Any successful intranet requires a Functional Plan, a detailed
document that identifies the form and function of an intranet,
including its Information Architecture—or, where things live on your
intranet—the wireframe layouts—or content buckets on the pages—how your
intranet looks, and the site’s functionality – what your intranet will
be capable of and will be included as part of the solution. Also,
without a proper Functional Plan selecting the right technology
solution is like trying to tie your shoelaces with your hands pinned
behind your back – not impossible, but a lot more difficult than it
needs to be.
In previous editions of Prescient’s newsletter
we have provided
details on the value and essential importance of a well thought out and
planned Information Architecture
, and have guided you
through the three critical steps (DI
) of designing a killer site. That leaves us
with site functionality to cover.
So how do you plan something when you don’t know what you need?
The obvious answer is you don’t.
The first order of business when developing a functional plan - one
that will allow you to grow your site and have it evolve as the needs
of your business and employees do - is to execute an in-depth needs
analysis. A needs analysis will set the bar on the current situation
for your intranet’s environment.
- Challenges: perceived and real,
- Objectives: short and long term, and
- Functionality (tools, process applications and information
categories): “can’t live without”, “would be nice to have”, and “don’t
need even if the CIO thinks it is really cool”.
Challenges – Addressing them head on
When it comes to implementing, or revamping, an intranet it is a
very good idea to know just what people are thinking. Is your corporate
culture one that resists change at every corner, so that you need to
roll out your new business tool slowly with lots of communication and
orientation? Or do your employees embrace anything that is hip and
bleeding edge in the technology world – so that whatever your intranet
solutions contains it better offer a slew of bells and whistles like
team rooms and blogs? Are all of your employees in one building in the
same city – so that that a simpler technology solution can be used? Or
are they so geographically dispersed that you need Google Maps to find
them – so you had better have a robust networking system that can
accommodate log-ins from around the world?
Whatever the issue at hand is that may affect the implementation
and/or adoption of an intranet it will pay off in the end to
acknowledge, and address it, as best you can at the outset.
Objectives – today will turn into tomorrow
Knowing what you want to accomplish today is important. Equally
important is knowing where you want to be tomorrow, next week, and have
a least some idea where you want to end up next year and even five
years from now.
An intranet needs to be able to morph and grow with a company as
the organization changes and evolves. Things to consider with planning
for the future:
- Plans for employee growth. If a take-over of another company is
planned that will double current staff numbers, the intranet’s
infrastructure better be able to handle the increased traffic.
- Is the intranet going to be the one-stop-shop for all things
corporate: document repository, employee communication tool, HR
functional tool (forms submissions, payroll documentation, vacation
requests/tracking, etc.)? Then the technology implemented needs to be
robust and chock-full of capabilities and upgrades.
Without looking at the big picture, as the intranet’s
administrator you may find yourself back at the starting line before
finishing even the first phase of the intranet’s solution – having very
quickly outgrown your original plan.
Functionality – one person’s dream is another person’s
Understanding your company’s culture will go a long way to
providing the right mix of basic tools and way-cool
A good place to start is to make a laundry list of all the
requests for tools and features for the intranet. Be sure to throw in a
few of your own that you have read or heard about that you think may be
a good fit for your organisation. Once you have established that list,
sort the items into three columns:
- Can’t Live Without – these are capabilities that your
organisation needs to either maintain or improve upon current “must
have” functionality. This list of often includes: company directory
with search functionality, remote access, forms repository and HR
- Nice to Have – this list will be comprised of components
that, while the company could do without them, would still he
advantageous. For example, if your employees are spread out across the
country, but you HR department resides mainly at head office, having
the capability to submit forms and requests would be an excellent tool.
Or perhaps IM (instant messaging) would also be a welcome addition,
particularly in our current world of open-concept cubicle
configuration. Could the company live without these tools, sure, but
why not take the opportunity to improve upon a required process, or add
something that will facilitate communications for employees. These can
be relatively easy components to implement, and go a long way to making
the intranet an important and well used business tool.
- Don’t need – so your CEO is a daily blogger with her
running club and she is insisting that blogging functionality be set up
for all employees to use. You know, because you have done your
homework, that your employees just aren’t the blogging-types (you still
have employees who won’t use email!). You can therefore make the case
that this is just not going to be something that will be used enough to
warrant the added workload it will require to implement, maintain and
govern it. In this case, blogging could be added to the list of “future
considerations” so that your CEO can still see some light on the
Once these lists have been generated and consent required from
across the organisation has been received – not as easy as it sounds
sometimes – the selection of technology (if required) and
implementation of the selected functional elements can occur.
Once the Functional Plan is finalized, it is on to the next steps
in your intranet’s evolution – site design, content management plan and
a governance model. But with this well researched “plan to succeed”
shared with everyone else who is helping with the site, you can
minimize the time spent discussing what should be on the site and
maximize your energy on making those elements perform at their
Prescient Digital Media is a veteran web and intranet consulting firm with 10 years of rich history. We provide strategic Internet and intranet consulting, planning and communications services to many Fortune 500 and big brand clients, as well as small and medium-sized leaders.