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The days of static,outdated content on your Intranet are over. There are a myriad of vendors that provide solutions but only a handful that are next generation. While Sharepoint leads the pack, the tool is locked into an outdated platform which limits its Web 2.0 features. Companies like Jive, MindTouch and ThoughtFarmerdon’t have legacy software to maintain and thus have been built to incorporate more Web 2.0 features. The trick for these vendors is to build Web 2.0 applications that work within the enterprise. Today’s corporate intranets are typically an employee directory, some corporate related documents and a few messages from the CEO without any ability to update or refresh the content unless IT got involved. Worse, IT was usually devoted to running mission critical applications with little regard to the Intranet. Fortunately, many CIO’s are looking to bring Web 2.0 tools into the organization because employees have either brought them inside the firewall already or they have been demanding them en masse. There are still governance and security challenges, but these are in theory being addressed.
First Step: Organize the Intranet Team
Executive sponsorship is important and critical to the success of your new Intranet. Select an Executive that is empowered and committed to the success of the program. Ideally you’ll also have one team leader from each department and a project manager in charge of the implementation. Each team lead will define the departmental goals and the timeline in which they need to be implemented. Don’t underestimate this task as it can be daunting. I’ve seen many intranets derailed due to infighting or scope creep. Keep the discussions high level while explaining to the team that they will have many chances to refine and change their team sites.
Second: Conduct an Internal Survey
It’s important to understand how the current intranet is being used. If you don’t have one, conduct a survey that asks employees what they would like to see in their new intranet. Based on the survey results you’ll see where the gaps are and what additional resources, experience and investment you’ll need to complete the implementation. Unless your company employees have been surveyed 50 times in the past 30 days, most will enthusiastically share their input. I have used tools like
SurveyMonkey.com, Limeshare.com and Vertical Responseto conduct the surveys each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Third: Conduct a Needs Analysis
In order for your Intranet to incorporate some of the latest technologies, you’ll need to talk with your front line younger employees that are plugged into today’s Web 2.0 tools. Your mission because you’ve chosen to accept it, is to translate the social Web 2.0 technologies into business technologies that help create a Collaborative Intranet site. Your team leaders should also have given you a more refined internal “statement of work” that outlines the needs of their department. The statement of work will also include an Intranet philosophy about how the intranet will be seeded, maintainedand cultivated. Too often, and because of the unique characteristics of Intranet 2.0, the content becomes unmanageable and unproductive. Once you’ve worked through each department objectives and somehow managed to create an overall plan (this is a difficult task by any measure) then the search for vendors begins. Don’t think an in-house system can be built and maintained unless you’re an Intranet 2.0 vendor, the industry is moving too fast and it’s not your core competency right?
Fourth: Measure, Monitor and Dashboards
One of the primary characteristics of an Intranet 2.0 solution is the ability to apply metrics to projects, tasks, content, and etcetera and monitor them over time. The best solutions use Dashboards and reporting tools that give you real time updates on the metrics. This allow the entire organization to view the health of their department or if you are an Executive the capability of viewing the metrics across departments. As a result, the enterprise is nimbler and is much more competitive.
Fifth: Governance and Security
According to AIIM, one of the primary complaints about Sharepoint is that their governance and security infrastructure needs a lot of work; “successful users of Sharepoint do not view security and custom development and integration as among the product’s strengths, and say the latter two can also cause delayed implementations and cost overruns”. Not to pick on Sharepoint (but I am due to their industry leading position), this should be a higher level priority for you and Microsoft. You need to develop crystal clear guidelines for who gets to see what and how they see it. You don’t want Johnny Hacker in IT looking at company sales data then acting on that information in the public markets. You also want to conform to Sarbanes Oxley and ensure you’re following their strict guidelines. Best in class Intranet solutions have easy to map governance tools and have tight security around sensitive data. Johnny should be able to exploit product holes in order to extract sensitive information.
Sixth: Data Integration and Collaboration
Now that you defined what you are going to measure and have implemented security and governance protocols, it’s time to integrate data from around the enterprise. I often hear executives groan at this step as it’s always been difficult in the past. Yet the new solutions being offered today make it easier to not only integrate data, but allow teams to collaborate around the data in real time. Sales, Marketing, Operations, and R&D can now collaborate around data coming from each department to define the next generation product or service offering. For example, if my sales are off for the latest widget, lead generation reveals a significant drop off during the past 3 months, and the Operations team is reporting an increased inventory build, the departments can examine the data collaboratively to help R&D design Widget 2.0 In the past, this information was difficult to get in one location and was almost always out of date.
Seventh: Create an Intranet Site Map Draft
This step displays the overall architecture of the site. Mapping the site gives the Intranet team perspective and an overall view of the layout, database connections, and governance. In this step you are confirming the structure is accurate and that nothing has been left out. However, it’s still a draft and will be updated after the next step.
Eighth: Issue an RFP
Take all of the hard work you’ve done aboveand break it into a set of RFP questions. Also, make sure you’ve captured the high level Intranet goals of the organization and that it’s clearly articulated in the Executive summary. Identify the list of vendors and then issue the RFP. There’s a whole science to the RFP process, but essentially it boils down to how well the vendors match your needs, how viable they are as an organization, the total cost of ownership, and how strong their references are (yes you must check).
Ninth: Select and Implement
Ideally you have selected a vendor that met most of your high priority requirements. Break the implementation into phases and milestones. Best practices dictate that you set up an internal governance committee to monitor the implementation of the Intranet. This can be the same group as in step one or a new group empowered to oversee the project. The key focus areas in this step are to ensure the right people are helping to implement the solution, that they are ready to resolve the inevitable issues that will surface, and that they assign the right resources to accomplish the milestones set out in each phase. This group should also be responsible for selecting the content that will populate the initial intranet solution.
Tenth: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Too often this step is forgotten and never performed. Yet it’s a critical component to a successful implementation. In reality, communication should take place at every step in the form of updates via email or on a corporate wiki. Each team member should be responsible for updating their team or division. The point here is that by communicating the goals of the Intranet and preparing the organization for itseventually use, there will be less resistance to using it. In the past, I had one of my staff send weekly updates with screen shots to show progress. I got the idea from a previous career in real estate development where we sent weekly snap shots of the client’s building being developed. It was well received in both cases. Finally, you must have an Intranet launch plan that is well communicated internally. A process should be laid out with specific internal marketing tasks that encourage employees to sign on and start adding content to the Intranet. After all Intranet 2.0 is about employee empowered intranets.
In Summary: It’s a Journey not an End
Consider an Intranet 2.0 undertaking as an journey and not an one-time implementation – I can assure you that you won’t succeed on your first attempt. You'll need to continue to receive feedback, modify the site based on input, track and measure the adoption rates in order to maintain the site. Having the appropriate metrics in place to gauge success is important. When you initially create your Intranet 2.0 plan, I recommend that you set aside 2 full days with the team to do so. It’s not the documentation that takes this long. It’s the strategy. In fact, this is the most important aspect of developing an Intranet 2.0 blueprint; thinking long and hard about how the Intranet will be used and where it is going. About the author: Mark Fidelmanis a senior executive at a well known technology company. He writes for many online publications like Seeking Alpha, CIO Magazine, Sociable Blog, Internet Evolution and others. He also writes his own blog at Seek Omega (www.seekomega.com)
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