4 keys to building and maintaining a successful intranet

Your internal information hub requires support—including ample funding—from top-tier bosses. It also demands clear protocols and content that employees need and want.

4 intranet keys

A winning intranet is like a snow leopard—rare, mysterious and beautiful.

Beloved intranets are years in the making, built and enhanced slowly over time, supported by active executive champions and funding. Without funding, and the executive sponsorship to ensure it, your intranet will die a slow death.

Maintaining an intranet takes work. The average intranet has hundreds of attributes to be addressed and managed. In addition to design, the priorities are people, process and content.

Notwithstanding the years of work and dozens of strategic initiatives required to build and sustain a great intranet, here are four key elements essential to long-term success:

1. Executive sponsorship

The intranet flounders, and often fails, when there is no clear ownership or governance. A successful intranet invariably has an active executive sponsor supported by clear intranet governance.

Your business is not a democracy, and power and money are consolidated at the top. To succeed, the intranet needs funding, and it needs powerful supporters in upper management.

At GoDaddy, all senior managers are active intranet champions. Kim Clark, director of internal communications, says: “We call our intranet The Planet for a reason … because it is our headquarters. The Planet gives equal visibility across regions, teams [and] cultures and is the home base from where we can connect, have access to the company strategy, values, recognition and news.”

Successful intranets benefit from executive sponsorship as part of a strong governance model.

2. Governance

Intranet governance provides clarity and rules—the titles, roles and responsibilities of its owners, managers, stakeholders and contributors.

It defines an intranet’s ownership and management model and structure, including the:

  • Management team
  • Roles and responsibilities of contributors
  • Decision-making process
  • Policies and standards

Planning and governance are technology agnostic. Whether it’s SharePoint, IBM or another portal or content management system, the need for and the approach to governance are the same. Given its technology-neutral status, governance is largely applicable to any platform.

The internal communications team is usually the intranet business owner, and often IT is the tech owner. Communications and IT must forge a partnership for the intranet to succeed.

3. Content

Intranet content must be timely, relevant and meaningful.

Employees don’t go to the intranet to surf or hang out. They’re seeking specific content—often a phone number, a form, a policy or HR information—then they’re gone until they need something again.

Intranet content should be specifically for employees, written for the screen, in an employee context (i.e., what’s in it for me?). Ideally, it has half the word count as print, is presented in the inverted pyramid format, and is delivered in small chunks with subheads, bullets and callouts.

Make sure it follows content management principles and rules, as well as publishing process and structure. It should be consistently formatted.

It must also be fresh. Add an expiration date that forces the author or publisher to revisit, renew or archive content. If it’s not kept up to date, the content is automatically deleted.

4. Content management

This is how content is created, stored, accessed and reused. Effective content management requires:

  • Organization processes and rules
  • Motivated and active content providers, writers and editors
  • Appropriate technology solutions to support the content process and workflow
  • Users engaged with the site’s content

A thorough plan offers details and guidelines for content requirements, roles and responsibilities, formatting and writing, organizational processes and rules. It is an essential component in supporting strong information architecture and effective, timely, and relevant content for employees.

Toby Ward is CEO of Prescient Digital Media. A version of this post first appeared on the Intranet Blog.

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