Essential tasks and tactics for savvy intranet managers

You’re crafting great content and posting it with all the requisite bells and whistles, so you’re done, right? Not so fast. User experience and stakeholder buy-in should be higher priorities.

The internal communications team owns or influences most intranets.

Ownership influences content: Whoever is steering the ship might disproportionately focus on the sections that matter most to them, such as corporate news. Beyond that, the communication director and top-tier executives might have entirely different agendas.

Here’s the thing: Bad news features on a great intranet will perform better than great news features on a bad intranet. Generally, employees don’t come to read news; they come to get things done.

With that in mind, intranet managers must be objective arbiters of what information matters, in addition to being proactive stewards of a functional, useful hub. Here’s what a good intranet manager should be doing—news or communications aside—to keep the employee kiosk up to snuff:

Look in

  • Check the 404s. Where are the broken links? Find them, and fix them. Failing to do simple stuff like this can damage people’s faith in the platform.
  • Measure and report on your stakeholders’ KPIs. Clarify how valuable the intranet is. That’s the best way to highlight problems and get funding for improvement.
  • Meet real users. To understand the value of and problems with your intranet, speak to the people who use it regularly. You’ll uncover ideas for improvements, get insights into what’s important (or not) and arm yourself with essential ammo to shoot down awful ideas from senior stakeholders.
  • Network with stakeholders. Know your stakeholders, and make sure they know you. Having to prove everything can be exhausting, so having a relationship in which you can be honest and have your opinion trusted is a huge advantage.
  • Train, educate and encourage the content owners and publishers. These people have the most influence over how successful your intranet is. Nurture them.
  • Understand your users’ top tasks. Know what people are trying to do. (Reading your news will not be on this list, and that’s as it should be.)
  • Complete common tasks yourself to make sure you understand the issues. Once you know what people are trying to do, be empathetic toward those performing the tasks.
  • Check site performance (speed, load time, availability), and talk with IT about making it faster. People are used to good sites being super-fast. Plus, every second someone is waiting for a page to load is a second they’re unproductive. Befriend your IT team; they can help identify where the issues exist (most likely with bloated, unoptimized content).
  • Network with intranet managers from other companies. It’s a lonely job. Sharing your experiences is therapeutic, and it can help you solve complex problems quickly.
  • Take a break. The onslaught of requests and projects might pressure you to keep chugging until it all gets done. Build breaks into your day so you can stay refreshed, relaxed and energized.

Look forward

  • Plan for today, next week, next month, next quarter. Also, keep incremental development lists. Know what you’re doing now and what you plan to do in the near future. Communicate your plans to others. Request and accept feedback, and make sure you have a way to rigorously assess progress and success.
  • Maintain a list of top tasks and your performance in doing them. Use your research to ensure you’re improving and staying on task. Make sure you’re addressing the biggest problems for the most people.
  • Maintain a meaningful strategy—including the five things you’ll do in the next six months. List what you’re doing, including when, why and how, and whom it will help. Show it to anyone who questions the worth of the intranet—or of you and your team.
  • Develop and maintain a risk register for the intranet. You rarely get everything you want or need, so there will always be imperfect aspects of an intranet. Record them all and highlight the impact, probability and proximity of risks becoming an issue. At best, it will get you the support you need to prevent a risk from materializing. At worst, it will give you the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so,” when something goes awry.

Look to others

  • Develop and implement improvements to search and findability. Check what is being searched for and whether people are finding what they seek. Make improvements by removing bad content and streamlining the search process for popular items.
  • Act on feedback. What do your colleagues howl about most often? What drives them crazy? Move complaints and feedback to the top of the list.
  • Flag waving. Make sure the people who need to know about the intranet are in the loop. Ensure they know what’s working and what isn’t. Communicate where there are risks, complaints, gaps or emerging needs.

Look back

  • Shout about successes. Find out what value your intranet delivers for the company, and make sure people hear about it. This is how you secure investment to make further improvements. It’s also how you can ensure your own role is valued.

If you have other suggestions, please let us know in the comments section.

A version of this post first appeared on Intranetizen.

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