Too often organizations fail at developing a strategy prior to embarking on an intranet renewal project. Avoid that mistake with our intranet strategy process.

Intranet redesign projects start – or at the very least should start – with a deep understanding of what you are going to accomplish, who you are going to accomplish it for and how you will measure success. An effective intranet strategy:

  • Develops stakeholder alignment
  • Provides a foundation for determining ROI of your efforts
  • Ensures the real needs of your real users are addressed
  • Provides a road map for going live and life beyond launch
  • Ensures you have a plan for long term ownership and maintenance

Nonlinear's 8 step intranet strategy process

We will drill down into each of these eight steps in additional posts in this series.

Who should be reading this post?

This intranet strategy process has been designed for large organizations – more than 5,000 employees with global or very diverse work forces. Smaller organizations need to find the same answers that this process aims to reveal, but can often combine steps or begin with an predetermined set of quick wins.

Step 1: Define your business context

Before you begin contemplating an intranet renewal project, you need to:

  • Understand where you stand today: How is the intranet being used? What needs does it meet? What needs does it fail to meet?
  • Understand where you might go: How ambitious do you plan to be? Can you find an example of a corporate intranet to serve as a target?
  • Understand who you must serve to be successful: who are your users? What are their needs? How could a more effective intranet make them more productive?
  • Define how this project can contribute to the business needs of your organization: How does intranet renewal drive towards corporate priorities? How are you going to measure this? To whom will this be reported? 

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Step 2: Understand who owns your intranet 

Do you have clarity about who is responsible for the success of the intranet? An intranet governance plan answers this question, along with associated issues such as:

  • Whose budget will fund the intranet renewal project?
  • What stakeholders will have input into intranet priorities?
  • Who will own responsibility for adoption of the intranet
  • What counts as the intranet anyway? Top-down information? File shares? Social systems? HR’s enterprise system?

Step 3: Laying the ground work for assessing ROI

Intranet ROI is often spoken of and very rarely actually tracked. This is partially for good reasons – most of the value provided by an intranet does not lend itself to hard return on investment calculations: 

  • What is the value of a better decision made because someone could find the information they need? 
  • What is the return on an avoided law suit because employees understood corporate policy?

The one area in which solid ROI calculation can be performed is in terms of employee efficiency. If you measure how long it takes employees now to complete the most common tasks – and your new intranet reduces this time – you can demonstrate time savings which have a real hard cost. To do this, you must perform a time and task analysis on your existing intranet- otherwise, you won’t have a baseline against which to calculate the return on your intranet redesign project.

Step 4: Understanding your users

You need to understand the motivations of the employees that use your intranet; both the motivations that the intranet fulfills today and those areads where it fails. It’s important to separate the facts about intranet use and satisfaction from anecdotes and persistent myths that develop in all organizations. Nonlinear employs multiple techniques to gain this understanding:

  • User interviews
  • Participatory design exercises
  • Employee surveys
  • Contextual inquiry – observing users in context
  • Card sorting exercises – both facilitated and unfacilitated
  • Statistical analysis of how the current intranet is used
  • Usability and usage testing
  • Statistical analysis of the terms that users type into the intranet search engine

The objective is to gain a rounded view of your user needs in a format you can then translate into a more effective intranet. 

Step 5: Aspirational information architecture 

While you are unlikely to fully flesh out the new intranet’s information architecture during development of a strategy, it is very useful to capture a shared vision of the intranet visually. This provides a concrete artifact on which stakeholders can discuss, and in an ideal world agree upon. We call them aspirational wireframes and their role is to:

  • Translate strategic needs into features and functionality
  • Capture the key user needs and represent approaches to meeting them
  • Indicate potential integrations that would improve the employee experience
  • Define areas of content that might be suitable for personalization
  • Illustrate how mobile users may view and interact with intranet content

These wireframes provide a visual framework for ensuring stakeholders are aware of the possibilities of the intranet redesign and aligned on the vision for intranet renewal.

Step 6: Technology and tools

To be effective, your intranet strategy must be based on the reality of your current technology landscape:

  • Can your existing content management solution meet the needs of intranet renewal?
  • Is your current search platform effective? Can it be made effective?
  • To what extent can desirable integrations with enterprise systems realistically be accomplished?
  • Can your mobile strategy be executed without shattering your enterprise security policy?
  • Are there other technology projects underway that intersect with intranet renewal?

Answering these questions defines the limits of what your intranet renewal project can accomplish – your strategy must live within these limits or identify funding for extending them.

Step 7: Prioritization

You will almost certainly have more needs than can be realistically fulfilled in the initial phase of an intranet renewal project.  You will need to make hard decisions about where priorities lie. These decisions need to be informed by four factors:

  1. How much business value does a given feature deliver
  2. How important is the feature to intranet users
  3. How difficult or expensive will it be to implement
  4. What other costs – content creation, user adoption, governance – are associated with the feature

Nonlinear commonly uses user stories and a prioritization workshop with key stakeholders to manage the prioritization process.

Step 8: Intranet road map and the intranet strategy

All of the information gleaned and decisions made in steps one through seven need to be captured and summarized in an intranet strategy. Nonlinear usually finds that the strategy presentation has several distinct components:

  • A business objectives analysis describes how the intranet redesign project will contribute to corporate priorities
  • The intranet road map visually depicts the outcomes of the prioritization exercises and puts tentative timelines on the intranet redesign project
  • Aspirational wireframes provide a visceral sense of how the project will deliver business value
  • A governance plan indicates where responsibility for intranet success lies, both for the duration of the intranet redesign project and for ongoing management of the system.
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