Intranet strategy is critical in 2009

Swift changes in digital communications is shifting business operations to the Web.

Swift changes in digital communications are shifting business operations to the Web.

The corporate intranet is becoming the workstation of today’s global business environment.  As business operations shift to accommodate the swift growth and resounding effects of digital communications, managers are realizing there is value in learning how to harness the power of this critical tool.  However, two common pitfalls often hinder managers as they attempt to wield the technological force of an intranet: lack of strategy and a dry budget. 

Outline strategy for success

When I interned at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s Global Communications department, we often referred to the associate intranet, Goodyear Online (GO), as Audrey II.  It was a beast that always asked to be fed.  Intranet managers must be wary of feeding their intranets and employees too much information.  

Plan your strategy before you move to action.

Plan your strategy before you move to action.

A well-thought-out strategy can help reduce the amount of pollution clogging up the server.  In traditional PR fashion, before you begin outlining your plan, it is wise to perform a SWOT (strategies, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis on your company to determine its needs and the best way that an intranet could address those needs.  Once you have conducted the necessary research, ask yourself and your team these questions to help guide your strategy: 

  • What is the purpose of the intranet? 
  • How will employees use it?
  • Which business functions can be supported by the intranet?
  • How much will it cost to create/update/manage?
  • How will you measure the return-on-investment (ROI)?
  • Who will manage the content? 

Define roles and responsibilities

In a recent post, Tom Sommerville, author of the Intranet Insights blog, emphasized the significance of defining the roles of each individual who will assist in maintaining and managing the intranet.  Assigning responsibility is essential to developing and adhering to an effective strategy.  

Your communications team should guide the intranet content.

Your communications team should guide the intranet content.

Ideally, a central communications team with adequate IT support would manage all content being published to the intranet — but this often times is not the case.  Depending on the size of your organization, there may be several or hundreds of different people from various deparments publishing content to a plethora of miscellaneous portals.  This can often lead to server overload and informational clutter.  If this is an issue that your company faces, encourage your communications team to outline content guidelines that can be used and enforced throughout the organization.

Address tough budget issues

Investment in internal communications is a tough sell to corporate executives, especially in this economic slump.  Sommerville offers some helpful tips on how to make your case to upper-management.  Essentially, you should know the value of your assets and be able to articulate that value at any given time.  When you petition your leadership team for additional funds to support intranet-related projects, it helps to have backing from department heads.  Most importantly, however, make sure that you can back up your request with stone-cold facts about the ROI or information about best practices.  This means that you must stay well-informed about intranet trends.

You must be able to defend your intranet strategy with facts when discussing it with executives.

You must be able to defend your intranet strategy with facts when discussing it with executives.

Stay updated on trends

I recently read part of this year’s Global Intranet & Portal Strategies Survey results published by NetStrategy/JMC.  In this insightful report, Jane McConnell, NetStrategy/JMC founder and survey author, covers several key topics including:

  • Intranet strategies;
  • Alignment of intranet strategies with business goals;
  • Guidelines for content and archived information;
  • Social media integration;
  • Search optimization;
  • Customization vs. personalization; and
  • Benchmarking.

At a cost of US$875, I could not afford to purchase the results of the survey in its entirety; I simply read the sample pages.  However, if you are a communications manager interested in creating or revamping your company’s intranet, I certainly recommend adding this report’s cost to your expense account.

For additional information about how to manage your intranet, check out McConnell’s blog Globally Local.

4 Responses

  1. Another key consideration is where in your organization the intranet team belongs. There are 3 typical homes for business ownership of an internal site: IT, HR or Corporate Communications. Less frequently, the responsibility for intranet resides in another department such as Marketing, often due to an accident of history (e.g. a VP built the pilot, so her department has retained ownership of the whole site as it has grown organically).

    Each area has pros and cons specific to your enterprise. I believe it is important to weigh these in context and determine the best place for you, then petition your executive sponsor to move or build the team there — or enlist the head of the right department for that role.

    • Excellent insight Tom. Thank you for your contribution. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

      • I should add that I am still a rookie communicator. I’ve used this blog as an opportunity to research topics of interest and learn more about business communications. I appreciate contributions from seasoned professionals because it adds so much value to the process.

  2. Hello Priscilla,

    Congratulations on a well-designed, thoughtful blog. And thank you for the comments on my Global Intranet Trends for 2009 report.
    Your post on the importance of having an intranet strategy in 2009 is well written. I can see that you know what it’s like inside a large, global company.
    I’ve put you on my netvibes and will be following the evolution of your blog with interest.
    Please get in touch directly with me when you have a moment.
    best regards, and keep up the good work!

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