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The key to a successful intranet home page lies in more than just the design and technical delivery. 

You only have to think about famous shop windows of the world… Selfridges, Macy’s, Harrods … to know that the shop window matters. The Selfridges shop window is talked about throughout London, and a spot in the limelight at Harrods will set you back a tidy sum.

Yes, a good shop window makes a big impact, but more importantly, it’s not an accident. The Selfridges General Manager doesn’t come in one morning and say ‘hey guys go and dress the window with what you fancy today’ – it is directed by a well-conceived plan and strategy that is based on who they want to reach, what they want to say, and how they’re going to make an impact.

What has this to do with my intranet, I hear you ask. Well, nothing and everything. Your home page is your engagement strategy’s shop window and as Selfridges has taught us: winning hearts and minds makes you famous.

If your intranet is to be the beating heart of your engagement strategy then it needs to be a living, breathing entity that people enjoy interacting with. Giving people what they want in an engaging way will make them want to come back.

In practice, the first step is to get people there.

 

Define Clear Objectives

It’s easy to forget what an intranet is for. You will benefit hugely, even if just amongst the team of stakeholders, from bringing clarity by clearly defining objectives and a purpose for your intranet. It’s a moving beast that will change over its lifetime depending on who is using it, particularly now that enterprise social is here to muddy the waters. What do you expect to see happen? What will it allow users to do? What impact on the business will it have? Answering these and other questions very early in the process will help ensure success.

 

Understand the user

A user’s first experience of a new intranet creates a long lasting impression, so implementing a new intranet is an opportunity to make a big change for the better in how you engage employees.

Users will be impressed if you answer their needs and the best way to understand users’ needs is to ask them via focus groups, surveys and one to one interviews, which will allow you to create personas and user journeys that accurately reflect the needs of your workforce – and allow you to deliver an intranet that beats expectations.

 

Make for a Successful Launch

Plan the launch and plan what happens after the launch but most importantly plan way ahead of the launch. Involve users and super-users, leaders and trainers, as well as key stakeholders and influencers from your communications teams from around the business, i.e. the people who can make or break a new intranet. Explain what’s coming and make sure they understand the aims, the plan and the timelines. Leverage their networks to communicate that a new intranet is coming.

Consider too that different groups will respond to different means of engagement. We recommend you meet leaders face to face but all of the user groups will have needs which it is wise to answer within the context of an overarching engagement plan.

 

Awareness

A new intranet shouldn’t be a comms secret – you need to make it highly visible to the organisation and that means having activities that grab attention. Giving the intranet its own brand and running pre and post launch campaigns is a great way to spread the word and get people to use it.

Then you need to think about how tos and guidance content, although it’s a good idea to send the message that training is not essential to encourage staff to use it early.

Then there’s feedback sessions. There’s also defining success and how you will measure it. Lots to think about!

 

Baby Steps after Launch

Enterprises that are serious about creating a best in class digital workplace understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It is tempting to go for a big bang approach but evolving in baby steps is easier on the organisation and your users.

The insights from analytics combined with a good feedback mechanism are invaluable for driving ongoing improvement.  Make the right alterations and improvements leads to incremental improvements over time which in turn will increase user satisfaction and bring them back for more.

Just like Selfridges, don’t rest on your laurels.

 

What about Social?

Many or our clients ask us for their intranet to be social – a living, breathing entity. Most enterprises see huge opportunities in enterprise collaboration tools like Yammer, Jive & Facebook at Work but it isn’t always clear how these tools sit alongside or within an intranet, so you need to consult users and form a clear vision. If one of your success goals is for your intranet to be social, it’s wise to bring that functionality to the fore: put it on the home page.

 

Personalisation

Another big opportunity is a personalised experience. Traditional thinking is to structure intranets based on department but it is now possible to personalise content, navigation and even branding based on user group, such as leaders – and you can get even more granular than that. Personalised content goes a lot further to meeting the individual needs of different user groups but it can’t be done well without good planning.

 

The Benefits of a Customisable Template Intranet

We don’t normally talk about what we do, and EasyShare, in our posts but in this case it is directly relevant. EasyShare is a set of customisable templates for SharePoint that are based on the requirements of over 25 blue chip organisations. 90% of these organisations’ requirements are common to all.

There are two benefits to this approach. For example, much of the time and resource that would normally go into design, development and integration can instead go into thinking about & planning the user experience, change management and engagement. Secondly, it’s a less risky approach because rather than starting with a blank page, the project starts with requirements shared by 90% of large organisations so both from a features and a creative perspective there is a framework to operate in and less chance of getting it wrong.

 

A Note about SharePoint 2016

SharePoint is a great tool and is extremely powerful, but there is no way you can get it to do exactly what you want out of the box without giving a lot of consideration to what users need and without working on the user experience. Early indications are that this is extremely unlikely to change with SharePoint 2016. What that means is that all of the best practice around planning and the user experience will be just as important, if not more so given the proliferation of mobile devices and new digital collaboration tools, as it has always been.