11 mantras for intranet managers

June 18, 2012 Updated: July 11, 2022 by

When you spend all your time managing an intranet, it becomes something more than a job. The work can do a lot to shape your life philosophy.

By Matt Wilson | www.ragan.com

That’s why Digital Workplace Group CEO and Founder Paul Miller joined Sharon O’Dea, senior manager of online communication at Standard Charter Bank, and John Stepper, managing director of collaboration and social media at Deutsche Bank, to list their intranet mantras on the June episode of Digital Workplace Live.

Their words of wisdom:

1. Design it for real users.

O’Dea said that intranet managers tend to listen to the loudest voices or the most powerful people, but they’re not the ones who rely on the intranet for information every day.

“What we really need to do is deliver for people so they can get their jobs done a little better,” she said.

2. Let information find you.

Many intranets at big companies are stuck in a “pre-Google, pre-Facebook” era, in which managers distribute information packets to people, Stepper asserted. Younger workers don’t take information in like that, he said. They park themselves in front of their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and they expect the important stuff to come to them. Your intranet should facilitate that, using social tools.

3. It isn’t a one-time project.

O’Dea offered that intranets should be ever-evolving. You don’t just work on them for a few months and then leave them alone until the next refresh.

“It’s something you need to continue to iterate with,” she said.

Miller added, “It’s an ongoing experience for the organization.”

4. Build it in phases.

Similarly, you shouldn’t worry about having to completely rebuild the intranet from the ground up every time you make a change. You can change one area at a time, as needs arise. A small failure isn’t as crushing as a relaunch that goes bad.

“There’s a lot to be said for doing a little bit at a time,” O’Dea said.

5. Community trumps control.

Are your employees talking to one another? That’s a more important question than whether they’re being closely monitored all the time, Stepper said.

6. Make it personal.

The way to get employees talking, he said, is to eschew an overly formal, professional tone.

“People want to talk to people,” Stepper said. “They want to hear stories.”

7. It’s for you, no one else.

Tools and design elements that work wonders for other companies aren’t necessarily what will work for yours, O’Dea warned. Rather than add a feature just because you saw it somewhere else, determine what’s really right for your business.

8. Design for mobile and social from the beginning.

The number of people accessing the intranet through mobile devices is only going to grow, and those people will expect social tools, Stepper said.

9. Measure.

Having numbers to back up every step of everything you do is the only way you can prove yourself, O’Dea said.

10. Have empathy.

“Communication is something you do with people, not to people,” Stepper said.

11. An intranet isn’t a thing; it’s an experience.

Miller said that’s his one mantra.

The program’s hosts asked listeners to share mantras of their own, and they offered several, including: “Keep it simple,” “Don’t be afraid to change it,” and, “The intranet is not a document dumping ground.”

Also in Wednesday’s broadcast:

Intranet radio?

Gregg Scholz, director of HR operations at TripAdvisor, shared several details about his company’s new intranet, including some plans for a new feature: a radio station. The station will play music throughout the day, Scholz said, but in the place of commercials, employees will get company announcements and interviews with leaders.

“We think that’s going to be something that has people coming back,” he said.

Employees can get in on the act, too, Scholz said. For example, if an employee is in a band, the station may play some of that band’s songs.

The beauty question

Dan Merton, intranet manager at investment firm Legal & General, showed off his intranet, the newest version of which launched in March 2011. In addition to noting that the intranet’s name, “Landscape,” comes from employee suggestions, Merton gave a timeline of how the design has changed over the years into something quite visually appealing.

O’Dea said making an intranet pretty makes sense. After all, if people don’t want to work in ugly offices, why would they want ugly online spaces in which to work?

Categorised in: DWG24

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