What matters on your Intranet?

At the Interact Intranet Conference we played a game of “intranet tetris”, putting together the pieces needed to run a successful intranet, as a bit of a fun exercise. This is the finished jigsaw, as deemed correct by the presenter.
I could quibble with the labels – knowledge management is meant to cover all forms of content – but my bigger issue is with the hierarchy the presenter tried to imply.

  1. Governance
  2. Intranet objectives
  3. Business objectives
  4. Roles and responsibilities
  5. Knowledge management (content)
  6. Information Architecture
  7. Toolkit
  8. Brand (look and feel)
  9. Engagement
  10. Analytics

Shouldn’t business objectives be the starting point? How can you decide governance or intranet objectives if you don’t know the business objectives? Let’s face it; if you’re creating an intranet that does not serve the business objectives you’re destroying company value.

Another presenter asked what was most important about an intranet; giving options such as finding information, interaction, processes, brand and performance.

Most of the room suggested “finding information” upon which he whizzed through some data proving the room wrong. According to his comprehensive survey of users the right answer was “interaction with colleagues”.

I’m all for a bit of colleague interaction – I’m keen on coffee chats rather than meetings. But I have two problems with this conclusion.

(1) it’s rare that an interaction on an intranet can be so neatly categorised;

Imagine; Sue posts a question on a collaboration platform and a colleagues answers pointing her to the IT service site where she can make a request online for a new secure access card. She completes the process and gets her access card in the next day’s mail.

Was that finding information, interacting with colleagues, supporting a process? I suggest the part Sue remembers is the personal contact, but in fact there was more than the interaction making her visit successful.

(2) I have a theory that users don’t rate items like “finding information” very highly because their intranet already does that well. You can test my theory; remove the information on your intranet site that relates to paydays and holidays. See how long it takes for someone to complain.

I think users list what their biggest wish for the intranet is, not what they actually use.

Actually there’s no need to experiment. Our intranet went down a week or so ago. I’m pretty sure my colleagues would have listed “performance” as their biggest need at that moment.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 12.37.39 PMAnalysing intranets is a bit like that old tale of six blind men describing an elephant. There are a number of ways of doing it, none of which are wrong per se, but no single list is right. To make a hierarchical list or define a single “most important” item seems to imply that setting up an intranet is a linear process. A tightrope walk from one side of the big top to the other. But setting up an intranet, like most digital projects is a messy and iterative process. More like the plate spinner with 9 towers of plates all spinning at once.

The thing that is most important for your intranet is the next step in improving it to match business goals – and serve user needs.

Image; Like Spinning Plates / BY-NC-SA 2.0