Recently I have been reading a lot about the World Cup stadiums in Brazil and noticed that Brazil is facing the same issues that every country faces when hosting a worldwide sporting event. The minute a country is chosen to host the Olympics, they start breaking ground for years to come in order to support the event. Countries pour billions of dollars into infrastructure; they build roads, hotels, stadiums, upgrade rail/traffic systems. The sad story however, is for many countries after the event… The stadiums are no longer used and slowly crumble. Money that could have been spent to build up and maintain an infrastructure was instead put into an event and subsequently lost the years following.
While I am not one to write politically charged posts, nor am I trying to write one in this blog, I sometimes see the same mindset with corporate information architecture and intranets. Many intranets that exist were built without the future in-mind and subsequently have crumbled and no longer provide the benefits that were intended or that they once had. On the other hand, there are intranets that were well designed with a strong focus on information architecture and planning that yield tremendous productivity enhancements for many years following implementation.
This is where I start to draw the similarities between hosting the Olympics and creating a new SharePoint Intranet for your company. When it comes to your Intranet, here’s what you should be thinking about.
1. Who are you building for?
When starting an intranet project, understand the target audience who will be using it. In most cases it is your employees! While it is possible that one person at your organization knows exactly what should become of your future intranet, chances are they do not know everything. I suggest you reach out to your employees and ask them what functionality they would like to see in an intranet that would improve their daily business processes. Do a little homework to measure what employees need either by conducting surveys, analyzing current intranet trends, or identifying metrics to target long term improvement. Think ahead and plan for the future.
2. How are you going to build it?
You have a couple options when building your companies intranet portal. You could stand up an environment on-premises or you could go the cloud hosted route. While I can’t speak for your organizations IT structure, I have found that in most cases Office 365 provides the best cost/benefit and allows for the most long term flexibility. Without hassle you can spin up an Office 365 environment and be on your way without hiring your own IT staff to build and manage your SharePoint environment and infrastructure. Not to mention the benefits of receiving Exchange Online, Skype for Business and all of your Microsoft Office applications!
3. How will it sustain long term?
Aside from building an intranet that provides value to employees, the most important aspect of a new intranet is governance. Yes, that big ‘G’ word that everyone throws around but not many people understand. After deploying your intranet, you need to provide a means of governing the documents and information that your users are consuming and uploading into your environment. That means, having guidelines for users on how to upload and manage content. Provide incentives for employees to continue using the intranet! Last and not least, remember that your intranet is a forever evolving creature. You’d be mistaken in hoping that once you create and deploy your intranet, that it will survive and thrive on its own. It will need to be managed and it will need new features to be added to support your ever evolving business needs. Don’t implement an Intranet and forget about it – feed and care for it over time and it will pay great dividends.
I realize while writing this post, that it may be a little too high level. Creating a company intranet is much more complex than three bullet points. However, it really is just meant to spark thought about the future of your corporate intranet. At the end of the day, you’ll be investing thousands of dollars into creating a sustainable intranet -- let’s make good use of that money!