How to spot your intranet is on its last legs

June 24, 2014 1 Comment by Wedge Black

Wrecking ballSometimes we see an ugly intranet and think ‘this has got to die’, but if it’s useful and used, that intranet serves its purpose.

“I think intranet managers tire of the intranet long before other people, as they’re looking at it so much more.” ~ Sam Marshall

But the look n feel of an intranet greatly affects the user experience (UX) so there’s no excuse for neglecting this part of the design – your intranet is, after all, part of your brand expression, and should reflect your organisation’s values.

Poor navigation and unkempt search results may indicate the need for a strategic revamp, or urgent tactical surgery. This addresses the biggest complaint, that people can’t find anything. Navigation that offers a strong information scent and is grouped around tasks and getting things done will help your intranet become a platform for work. This is in contrast with an intranet built around the company’s departmental structure.

Old content – apparently all the reference material from 2009 is still perfectly useful – the organisation hasn’t developed or progressed since then! Even useful, relevant material needs refreshing; the facts may be the same, but people’s preferences for accessing those facts have changed. People don’t want to delve into a manual or 40 page policy just to find their holiday entitlement; they want the answer to come up on a short intranet page. Which brings us to our next concern.

Everything’s a document – a news bulletin about the carpark or tomorrow’s all-employee conference call should be an intranet page news story, not dumped online as a Word document.

No talking allowed. There was a time when people referred to static, broadcast-only intranets as ‘traditional. I prefer to just call them old. If there’s no conversation, no project document reviews, no comments, no questions, then your intranet isn’t for people, and it will die.

Only the corporate voice. If your intranet has a strong, consistent ‘voice’, then that’s great, but there must be room for other voices, even more informal tones. News, even official news, should come from a named person, not ‘from’ the organisation or department. There’s always a responsible person, so name them. That ‘welcome’ blog from the CEO in 2011 doesn’t count.

Departmental ‘about us’ pages and no real content. Sometimes departments are forced to get onto the intranet without thinking about who their audiences are made up of, and how they can help colleagues. Mission statements, team bios, and a photo of the department head will not support collaboration.

No projects, no communities. Is project management all done via shared drives and email? Is there no way to collaborate on the intranet, for the purposes of information sharing and decision-making?

It’s too easy to say ‘kill it’ when your intranet grinds to a near-halt but planning for, and then installing a new system, can take months or even years – what with the approvals and migration plans. So it may be that, in the spirit of ‘continuous improvement’, you need to consider what’s best for people right now, even as you plan your next, more mature, intranet.

[Our next article covers solutions to the above concerns.]

What do you think urgently indicates an intranet is struggling?

Photo credit: Rhys A


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