Intranet Best Practices
An Intranet, or 'portal', is similar to an Internet website except that it is restricted to users within an organization. (Intranets that extend outside the company to partners or customers are called Extranets). Intranets use web servers to distribute information, and users view content with their Internet browser or by downloading documents.
Many organizations select Intranets to share information among employees since they can be built and maintained more cost-effectively than other types of private networks or enterprise content management & collaboration systems.
What are the Business Benefits? Although many organizations have implemented an Intranet, most corporate Intranets in mid-sized companies are not well organized, user-friendly, or contain relevant content that is current and being maintained by a designated content owner.
These challenges aside, Intranets can provide many business benefits including, but not limited to, the following five areas:
Reduced Support Costs- providing employees with a "self-service" resource to find answers to their questions can drastically reduce inter-office support calls, provided that employees actually use the Intranet and know its contents.
Minimized Administrative Costs- posting standardized business processes, checklists, templates, and other materials such as proposals, contracts, or other commonly used documents, will increase the efficiency of your operation and provide a mechanism for version-control.
Brand Consistency- by maintaining documents at the Intranet level, rather than having staff save them to their desktop, Marketers have more control over their corporate brand & image, reducing the risk of out-of-date materials being used in the field. Monitoring download activity is a sound method to ensure that your employees are in the habit of using the Intranet instead of a desktop folder.
Improved Remote Access- many employees would do work outside the office if they had access to the information and tools they need to be productive. As many intranets are internally hosted they can be unreliable or slow to load, especially if remote workers do not have a fast Internet connection. Adopting a hosted solution can be very cost-effective, increase availability, and provide usage analytics.
Employee Self-Service- not only do successful Intranets reduce helpdesk & support calls, but they also provide a faster method for employees to get answers to their questions. This can mitigate process bottlenecks for busy helpdesks, and provide a better experience for an end-user, provided the Intranet is easy to navigate.
Common Content by Department All corporate departments have information that needs to be provided to employees. Following is a list of common Intranet contents made available by departments. This list is not exhaustive but was generated to stimulate further thinking about what content your organization would like to provide.
Finance & Accounting
- Payroll & Compensation Information
- Accounts Receivable/Payable & Budget Reports
- Expense Reimbursement Policies & Procedures
- Cost/Benefit, Business Case, or ROI templates
- Approval Processes for Capital Expenditures
- 401K and Employee Benefits Information
- Corporate Policies, Procedures, & Manuals
- Performance Reviews & Development Plans
- New Employee Orientation & Handbooks
- Training & Corporate Development Materials
- Corporate Logos & Marketing Collateral
- Sales Presentations, Proposals, & Scripts
- Tradeshow Checklists & ROI Calculators
- Press Releases & Investor Relations Info
- Sponsorship Policies & Sustainability Reports
- Service Level Agreements
- Standard Contracts & Agreements
- Customer Service & Sales Process Diagrams
- Funnel Reports & Sales Forecasts
- Client Lists, Testimonials, and Sales Tools
- Helpdesk Frequently Asked Questions
- I/T Policies & Procedures
- Disaster Recovery Plans
- I/T Project Request Forms
- Strategic Information Technology Plans
- Administration Processes
- Support for Creating New Processes
- Lean Manufacturing, ISO or Six Sigma info
- Purchasing Policies & Supply Chain Management
- Process Management Frameworks & Standards
- 1. Conduct an Intranet Usage Survey- use our Intranet Usage Survey template to identify which employees are actually using the Intranet, how they using it, and to document areas for it to be improved by department. This survey can be used to benchmark your current situation and used again later to demonstrate a measurable improvement and return on investment for your revitalization project.
- 2. Develop a Project Plan- use our Project Charter to document goals, objectives, timelines, and other pertinent Intranet Revitalization Project information for senior management to assess at a high level. Build a Business Case if required to justify any expenditures
- Evaluate Vendor Solutions- if you are not already committed to an Intranet platform, assess 3-5 vendors to learn more about your options. Intranet vendors generally fall into three categories: Wiki providers (open-source and free), hosted portal solutions such as iCentera (starting at ~$500/month), or Enterprise Content Management & Collaboration solutions such as Microsoft Sharepoint (up to $500,000+).
- Engage the I/T Department- discuss requirements with your I/T Director and determine if your current solution will meet your needs. If you require a new system, schedule the selection process and customization project according to your project timelines and availability of I/T resources.
- Audit Content Ownership- analyze your current intranet content to determine who the content owners are, or if there is a lack of ownership for any materials. Determine who should own each type of content, and create a content publishing & approval process. Many portal systems have inherent content publishing functionality built-in to control workflows and approvals, so ensure this requirement is on your list.
- Identify User Needs- interview each department leader to understand their Top 5 most common support call questions. Use ourIntranet FAQ Worksheetto document these questions, and determine the overall Top 10 most frequently asked questions (FAQ). List the Top 10 FAQ.s on the Intranet homepage to direct users quickly to their area of interest, and list the Top 5 FAQ.s on the main page for each department to facilitate navigation.
- Assess Intranet Content- determine if your content is up-to-date, accurate, relevant, or missing. Document what needs to be updated, created, refined, or removed from the Intranet and assign these tasks to the content owner.
- Organize Intranet Content- create a hierarchy, which is a table of contents or site map, to organize your intranet content. Speak to your web developer about site maps as they have most likely built one for your corporate website and can provide guidance with this task. Make this hierarchy available on the homepage for quick and easy navigation to the pages that users require. Task each content owner with updating their section of the Intranet to prepare for the re-launch.
- Design the Homepage- be sure to include a 'Search' function, Top FAQs, site map, and links to each department's section of the Intranet. You may wish to include a section containing company news, highlight project status reports, or provide other content that will keep users coming back to the Intranet. Be sure to change elements of your homepage to keep it fresh and interesting.
- Re-Launch the Intranet- send out an email communication regarding the re-launch of your Intranet to all employees. Attach a Project Request Form and indicate who the content owners are for each department to ensure your employees know where to turn when they need a new resource developed.
- Conduct User Training- once your content is uploaded and you are ready to re-launch your Intranet, schedule a meeting with each department to provide user training. To ensure adoption, it is critical that your users are fully aware of the contents on the Intranet and that they are comfortable using the system.
- Send Monthly Reminders- deliver a monthly email to all employees highlighting new content, common uses, or tips & tricks to reinforce adoption rates and increase ROI. You need to maintain mindshare for at least the first 3 months to ensure project success. If you have analytics, monitor download activity and target users who have never logged in, or login very rarely.
- Re-Survey Intranet Usage- use our Intranet Usage Survey again three months after the re-launch to measure improvements to usage and stimulate thinking for new content requests.
- Conduct a Post-Mortem- use our Post-Project Evaluation template to determine project success and document any lessons learned for future initiatives.