Everyone knows that intranets are a great way to collect and distribute information and content. But what types of content should the intranet distribute, and how does the content add value to an organization?
Research from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) shows the most valuable intranets make it easier for employees to do their jobs.
Every organization has hundreds of decisions to make about the way it operates. These decisions combine together to form business activities and policies, and ultimately determine whether an organization will succeed. The most efficient way to disperse these practices is through an intranet.
An effective intranet is like the brain of an entire organization. It describes how a company functions and ensures that all employees sing from the same hymn book.
The following list of nine types of intranet content will help you carry out business tasks more effectively. Use this checklist to make sure your intranet is capturing and delivering content that will add value.
1. How to
This type of content describes how to perform different business tasks within an organization. Examples include how to process a sales order, invoice a customer, identify new customers and order a new laptop.
Most intranets are a collection of Web pages, policies and procedures. New organizations create this type of content as they identify and create new tasks. For existing organizations, employees can update and change this content as the company introduces new processes, systems, practices, innovations, ideas, products and services.
Potentially, all staff can create this content. The value of this type of content is that it "de-skills" many tasks, and spreads knowledge throughout the organization. This makes it less expensive and more efficient for organizations to operate, as employees are able to complete more tasks quickly and consistently.
2. Forms, templates, tools, applications
This supports the "how to" content. Examples may include templates, websites, online forms and Web applications. This can help staff complete tasks more quickly and accurately. For instance, a template-or online form, preferably-for claiming expenses ensures that staff members do the task consistently and correctly with a minimum amount of hassle.
3. Re-usable documents
Employees can modify and re-use these documents. Some examples are sales proposals, funding requests, project plans and presentations. This can be a great time saver for many organizations, and can improve the quality of the documents.
Imagine that you have a 100-page sales proposal that you have already done for an organization. It is much easier to re-use and modify this sales proposal for a new client than to start from scratch.
4. Structured content
Examples of this content are staff, customer, service, product, and other ad hoc lists, as well as business unit descriptions. Structured content supports the "how to" content, and employees can add and update the content on continually.
The more items you have and the more comprehensive the information, the more useful this content will be. Imagine you are able to read descriptions of customers before you even meet them.
5. News, blogs, staff status updates
This is content that staff may or may not choose to read. It is not critical for completing a task, but highlights areas of the business that are important. The communications team may manage this content to spread the culture and values of the organization, as well as engage employees.
Examples include news stories that highlight other categories of content, like a change in the way a task is done; staff profiles; a new customer; a successful proposal bid; or a relevant external news story.
6. Reference material
Reference material can include case studies, white papers, research and articles that help your organization. It is content that does not change. Reference material helps develop employees' skills and can improve business processes. For example, after reading an article about using social media more effectively, you may want to change your marketing processes. Reference material can be added over time, potentially by all staff.
7. Collaboration, discussion
This is content that is under development, or "in progress." It requires less governance than the other content types, and typically does not require approval. It may include documents you are working on with other people, new product ideas, suggestions, discussion forums, project sites and other general team sites.
Collaboration content may eventually find its way to the other content types. For example, if you post a discussion question about the best place to run a workshop in New York, the answers would be logically placed in a list of workshop venues. In the future, if a staff member is looking for a place to run a workshop in New York, he or she can refer to the workshop list rather than read a discussion topic which could have dozens of comments.
8. Reports, performance measures
This is content that provides feedback about how the company or employees are performing. This may include the share price, customer satisfaction levels, sales figures and a host of other key performance indicators.
9. Archive, records
Archives and records are content kept simply for historical purposes, like old product descriptions or details of employees who have left. Some intranets end up acting as an archive by default, but they are not the best place for this type of content.
Over time, the more content that is added to the intranet, the less effective searching becomes and the more staff distrust the content. Imagine a staff list where most of the staff have left! The intranet should be a place where employees can access current, accurate and relevant information. Alternative approaches to records management and archiving are more appropriate.
Does your intranet provide these content types? Are there any other types of content that should be included on an intranet?
Andrew Wright is the founder of the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). He also writes the Worldwide Intranet Challenge blog, where a version of this article originally ran.