Many organizations spend a small fortune building their intranets. They’re often based on very detailed specifications and take a long time to implement – so successful rollouts and decent user adoption are causes for celebration. And then, the years roll by …until a once-innovative intranet really starts to show its age. You might be faced with this challenge – but do you know what to do about it?
The thrill is gone
Building an intranet can take the same effort as building a software application. Millions of dollars are spent getting the first version up and running, and (hopefully) meeting end user needs. Then hundreds of thousands more are spent each year keeping it stable, reliable and fully operational.
Organizations with small or overstretched IT departments (and for that matter software companies) often struggle with this problem. They never get the next generation of their intranet (or product) out the door, because they are spending too much energy and resources keeping the first one going.
The good news for intranet owners, though, is that once they recognize they have a problem, sprucing up an intranet is much easier than coming up with V2 of a software application.
Telltale signs of aging…
- It looks old. If a company’s intranet looks the same as it did four years ago, that’s a problem. Knowledge workers expect a user experience comparable to what they see on the web every day. If an intranet looks old, the assumption is that the content is also old.
- It’s not mobile friendly. If site metrics show that nobody accesses the intranet from anywhere other than their desktop, it’s not because they don’t want to. More likely, it’s because they can’t.
- The content is stale. User adoption is a responsibility shared between an organization as a whole and its IT resources. As they said in that baseball movie, “build it, and they will come.” That’s often true, but they will only come back if they find up-to-date and relevant information. Poorly designed publishing functions or lack of easy to use data import capabilities are often the root cause of user abandonment.
- It’s not authoritative. Intranets are supposed to eliminate information silos – but instead, they often become yet another silo. The 80/20 rule applies. Intranets need to facilitate access to all the quality information an individual could reasonably expect to find. Otherwise, what’s the point?
- It’s hard to search. Keyword searching and relevancy ranking is no longer enough. Ask Google. The same key words probably show up in almost every document or page on your intranet. In a solar energy company, for example, the words “solar,” “cell,” and “battery” could exist in every document. How is a keyword search helpful in that case? Organizations should apply a taxonomy to the intranet that helps users find the relevant needles in the haystack.
Wondering what to do?
Starting over from scratch is not an option. Even migrating to the next version of your intranet’s platform technology is probably cost prohibitive. After all, isn’t that why you’re still running SharePoint 2010?
Leverage what you have:
Gather some important – but easy to identify – data points about usage and user preferences. By default, an existing intranet delivers a minimum level of functionality. In addition, your users likely have well known (feedback, anyone?) but unmet requirements for features and capabilities, and listing those will fill in the blanks. As for user experience (UX) issues, meeting those is the major driver of migration to an up-to-date (and continually updated!) intranet solution.
If your intranet is showing its age, make some calls – perhaps to Lucidea. For example, in the legal sector, our LawPort platform can leverage what you’ve already built and give it a powerful makeover — without significant expense.
Nips and tucks ….
You don’t need to spend a lot of cycles coming up with a new detailed specification for your next intranet. Look at what your current solution does well, duplicate that, but with up-to-date technology; describe what it doesn’t do (or doesn’t do well), find a solution to address those needs – and make sure you select an application that is flexible and easily extensible so that future requirements and preferences are quickly achievable.
Go for it. What have you got to lose?
Susan Hanley is one of the leading experts on using Office 365 and SharePoint for knowledge management and collaboration, emphasizing the people side
Heidi K. Gardner studies collaboration between highly autonomous, powerful knowledge workers such as partners in professional service firms…
KM thought leaders have proven strategies to share with knowledge managers implementing KM programs; read about ISO KM Standard 30401
KM thought leaders have proven strategies to share with knowledge managers implementing KM programs; use collaboration and dialogue as agents of change