blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

February 28, 2011

Exploring intranet governance

Filed under: Governance — frederique @ 2:30

When we build an intranet, collaboration environment or any other system, we don’t just want it to look good when we launch it. Cracking open the bottle of champagne on the bow of our gleaming new intranet is one thing. But what happens once she has set sail and is navigating the shoals of real life usage?

We’ve build the intranet – or whatever other system we built – to achieve a goal: to increase productivity and employee satisfaction, be compliant with legal rules, save money by saving time, travel and paperwork …
Therefore we firstly have to build the intranet in such a way that it can reach that goal: it needs a steering wheel, a compass, streamlining, a good engine or sails, or it won’t be able to get anywhere. It needs to be governable.
And secondly we have to set up processes  and organizational structures  to direct the intranet: who takes the wheel, where will we navigate, who takes care of the engines, anybody watching out for icebergs in the middle of the night? It needs governance.

Let me explore some aspects of an intranet, what we launched, what can go wrong afterwards and how we can govern that.


What does the intranet offer the user: functionality

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed, such as…

Required: We determined what functionality was needed and made sure that worked when we launched it

Is it all still working?

Find out: Set up a contact for users to report issues
(please note: users don’t know if something actually is a bug in the intranet. They just see that it is not working as they expected)

Decide and plan: Appoint an intranet management person or team who prioritizes big issues.

Do it: Set up tech support who fixes bugs

Understandable: We made everything as user-friendly as possible and included Help and training in the launched intranet.

Do the users know what they can do and how to do it?
Is it really as understandable as it is supposed to be?

Find out: Appoint champions and set up a helpdesk who can answer the users’ questions, and let them capture the questions. Conduct usability tests.

Decide and plan: Determine who is responsible for help and training. Make a communication plan and training plan, and guidelines for the help and training content.

Do it: The champions and helpdesk answer the questions. An editor (role) updates and adds to the help and training content. A trainer gives real life training, remotely or in class. A communicator points out interesting functionality in blogs, newsletters etc.

We may have postponed part of the functionality to a later phase, or we may have missed something that turns out to be important.

Is something important missing, at the highest level, for all users?

Find out: Conduct user research. The helpdesk and champions know what is asked or complained about.

Decide and plan: The intranet owner / steering committee decides at a high level what major changes or additions will be carried out, in a release planning. A general guideline is that it has to fit the vision and current functionality of the intranet, and it has to be done with the standard development method.

Do it: A development team does a project for this.

 

Is something missing at a lower level (e.g the level of a teamsite) for a small group of users?

Find out: These users request a functional solution.

Decide and plan: A solutions manager decides, based on a business case. Guidelines: For this, stick to no code solutions that do not need anyone directly on the server. And follow the best practices that have been established for such solutions on this intranet.

Do it: A business solutions team carries out the project at the front end.

 

Is the current functionality still relevant?

Find out:Statistics and user research.

Decide and plan: The day-to-day intranet manager or the high level intranet owner (depending on the importance) decide what can be removed or made less prominent.

Do it: A tech support or functional support team carries out the change.


What does the intranet offer the users: content

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

On launch, the intranet does not have that much content yet. The contributors add that later.

Is the relevant content available and up-to-date?

Find out: Allow the user to contact the owner of the section where content is missing or outdated (by clicking a button or by calling the listed contact person). Periodically check the most important content. Check the search statistics for missing content.

Decide and plan: Determine who owns the content, in particular important central content, who is allowed to add or edit it, and which content requires approval by whom. This very much depends on the content and the section of the intranet. Is anyone supervising at a higher level, via a reminder and escalation mechanism?

Do it: Editiorial teams for central content (such as corporate news, HR info). Give enough people contributor permission.

Is the new content readable?

Find out: Allow the users to give feedback via a rating system. Conduct research.

Decide and plan: The authors and editorial teams are responsible for their own content. Is there some overall editorial board that checks the quality of the content? The authors get guidelines for writing on the intranet.

Do it: The authors and editiorial teams make sure their content is readable, by following the guidelines and using tools like a spell checker, wysisyg layout editors, Flesch readability index etc.

Records management: records are a special case. We may have included special functionality like automated document ID and policy management when we built for compliance

In practice, are the records created and managed according to the rules?

Find out: Records owners or managers will have to check before the auditor arrives.

Decide and plan: A records management plan guides the record manager – in general or for a specific domain .

Do it: Check and perform the tasks that the automated routing, archiving and disposal actions generate.


What does the intranet offer the users: team sites

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

We work with SharePoint and that allows the users to create new sites after the launch, without involving a developer. We provide templates for that.

Is the new site necessary or is there already a site available for that purpose?

Does the new team site fit the rest of the intranet /collaboration environment?

Find out: Let users request a new site instead of directly create it. Check if it is necessary.

Decide and plan: Make a Content Lifecycle Management (CLM) plan. The day-to-day intranet management team approves the request, following the CLM plan. The owner of the new site then has to adhere to the guidelines or best practices for site use.

Do it: Create sites automatically from the selected template after the request has been approved. The new site owner configures the site to fit the needs of his team, adhering to the guidelines. The day-to-day intranet management teams monitors this.

Is the site still relevant, or is it just cluttering up the intranet?

Find out: Periodic automated check for sites that have nog been used a specified period (e.g. 6 months).

Decide and plan: A house keeping plan that allows the day-to-day intranet team to do these checks, and to deal with exceptions.

Do it: For example, the day-to-day intranet management team every 6 months gets a list of ‘dead sites’, contacts the site owners and delete sites that are not explicitly said to be still useful.


How do they find it: findability

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

It only makes sense to offer the users anything if they can find it. So in the development project, we paid serious attention to the findability

Can the users really find the functionality and content?

Find out: Conduct user research and check the statistics (If a site that we think is important never gets visited, the reason may be that the users cannot find it. Or it is just not that important after all).

Decide and plan: The intranet owner is ultimately responsible for the findability. The could ask the day-to-day intranet management team or a specific “findability expert” to monitor and fix it.

Do it: Who does what to improve the findability depends on the solution for the problem.It should, as much as possible, be something that can be done at the front-end, by non-developers.


How do they find it: information architecture

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

During development we’ve designed and implemented a good, user-friendly IA: a clear and efficient structure where the most important items are most prominent and everything fits in a category that makes sense.

Do new items (sites, articles, functionality) fit in the information architecture?
Does the information architecture still fit reality (naming, structure)? For instance, elements that reflect the organisational structure are no longer correct after a reorganisation. New k knowledge domains or products need to be added.

Find out: Conduct user research to check for clarity. Check if people who add items know where to put them. Keep an eye on developements in the organisation.

Decide and plan: The intranet owner decides on major changes or additions in the (portal) structure. The could ask the day-to-day intranet management team or a specific “findability expert” to monitor and fix it.

Do it: Who does what to improve the findability depends on the solution for the problem.It should, as much as possible, be something that can be done at the front-end, by non-developers.


How do they find it: search

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

We provide the search functionality when we launch the intranet.

Can users (still) find what they are looking for using the search functionality?

Find out: Conduct user research and check the search statistics.

Decide and plan: So do we have a “findability expert” or search manager who monitor and fix the search settings?

Do it: The search experts add and update the keywords in the taxonomy, and maybe tweak the relevance criteria of the search engine.


How do they find it: taxonomy

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

The taxonomy is the basis for the information architecture and the search keyword. We launch the intranet with a basic taxonomy for the main navigation and, sometimes, with the main keywords for the search.

Are terms missing from the taxonomy?
Do the terms in the taxonomy correspond with the reality of the users, or do we need changes or additional synonyms?
Is the hierarchy correct or do we need to reorganise the terms?

Find out: Conduct user research and check the search statistics.

Decide and plan: We allow an uncontrolled folksonomy in the intranet or in some specific sections of it, but somebody needs to be the owner of the official taxonomy: the “findability expert” and utlimately the intranet owner for high level decisions. We need a plan lay down which changes can be approved and carried out by who.

Do it: In SharePoint 2010 you can change the taxonomy in the Central Admin, and promote terms from the folksonomy to the taxonomy.


How do they experience it: stability and performance

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

In our development project, we have chosen a technical architecture that ensures stability and performance.

Is the intranet still as stable and fast as it was when it was launched, now that it has filled up with content and users?
Users refuse to work with an intranet that is too slow or unstable.

Find out: Check the user complaints and perform objective measurements.

Decide and plan: The Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the hosting party specifies what is acceptable.

Do it: The tech support team handles the servers, but the functional support people can also optimize the configuration of bottlenecks in solutions. Site owners have to take care of their own sites, guided by best practices about performance killers.


How do they experience it: look & feel

In our development project

Issues after launch

Governance needed

When we developed the intranet, we branded it properly and created the appropriate styles and templates.

Are the (new) content and sites (still) branded correctly?

Find out: Check the sites, especially important central content.

Decide and plan: Document what is allowed in which section of the intranet in a styleguide. The day-to-day intranet management team can enforce compliance, if site owners do not adhere to the styleguide. Or is that a job for the marketing & communication team?

Do it: Stick to the predefined styles and templates. Give the site owners a styleguide and material like images that they can use.

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