Keith Errington

marketing strategy
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The 4 phases of intranet development - Dragging the intranet into the modern world Part I

I’ve just been judging the CiB Awards, which is always an honour and an informative experience. This year I’ve looked at Best use of Social Media, Best Microsite and Best Intranet, as well as joining other judges to help ratify, (or occasionally override), judges decisions in other categories at the judging day.

Whilst I can’t go into detail for obvious reasons (the Award winners are not announced till June), there are trends that have developed over the past few years – particularly in regard to intranets – that I thought I would share.

Intranets lagging behind the Internet
In some ways, intranets are six months to a year behind the Internet in the features and software they utilise. Perhaps this is not so surprising, as it takes time to build into open web applications the enterprise security and platform capabilities that intranets demand.

In other ways they can be more advanced – it is certainly easier to predict what software, hardware and connection speeds users will have for instance, allowing for the development of dedicated solutions. It is perhaps easier to understand what users want and what they will be able to do with new features.

There has been a definite progression to intranets – here is a typical development lifecycle:

Phase one
Is the initial document repository site – policies, reference material, training manuals are all dumped on a central server – either in their original formats or as PDFs. General feeling of ‘that’s done then’, followed by ‘Why aren’t people using it?’

Phase two
Is the employee directory and news web site. A simple searchable phone directory is added to a site that functions like a web site and features company news on the front page. Documents are created in html and sorted into useful categories. General feeling of ‘Now we are getting somewhere’

Phase three
Adds a HR hub, possibly an IT service Desk feature and some improvements are made to usability. A few champions are identified and you start to see employee contributors. Lots of directions from above to use the intranet. General feeling of ‘we’ve cracked it now’

Phase four
Empowers all employees to contribute, we have news stories with the ability to ‘like’ and to comment, a range of blogs, community areas, a range of business focussed applications and groupware. The number of downloadable documents is greatly reduced, being replaced by online information and interactive forms. Board members finally start using the intranet as high level reporting and KPI dashboards are added. Tightly controlled external access to partners, suppliers, consultants and home workers is incorporated. There is massive culture change within the organisation, a genuine sense of unity and purpose and a feeling of loss when away from the office.
A general feeling of ‘We’ve just started on a journey and we need to continually develop and improve’

Now I am not suggesting that this is the way every intranet implementation runs, but in my mind it is fairly typical. I would be really interested in receiving comments or feedback on this post to check my thinking. (After all, you don’t usually get invited in to an organisation to see their intranet).

In Part II I will be discussing the use of Social Media within intranets.


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