What makes a good intranet?

29 06 2010

The past couple of weeks I have found myself talking lots to people about intranet based solutions, but a general question I keep getting asked is, “What makes a good intranet?”

This may seem quite a straight forward answer, but it simply isn’t. There are many common components that are often found on intranet sites; however, a good intranet is made up of components and elements that users simply want to access or need to access frequently…

So to do this you need to understand everyone’s requirements and wishes. On top of this, you need to keep firmly in mind three other factors for success, functionality, performance and maintenance…

Requirements, Requirements, Requirements…

For an intranet site to be a success, it is key to understand your requirements and end goals. What you have to remember here though is that understanding requirements means a lot more than just talking to high level users or managers. Requirements set out at this level are often what the “end game” should deliver, however, day to day users no doubt will have their own set of requirements, and if an intranet is to be useful and a success, then it is these user requirements that must be identified (that’s the tricky bit).

Some questions to keep in mind when looking at user based requirements are useful; many users when asked “what would you like to see” will only come up with a couple of ideas typically based on what they have had to do that day. However, they know many more, it’s just hard to identify them or communicate them based on a simple single question….So here are some general questions to think about and throw at staff members:

  • What applications are you accessing on a regular basis?
  • What content do you need access quickly too, and where is it located?
  • What knowledge / information do you need to share with other departments, or would like to share easily?
  • What information do you need to see at the start of your day?
  • What information would you like to know that isn’t necessarily related to your work tasks?
  • Where do you look for general information currently?
  • How do you notify / communicate with other departments currently?

Though not by any means an extensive list of questions, these get you going in the right direction…

Functionality and Integration

Often intranet sites are viewed as simple internal websites; however they can be so much more. If you investigate the software that is used regularly, it is worth noting how users access this software and what they are using it for. Sometimes software can be shown inside “Portals” of an intranet site, allowing content and information to be rapidly accessed via the intranet site. In addition, there is nothing stopping an intranet site from integrating with your software and applications, nor is there anything stopping it from access content and information out there on the internet….

Performance

If you want your intranet to succeed, it needs to run quickly. This means you may need to invest in your IT infrastructure, or that you need to have an intranet solution that delivers good performance. At the end of the day, if your intranet takes an age to load or to navigate, users will not be interested in using it…

Maintenance

An intranet is only of any use if its content is kept up to date, if the intranet is maintained correctly. If you find your intranet holds old information, looks shabby or worse, throws up the odd error here and there, then users are going to chose to not use it. If this is the case then your intranet is a disaster no matter what its functions are, if users are not using it, it simply isn’t delivering…

Maintenance is so important for any intranet to be a success, yet it is something that is often overlooked shortly after the go live date…

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2 responses

10 08 2010
Michelle

Great article, I am doing research on types of requirements I need to consider when gathering user requirements for an intranet and you article gave me extra things to think about. Thanks

10 08 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

HI Michelle,

Glad to help. There are so many things to think about, in addition so many voices that want to be heard, different views, etc. etc. Good luck with your requirements gathering…Remember I am always available for consultancy 🙂

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