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Intranet strategy isn’t just about working out a high-level, visionary paper about the future direction of the intranet. Instead the process of strategy development should also be used to make crucial decisions needed in later phases of an intranet project.
Let’s start with a look at some of the most important pre-requisites for successful strategy development (or revision):
involve and commit the ‘right’ people in the organisation (including but not limited to senior management)
take other existing strategies into account (namely the corporate strategy, but also HR, communications, IT or any other relevant ones)
work it out together in a collaborative, consensus focused approach (as opposed to e.g. just sending some paper around for sign-off)
broadly communicate goals and objectives in a suitable fashion in regard to the target audience
Working out the strategy is already challenging and time-demanding. Still, it seems good advice to go one step further and include discussions about critical aspects that typically come up in every intranet project, now, in order to get ahead faster and more efficient in later stages.
The reason why this should be done is simple: you (hopefully!) have the right people to make decisions and build acceptance at the table – and that’s probably the only time you’ll actually get them there.
So, it pays to think about which issues might require senior competencies, a broad spectrum of voices from across the organisation or dissemination through respected persons outside the intranet and project team.
Here are some such issues I have repeatedly come across in intranet projects and that often require substantial time and resources to work out, if not addressed up-front in the strategic phase of the project:
Decentrally organised roles and resources:
It is important to create a common understanding about roles and resources needed for the ongoing management of the intranet and its contents. Try to get commitment from the business units to allocate those – both in regard to the quantity and quality required.
Acceptance is key for effective execution of an intranet governance. Achieving this can be hard if the governance is not borne by multipliers from across the enterprise. Topics to discuss should include the basic orientation of the governance (e.g. is it rather strict or relaxed?), its focus and reach (e.g. is only information on the intranet affected or in all systems that contain information?) and how neglect is to be dealt with.
Discussions about ROI often come up at the worst moment. Addressing the organisation’s position on goals, key performance indicators and financial measurements at the beginning of a project not only helps to set expectations right but also to focus on longer term value instead of one-off project costs and returns.
There are more topics that could or should be covered in the strategy process (e.g. the organisation’s take on accessibility issues, non business related use of the intranet or the provision of information to employees without computer workplaces), but usually the time available is a very limiting factor, so focus on what seems potentially most problematic – especially from a political point-of-view – in the course of the project to come.