brand affinity to support employee retention goals.
- Streamline communications organization-wide.
- Reduce email overload.
The good news – the current state of the intranet and employee communications application technology market has grown significantly over the years with solution providers/vendors addressing these challenges.
In the next installment, we’ll take a deep look at our audience, digging into organizational structure, employee demographics, user segmentation and more.
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About the Author
Jeff Corbin has worked as a communications consultant for more than 20 years. Passionate about transforming internal communications through the use of technology, he was the founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile where he pioneered the use of mobile technology in the United States with respect to a new category of technology — employee apps. Connect with Jeff Corbin: