Designing and launching a new, or revamped, intranet may be a massive project, but the success of your efforts isn’t the launch – that’s not the end, that’s the beginning of your intranet’s new life.
Transitioning from a ‘project mindset’ can be tricky – the project team may disband, and the IT department might ‘stand down’, but as the intranet manager or communications contributor, it’s after launch that you have to step up. The resourcing model may have changed, as the intranet isn’t a project any more; now it’s an ongoing service – the foundation of your digital workplace and your greatest digital comms and community enabler.
No doubt you involved stakeholders and intranet champions from across the organisation in your design, and no doubt it was hard work. Yet more is to come as power-users, heads of departments, and your closest colleagues notice all the differences and bombard you with feedback. Feedback that, in many cases, has to be ‘put on the list’ unless you still have development and IT resources available.
Remember that ‘big bang implementations are almost always big disappointments for people’ – in other words, a project that focuses on launching a new intranet and then doing nothing to improve the intranet over the coming months and years is old-fashioned and ill-advised.
In this three-part blog post, I suggest an approach based on four streams of activity:
- Ongoing communications
- Feedback and improvement, and new ways of using the intranet.
Avoid ‘launch and let go’
Once launched, ongoing comms can help people learn their way around the new design, and encourage people to take advantage of features.
Unless copious user-testing and UX design has been put into the look and feel, people usually dislike an intranet re-design, preferring the old design even if it was broken and inefficient. This usually changes after a few weeks of continuously seeing the new design. Best practice is to have provided screenshots weeks before launch, to give people time to acclimatise to the new look.
The intranet has to be useful and used, so people need to know what it can do for them (not what it can do ‘in general’). It’s up to you to showcase everything, for example:
- how profiles work and why they are helpful
- how to upload a portrait photo
- how to ‘follow’ colleagues and interesting content – perhaps illustrated with a scenario about the value
- how to contribute to communities and when you might want to do this.
You may be able to incentivise some actions with prizes, or with gamification.
Topics for your relentless comms plan
This is about on-going comms and engagement, showing that the intranet isn’t just a big deal for the comms or HR teams, but is actually part of ‘how we work around here’ or indeed, ‘our new ways of working’.
Success Stories. Highlight the ways the intranet is being used around the organisation. Go out across your informal comms network and find success stories, and share how and why those colleagues used the intranet to great effect, e.g. ‘Our Edinburgh office needed to organise a large event, here’s how the intranet helped’.
Illustrate adoption levels. Often, people need to take action in order for them to reap the greatest benefit from the intranet. For instance, as more people upload their portrait to their profile page, more people will see this as the ‘normal’ thing to do so will join in. Eventually, the network effect kicks in, meaning that the people directory becomes more useful the more people who use it. To kick-start this, make sure managers at all levels are the first to complete their profiles. In all your comms relating to profiles, show a progress bar graphic to say “X% of people have filled in their profile so far” (you may have to guestimate this).
Target other influencers. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to convince people to refrain from emailing documents around and start uploading documents to intranet team sites. This collaboration and culture change can’t be just your team’s responsibility – engage other departments and authoritative people by having a specific comms plan to recruit them. For example, your Data Protection Office, your Information Security person, your Quality Manager, your HR director, your IT director, your Document Control Manager, and your CEO and CTO can all support behavior change in different ways.
And it goes on
You may have explained ‘how to subscribe to news categories’ at launch, but that’s no reason to believe everyone saw your piece or took action. You’ll need to repeat your topics over the months and take people up the comms escalator – ‘Awareness – Understanding – Support – Involvement – Commitment’ – the goal is to embed the intranet into business-as-usual practices, so that it becomes the place to get things done.