For most people, planning and running an Intranet project can be a daunting exercise. We have worked with many organizations, both large and small, in helping to determine the real business goals for the Intranet, and what matters the most for their organization.
If you’ve been tasked with finding an Intranet solution, and not sure where to start, then the following will help you to plan the process of understanding your needs, connecting with vendors and interpreting what’s on offer.
Before you start reaching out to Intranet software providers, or ordering Intranet books on Amazon, stop to consider why does the organization need an Intranet? Does the organization already have an Intranet? Understanding the business need will fundamentally define your list of requirements that you will then engage Intranet vendors with. Key questions to ask yourself are:
The third bullet point is key. If you achieve Intranet nirvana through implementing a shiny new Intranet, what would the organization ultimately like to achieve? For most organizations, an Intranet takes them from zero to one in terms of achieving operational efficiencies, shared communications and certain functions that help to reduce paper based processes. But what if your Intranet could take you from one to ten? What are the big picture items you could be solving within your organization?
An Intranet affects the entire company. The most successful approach is to seek representation from all areas of the business. Staff who define the Intranet team should be from your Communications & Marketing team, Operations, HR and IT. Assembling an Intranet team with staff from all parts of the business will ensure that key criteria for the project is discussed and well considered and that corresponding decisions represent the majority of what the organization is seeking. The Intranet team also ensures project knowledge is shared across the entire organization, and is not governed by a select few. This approach will help to eliminate assumptions and allow for a set of broad expectations to be defined. The consultative process of establishing an Intranet team will ensure better project governance, which will determine whether the new Intranet project succeeds or fails.
Consider why the organization needs an Intranet. Understanding the business need will fundamentally define your list of requirements.
Every organization is different. While most Intranet software products will tick the box for all the pedigree functions, determining what Intranet platform can enable you to go from one to ten as mentioned earlier is where the opportunity for significant return on investment can be realized. Key pedigree offerings with any Intranet solution should include:
Your list of requirements should attempt to delve into solving some of the more complex problems that the organization has. These will largely relate to how certain processes are currently undertaken, how and why they fail, and how an Intranet can be used to solve them. Document the problems, explain what the desired outcome is versus the current outcome, and ask the Intranet vendors to prepare a demonstration of their platform that best presents how their product could be used to provide resolution. This will enable you to see first hand how vendors use their software to provide a solution that is specific to you. As a result of this process, you’ll know which product is going to meet more of your complex requirements.
On average, a typical Intranet project can run for three months. Depending on what your requirements are, some projects can last as long as twelve to eighteen months. Consider the commencement of your project timeframe from the moment you award your project to a vendor, through to when you are preparing for go-live. So where is the most amount of time spent? Preparing content naturally. In most cases, you will be responsible for planning, gathering and preparing content for population into the new Intranet site. If you were to ask anyone who has undertaken this effort, the majority of them are going to share tales of sleepless nights, the stress of commanding fellow team members to summons new content out of thin air, and in most cases find themselves wading through what can be hundreds or even thousands of pages of content to decide what appears on the new Intranet, and what is left behind.
Vendor pricing will enable you to determine a budgeting average for your project. That’s why it’s important for you to share a list of requirements and expectations with all vendors, as this will allow you to understand the different pricing dimensions of each product. In general, most software will be licensed to you on a ‘per seat’ cost. The more people you have in your organization, technically the more expensive the solution will become, however most vendors have a pricing model that will plateau at a certain point (the solution gets cheaper the more people you have). Other pricing components you’ll need to consider for budgeting are the professional services to implement, configure and train your team in using the product. You will also need to determine what are the ongoing costs for the solution. Namely support of the product.
Vendors are humans like you. They have families and friends, enjoy coffee in the morning, and have an active interest in wanting to solve your internal communication problems. Treat them like humans, and you’ll enjoy the process. We make this point because for some customers, they go into the process with the view that vendors are somehow like used car salesmen. We understand that the sales process can be intimidating for some, but remaining professional and transparent is the best policy.
Most vendors will want to establish upfront if they can assist you or not. Providing them with as much information as possible about your anticipated project is the best approach. Sharing your list of functional requirements, setting expectations and proposing timeframes is the best way for vendors to determine how they can assist you with your evaluation process.
There’s no rule about how many solutions you should look at. If you have the time, then you’ll greatly help your own education by reviewing half a dozen products. From there, you’ll want to shortlist (with two or three being the norm), and then engage with those vendors in more detail. This will consist of two or three in-depth demonstrations of their software. You should also request access to an on-line demonstration site so you and your team can undertake your own evaluation at your pace.