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Who should be involved in a great intranet? 

Whether we’re designing a brand-new intranet or redesigning a legacy intranet to meet the changing needs of our end users, we often think projects start when we begin sketching out site maps, creating page mockups, and building out the pages, widgets, and content that make up an intranet.  However, in both my learned experience and what I’ve read from thought leaders in the Intranet Design space, we must do some important work to set up a successful intranet design, build, and implementation.

The first and most important phase of a great intranet design process is where we lay the foundation. To do this, we must assemble our core intranet team, research our users’ needs, identify improvement opportunities, and settle on a common vision for the new intranet. Then we can start to secure the resources and talent we’d need for the intranet design and build phase. 

Assemble the Squad 

From the Nielsen Norman Group 2022 Intranet Design Annual, the winning teams “were small relative to the size of their organizations”, and on average were made up of 17 members, ranging from three to as many as 55.  This includes both internal and external team members, such as consultants like Total Solutions. The numbers don’t include extended team members, such as content authors or people brought in to work on short-term projects.  But how do we build with this team? 

An intranet design needs a leader. Many people will be invested in this intranet, but if no one person is in charge, a lot of time can be wasted making decisions. This leader is responsible for gathering many perspectives from executives and stakeholders across the organization, using the available tools in the digital workplace, as well as setting and maintaining team focus. In the course of creating a new intranet, this person will: 

  • Drive creating the intranet vision and helping the team hold on to that vision throughout the journey. 
  • Involve leadership and stakeholders, inform them of progress, and keep them engaged with the effort and progress. 
  • Make the final decision, based on the vision, when there is a lack of consensus. 
  • Take a broad and empathetic view of employee roles across the organization. What do they do? What do they need? Also, what digital tools are available to make the intranet the most effective for the people. 
Creating the Intranet Vision
Figure 1 – Creating the Intranet Vision

Now, do we need to have the full team defined right away to start an intranet redesign? Nope! I recommend starting by laying out the skills we would need, then looking internally to fill a core skill set. If we don’t have all the skills (or team availability) internally, partnering with a consultant can help fill those gaps, and bring perspective and experience from a broad portfolio of intranets.  Here’s a brief list of skills we’d want our core team to cover: 

  • Information Architecture (How to structure and categorize information in a way meaningful to end users) 
  • Search (How to tailor search engines, results page, and how to improve search over time through user feedback) 
  • Content Strategy (Planning how content is created, edited, published, and promoted) 
  • User Research (How we’ll achieve an understanding of who the users are, what they need, desire, and value from an intranet, and why they need/desire/value those things) 
  • Workshop Facilitation (How to run structured activities so we can have lots of participation in discovery and design and efficiently use stakeholder and user time) 
  • UX Strategy (How to develop and iterate on navigate? How to best present information to users so they can easily find what they want) 
  • Development (Writing code and/or using digital tools to create the pieces of an intranet) 
  • User Adoption (How to build awareness, engage the user community, promote, and market the value (Why!) behind the intranet) 
  • Governance (How we will continue to collect feedback, decide what to invest in, grow and improve the intranet over time) 

Keep in mind we can always add to the team should a need for a new skill arise. Building this core team will help us identify where we might want to pull in an outside agency to fill a skill set. Involve internal employees in the intranet work. It also helps ensure the intranet continues to grow and adapt past the first release. 

Discover and Uncover 

Now that we’ve built a team, we can start the discovery and research phase of a successful intranet project.  Here, we want to identify the “Why” behind a new intranet or redesign of an existing intranet. Review any past user research while planning and performing new research, and chart out our organizations’ systems and tools. These activities will feed into defining a vision for the new intranet. It will also help ground design conversations around what we want the new intranet to be.  

Defining a Vision
Figure 2 – Defining a vision

What’s Next?

In part one of this blog, we have discussed some of the key factors that contribute to building a great intranet, such as user needs, content strategy, design principles and governance. We hope you found this information useful and relevant for your own intranet project. If you want to continue to learn more about building a great intranet, don’t miss the next part of this blog series, where we will share insights regarding stakeholder vision and project budget. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for the release of part two. Thank you for reading and see you soon!