my world of work and user experiences

November 30, 2022

Adopting a new intranet

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: — frederique @ 21:10

When I started working for my current employer, back in the day, I was hired in the SharePoint Competence Centre. We built intranets, in SharePoint 2003. We saw that slowly, organisations widened their definition of an intranet. It became more than a portal to publish information: a digital workplace with SharePoint Team Sites for collaboration. Then of course the toolkit opened up, and we got Microsoft 365 and the rest of the cloud.

My involvement in intranet projects as a Change & Adoption consultant

These days, I am again involved in several projects to develop new intranets for organizations. Yes, old school communication intranets that are mostly geared to providing news and important information to the employees, like information about the different parts of the organization and what they do – very useful for new employees. And things like the rules and regulations, HR procedures, and hopefully also an entry point to actually request leave, for example. Very useful for all employees. The good old information intranet. With some modern aspects of course.

And nowadays, I am working as a Change & Adoption Consultant. My colleagues build the actual intranet, in SharePoint Online. What I am looking at is: how can we make sure the intranet becomes a great success, in the sense that the employees embrace the new intranet and get the benefits from it. Apart from building an intranet that looks great and functions brilliantly of course.

When we talk about adoption in the context of an intranet, we are not talking about training the users, even though training tends to be treated as synonymous with adoption efforts. What is an important part, is making not only the intranet structure, but also its content user-centric. For that, we need the content editors to adopt our toolkit and editorial approach. And yes, the editors may need training to learn how it all works.

Sounding board

We like to conduct workshops with a sounding board of representatives of the users: people in different roles, from different parts of the organisation. We don’t want to get only the points of view from the usual suspects in IT, Communications and other staff departments. And between and after the workshops, we keep in touch with them in a Microsoft Team.

We not only get the input and feedback from the sounding board about the functionality they want in the intranet, but also about adoption. For example: What are their preferred ways of receiving news about the intranet and the digital workplace? The people in the head office liked a webinar, plus news articles, whereas the representative of people working on ships (not every organisation has those…) said that posters in the mess hall would work best.

And – very important – what is inhibiting or even blocking them in the old intranet? Some had a terrible internet connection, and colleagues of theirs did not even have a device that would display the internet. And there were a lot of blockers when it came finding relevant content and understanding it…

Content for the end-users

The end-users want to be able to find relevant information quickly and easily. To achieve that, you not only need a great search engine and navigation structure, but also great content:

  • Content that answers the end-users’ questions. So the content providers need to think about what the users want to see, instead of what the owners want to push to the readers. This is quite tricky: in discussions about the intranet, we often see that, for example, staff departments want to promote their stuff, because they consider that to be important. But do the employees want to see it prominently on their home page?
  • Content that is up-to-date. So the content editors need to update the content when something changes, add new content quickly when it is needed, and make sure obsolete content is either invisible or at least not overwhelming the current content. This is something that our sounding boards were very emphatic about… they hate being drowned in irrelevant, obsolete content.
  • Content that is easy to digest. First of all, what is the language used on the intranet? We heard a lot of internationals complain about information published in Dutch, but also Dutch factory workers who were very unhappy with the choice of their multinational company to publish everything in English. Even in the right language, text is not always easy to read. Images may help, but the wrong image will only hinder.

For the owners & content editors

The change to the new way of managing the content on the new intranet is more explicit.

  • Awareness & desire: They need to be aware of what changes and they need to see what’s in it for them.
  • Knowledge: They need to know how to know how create and manage their content in the new way, both from the perspective of the tooling and from the perspective of editorial guidelines. So yes, we created a user manual for them, conducted training and Q&A sessions.
  • Ability: We need to make sure they have the ability to actually get their content in there and manage it in practice. This is not always easy in a project with a compressed timeline and an early Go Live date. At the Go Live date, all important content should be in the new intranet. So the content editors have to start putting content into the new intranet before development is finished. They hit snags that haven’t been smoothed away yet, so the project team absolutely needs to be available to help them out during this crunch time.
    Also, the editors need time to do this job, which means that their managers need to give them that time. By the way, lack of time was a major blocker emphasised by editors in the workshop.
  • Reinforcement: The editors need to keep adding to and updating the content after Go Live. It does not work if the editors are left to their own devices. So we set up an editors’ community and some ground rules. For example, if editors leave, they need to be replaced.  The editors are requested to regularly check their content: is it still up-to-date? For a lot of static content on the intranet, you don’t have to do that very often, but at least once a year. And we want to keep the sounding board, so that we can keep collecting feedback from the organisation.

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