By Cathy Dew
There is something about embarking on a new employee intranet project that makes your adrenaline surge and your spirits rise.
Starting a major new project is like shopping for a new car. It’s all well and good to research models and kick some tires and take some test drives. But you aren’t going to be satisfied until you can jump behind the wheel of your shiny new ride and push the pedal to the metal out on the open road.
You’re ready to get this intranet going. You might be inclined to let the IT folks and the UI designers just run with the whole thing, since they are the ones who handle the hardware and software and user button-type stuff. Let them worry about text boxes and breadcrumbs and what gets tagged how. All you care about is results. So your instincts are to push them to get that sucker designed, executed and up and running as soon as possible. You’re ready to ride!
Purpose Defines Goals
Slow down there a second, buckaroo.
There’s a lot of work to be done before you rev up that intranet engine and start racing your employees down your new information/collaboration highway. You can’t turn over the reins just yet. You are going to be needed to help get the proverbial show on the road, whether you like it or not.
You wouldn’t throw money into a business venture that didn’t have a strategic business plan, right? So why would you spend a dime on an intranet venture that doesn’t include a strategic user experience plan?
An intranet is only useful if it has synergy with its users. User experience is everything, because if the intranet doesn’t solve problems and help people work smarter, more efficiently, and more successfully, your employees aren’t going to be using it very often.
So before IT and UI kick off their collaboration, there is some foundation-setting work to do. And that’s going to be the purview of your trusted user experience professional, also known as your UX designer.
A Commitment From The Top
The first thing your UX designer needs to know is how the C-suite sees the employee intranet. Do they consider the intranet a potential godsend or an annoying irritant? A necessary tool or a necessary evil?
Does upper management understand that assembling the pieces of an employee intranet is not the same as assembling the parts of a car? You can’t just roll pre-fabricated intranet parts down a factory line, join the pieces together in a precise and predetermined order, and expect to end up with a functional intranet that meets your company’s specifications.
If your intranet is going to be unique to your needs, buy in and support from the top is going to be key to ensuring that resources will be available to see the project to a successful conclusion.
Stakeholders Define Strategy
After the all-important executive buy in, the first step in the employee intranet design process is going to be convening a strategy session with your company stakeholders so your UX designer can begin to understand the parameters of the problems that need to be solved.
Meetings can take place in one or two plenary sessions – its always interesting when the different department heads have a chance to see something from each others’ perspectives -- or the UX designer can meet with managers or team leaders one at a time. However these sessions play out, the point is for your UX designer to come to an understanding about what each and every stakeholder hopes to gain from the intranet.
Digging Deep Into The Why
It is the UX intranet designer’s job to make sure your intranet lives up to its potential and serves the company’s overall purpose.
The sad truth is sometimes intranets fail. And 99.9% of the time this failure is because nobody stood back and took a wide-angled view of the company’s needs and answered the important and not-so-simple question: Why do we need an employee intranet?
It should come as no surprise that not every stakeholder in your organization is going to have the same vision for your intranet. In fact, each department head or team supervisor could have entirely different goals for the intranet.
That’s why it’s important to get department and team leader answers to some preliminary questions, and then compare and contrast the similarities and differences.
We usually ask each stakeholder:
- Why do you think the company needs an employee intranet?
- What problems do you want the new intranet to solve?
- How will the intranet solve these problems?
Human Resources, for example, might answer the questions in the following manner:
- The company needs an intranet because it is growing and needs a better universal communications tool.
- There are issues with making sure all employees have access to company benefits, policies, and procedures; it’s hard to keep everyone abreast of company news in such a fast-paced environment; and there is concern that employees are not reachable in the event of a disaster.
- n intranet can serve as a portal to HR forms, manuals, and benefits information; can house a daily news bulletin; and serve as a disaster alert system.
A project manager, on the other hand, might have a more team-oriented view of the intranet:
- The company needs an intranet because it is becoming impossible to work effectively with a team of specialists spread out in different offices.
- Managing by email is inefficient and results in redundant tasks and confusing document review processes; the lack of a central repository results in team members working at cross purposes reinventing resources that already exist; and it is difficult to track projects and milestones on multiple spreadsheets.
- An intranet can serve as a shared workspace where team members access and work on the same documents, pull resources from a central repository, and collaborate on projects.
As the UX designer gathers information from each stakeholder, she can begin setting the overall parameters of the project and begin envisioning your intranet as a tool that solves company problems in the present while expanding to meet employee needs over time.
2Plus2 Harnesses the Power of Strategic Planning
Our UX design professionals know how to harness the power of the strategic plan to make sure intranet design puts employees front and center. To learn more and to schedule a free initial consultation, give us a call at 510.652.7700 or contact us online.