Intranet Guide

Strategic Issues to Consider

Approach your intranet in the same way you would any other project that could have profound long-term implications for your business.

There are three key issues to consider when setting up an intranet:

  • What information and functionality do you want your intranet to contain?
  • How should the content on your intranet be organised?
  • How will you persuade staff to adopt the new system?

What information do you want your intranet to contain?

Intranets can easily accommodate almost every item of data your company deals in. But too much information can be counter-productive. So all the information on your intranet should be:

  • Relevant – such as commonly-used documents or features like timesheets, expense reports and calendars. Project work may also be stored on your intranet, though you may wish to limit access to specific folders by password permission.
  • Current – research shows that some 18% of corporate printed material is outdated within as little as 30 days of its publication. Designated individuals or teams need to take responsibility for ensuring intranet content is updated. In large organisations or businesses with an information-rich intranet, this can be a full-time job.
  • Compelling – your intranet may have to give reluctant staff reasons to visit it, aside from the obvious work-related ones. Some companies include weather forecasts, or even recipes to encourage traffic.

How should the content on your intranet be organised?

Research from web usability group Nielsen Norman found that completing routine tasks can take twice as long on a poorly designed intranet compared with a well-designed one. Your intranet content should always be:

  • Accessible – a good rule of thumb is that any desired document or function should never be more than three clicks from the home page.
  • Simple – try to make the technical attributes of your intranet as simple as possible, so staff have no trouble gaining access and won’t experience any confusion about procedures they are expected to follow.
  • Searchable – this is increasingly important as the amount of information on your intranet grows. Indexing is the key here. If you opt for a Windows server this comes supplied with indexing software included in the price. If you have opted for a Unix or another server you’ll need to buy indexing software – you can find freeware and shareware programmes, such as ht//Dig on the internet. Your other options are to buy an indexing programme from a company like Datagold for about £300 or to subscribe to an indexing service like Webglimpse for around £15 per month.
  • Manageable – as the volume of information on your intranet grows, content management becomes increasingly important. A good content management software package, which starts from around £500, provides audit trails to track which person entered what information and when. Content management software also allows for new content to be automatically distributed to the appropriate people for sign-off before it is published.

How will you persuade staff to adopt the new system?

An intranet is reckoned to have achieved ‘critical mass’ when around 40% of the staff are using it in sessions of ten minutes or longer. Once other staff notice the benefits their fellows are enjoying they will soon follow suit.

  • Appoint champions – starting with a small group of users and using them as evangelists is one approach that can work well.
  • Include ‘quick wins’ – simple but useful things that everyone can quickly use and appreciate, like leave forms, are great for helping staff feel comfortable with an intranet.
  • Set up a steering committee – the decision to build an intranet needs to be taken at the highest level, but getting a cross-section of staff involved in content generation and selection will help it become a tool that belongs to everyone.
  • Ongoing marketing support – to remind people of functionality and future developments.
  • Training – technology is only as radical as its users. Show staff exactly how the intranet works, what’s in it for them and why it’s important for the future of the business.

© Crown Copyright. 04/663; 04/04

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