Mind the (intranet) Gap

Asking the right questions of the right people, and then translating the collected business needs into technical requirements is a necessary step that will help to ensure the vision and execution of the intranet are the same.
An internal online tool, such as an intranet or portal, can have a significant positive impact on an organization’s overall success. Unfortunately, the vacuum between IT and Communications the vacuum between IT and Communications can often delay delivery of that success as well as waste time and incur cost over-runs during the build phase all because requirements were not properly scoped or documented during requirements gathering phase. Worse yet, the Business’s requirements can be overlooked (or underestimated) and the site is built solely on assumptions and individual preferences.

Mind the gap

You speak in A, B, C’s.
They speak in 1, 2, 3’s.

You ask for a BLT – Blog Leadership Template, and they give you a BLT – Branching Logic Template.

You = The Business
They = IT, IS, IT&S

All you want is an internal online tool that helps people do their jobs better, easier, more efficiently. Is that really too much to ask for? No it isn’t, but they, the IT department, didn’t hire any mind readers so you, the business, have to make sure that the requirements for the intranet are clearly detailed so that everyone, the yous and the theys, are on the same page before any development hours or company money is spent.

“What requirements?” you ask. Requirements are the documented “must haves”, “nice to haves”, and the “well if you have time and it won’t cost me anything” haves. And even if it seems obvious that you would want a spot on the home page for news, or that the site’s search function should be present in the same place on every page, it all has to be articulated as clearly as possible to avoid disappointment.

In building (or rebuilding) a corporate intranet, Communications (usually the day to day site administrators) and IT (who own and manage the technology involved in delivering the intranet), and sometimes HR (who typically own a large portion of an intranet’s content and are tasked with maintaining a positive employee satisfaction rating) often don’t speak the same language. Heck, they sometime feel that they don’t even come from the same planet. The result; what Communications and HR ask for and what IT/IS delivers don’t match up to the original idea or request. That isn’t necessarily anybody’s fault, but more so a product of different cultures and languages trying to merge and communicate without the aid of a translator.

Clarity is essential in getting any message across. And true clarity requires understanding, and vice versa. 

The following are a few areas of consideration that the Communications team needs to work on in order to truly understand what employees want in an intranet. Once these elements have been defined, then those on either side of the Server Room door can sit down and start hammering out the details of how these needs and wants will be translated into a killer intranet or portal environment.

The following diagram shows the criteria that needs to be defined and confirmed prior to moving forward with an intranet implementation.

Mind the Gap 2

  1. Business needs

    What are the expectations and desires from the leadership team for an intranet business tool? What about employees? What does the site need to offer employees in order to align with the overall strategy or goals of the organization? Ensuring that the intranet site is in harmony and supports the direction of the company will help ensure support (read: resources and funding) for its evolution.

  2. Functional needs

    What do employees want to do with the intranet? Are they a group that shies away from technology? Or are they all closet programmers or web-heads? What tools are available today? What is missing that would take employee efficiency and satisfaction to the next level? Understanding this will ensure you align the launch and evolution of the new site with the needs/desires of the organization and its employees.

  3. Resources

    Where are resources coming from? Are employees properly trained with the appropriate skill set for the task at hand? There is a litany of varied tasks involved with an intranet project and having the right team makes the difference between a smooth or rocky execution of an intranet project.

  4. Technology

    In house? New acquisition? Custom build? Understanding the business and functional needs first, as well as the in house capabilities to support the solution will help ensure the most appropriate solution is selected.

  5. Budget

    Do you have it? Where is it coming from? What is it dependent on? What is it for; body count?  Technology? Training? How long will it last? These are key questions that need answers before an implementation plan can be put into place. Let’s face it, a short term financial infusion and long term budgetary support makes the difference between an internal website that just offers information, and a robust business tool that enables employee efficiencies and builds a positive corporate culture.

    Getting to the root of these five elements can be an arduous process that few employees or teams in today’s lean economic times have the bandwidth for.

    Where do we get a translator?

    Whether you have the expertise already on the payroll or hire expert external consultants like Prescient, having an individual or group to help gather all this information is imperative. By asking the right questions of the right people, and then translating the collected business needs into technical requirements is a necessary step that will help to ensure the vision and execution of the intranet are the same.

Intranet 2.0

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For more information

For more information on our intranet services, including Intranet Planning and Intranet Design, please contact us directly (Prescient Digital Media) or phone 416.926.8800.