How to hire an intranet consultant

Great intranets are rarely done solely in-house. There’s too much at stake and the intranet is, far too often, a political juggling act. The average intranet redesign takes 12 to 18 months (sometimes more). Often far too much work for even two or three full-time employees  to alone. A non-partisan intranet consultant or intranet agency can be a big help.

There are advantages to doing it yourself:
  • Costs less (less external expense)
  • Internal stakeholders are forced to own their intranet (learn the ropes)
  • Internal jobs are reinforced

The disadvantages of doing it yourself are obvious:
  • Lack of skill and experience
  • Lack of people to execute
  • Lack of time
  • Internal politics and competing priorities / vision
  • Time away from day-to-day work
 

Politics

The greatest barrier to an intranet’s potential is politics. Technology and budget are secondary barriers. The intranet is (can be) a political football.

Most intranets don’t grab the attention of executives. Many view it as a cost center, or simply have bigger priorities, or just don't care. The intranet is often left to middle managers in communications and IT with limited budget and power. Conflict often ensues over who owns it, and how it should be improved, and eventually the intranet stalls or fails completely.

Resolving conflict and breaking the subsequent limbo requires senior management support and participation. Where politics runs thick, a collaborative governance model is strongly urged.

Tearing down the political barrier often requires a third-party consultant with lots of expertise (and no political axe to grind), but an arsenal full of best practices. If communications tries to lead the process, the other stakeholders can be suspicious. Nor does communications alone have the technology skills. Ditto for IT (often lacking the business and communications acumen) and HR. If budget allows, everyone respects an experienced and capable mediator.

People

Building or redesigning an intranet requires a lot of work. It can take months or years. It usually is a massive undertaking requiring many disciplines, outcomes, and people. 

An intranet requires:

  • Employee input (research)
  • Executive engagement
  • Best practices intelligence (benchmarking)
  • Business requirements analysis and documentation
  • Strategic planning (mission, objective, goals, KPIs)
  • Functional planning (structure, content, etc.)
  • Governance and an management modelling
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Business case and ROI
  • Content
  • Content management & migration
  • Information architecture
  • User Experience (Design)
  • Tools and applications (social, collaboration, business)
  • Staffing
  • Software (and hardware or cloud hosting)
  • Technology implementation and administration
  • Network and database administration
  • Application integration
  • Etc.
Hiring an intranet consultant will free-up the necessary time to stay on top of the day-to-day - content, daily news, communications, new feature and application rollouts, etc.
Finally, does your team have the skills? Have they ever developed a governance model, an editorial policy, or an AD integration plan?

How to hire an intranet consultant

If you have a budget and a work culture that recognizes the value of an outside intranet expert then proceed with caution.

Caution:
an Internet consultant is not an intranet consultant. A web design firm has deep creative skills, but rarely has any business acumen and intranet expertise. A big-five consulting firm has very smart people but is very expensive.

What to look for in an intranet expert:
  • Intranet client case studies
  • Detailed biographies with demonstrated project experience
  • Experienced individuals that will be assigned to your project
  • Client references with names and numbers (not just unnamed anonymous testimonials)
  • Detailed pricing
  • Corporate strength and documented financial viability
  • Proven and detailed project methodologies
Be cautious if a consultant only has:
  • Screenshots and mock-ups
  • One or two paragraph bios that focus on favorite movies and hobbies with a cute or too-cool-for-school photo
  • People on a list in some far flung office that won’t actually be working on your project
  • Unnamed and anonymous testimonials
  • Vague pricing ‘guess-timates’
  • Tiny shops with no documented financials (P&L) 

Identifying the right intranet consultant

Prepare a thorough and detailed RFP (request for proposal). Invite companies that have proven experience and case studies. If you don’t know one (though you should know several if you read this news blog) then look for a recommendation:
  • Ask a leading company or partner
  • Sniff around your local trade associations like IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) or PRS (Public Relations Societies)
  • Phone your IT analyst at Garner or Forrester
  • Google the phrase “intranet consultant” or “intranet consulting” with or without geographic locations (if that’s important to you)
The RFP responses from any intranet consulting firm should contain the following:
  • Line by line details of every process and deliverable
  • Intranet consulting history and overview
  • Detailed client case studies
  • Solution functional specifications
  • Consulting, licensing (if applicable) AND implementation costs
  • Project team resumes, skills overview & experience
  • Client references and contact information
  • Detailed timeline and schedules
  • Ongoing service & support commitment
  • Solution technical specifications (if applicable)
  • Product demonstration (if applicable)
 

A final word:

Google before you hire a particular intranet consultant or intranet consulting firm. I’m a little bias because I write a lot, have the top blog dedicated to intranets and speak at a lot of conferences, but I like to see for myself the ‘thought leadership’ credentials of the consultant. A great intranet consultant is not only experienced, but a leader with published credentials to support it.

Top intranet consulting firms:

Related reading:

Why is the intranet so political?