Series: Your Intranet as a Business Model - Key Partners
This series of blog posts introduces the idea of structuring your effort to deploy a new intranet based on the experience of startups and entrepreneurs in running their business. We will use the Business Canvas Model approach from Alex Osterwalder (http://alexosterwalder.com/) and try to apply it to our domain. The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models. It is a visual chart with elements describing a firm’s or product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. It assists firms in aligning their activities by illustrating potential trade-offs. If you think of your intranet as a service you provide for all the employees, it’s the in-house equivalent to an external 3rd party service. So why not use the ideas and methods of those services during your deployment? To pass along the train of thought of using the Business Model Canvas have a look at this short introduction video:
The first post in the series focuses on the Key Partners. Most intranets we have seen so far are owned either by the corporate communications, the human resources or the IT department. In more massive environments management is often included as a stakeholder in the project. As we want to focus on a project leading perspective, we address management in a later post on customer segments. Most of the time there is also an external consultancy that helps the internal project team to be successful. In an ideal world, the internal project manager is experienced in running larger projects and comes either from the corporate communications or the HR department. Sorry fellow IT folks, but leading a new intranet by an IT project manager is only our third best option and should only be the case if there is no one in the other two departments capable of leading the project. As 99% of intranet deployments aren’t green field, you should also consider asking the team responsible for the current intranet who lead their effort and ask for help. Most of the time there is much valuable input from finished projects.
The corporate communications department knows all your news authors and can assist with identifying possible authors and news categories. They already communicate ideas and news to your audience so make sure to start with sample news articles from the last couple of months to get an idea about your content. With a new intranet, there is always the hope of content authors to get better writing experience. They regularly struggle with adding images or videos to their articles. Make sure to include an easy way to add rich media assets to their daily workflow of writing articles. This group of people is probably one of the most critical stakeholders in your project. Every intranet needs fresh and vibrant content so make sure it is easy to create articles without the need for multipage manuals or training. Include two or three regular news authors in your project team and at least one person of the current owners of landing page news. They know all the needs around approval workflows, adding image assets or orchestrating external photographers or texters during the process.
The corporate HR department knows all about services the company offers to their employees. You want to provide the most value to your users, so they see the new intranet as a resourceful help in their workday. Employee directories, phone books, leave request forms or learning paths are just a few examples of areas that should present in your intranet. The target is not to rebuild all these tools it’s more about making them accessible in an intuitive way. Some companies switch from the older, hierarchical way of structuring the information architecture to a more process-oriented way. The main navigation reflects that already on the first page. A typical hierarchical way would be a list of all the different departments or sub-companies of a holding. More modern information architectures include verbs like learn or find in their navigation. There are no best practices in my opinion on those approaches as they reflect the current company culture and can’t be changed easily but the HR team can be of great help with this questions as the company culture is one of their main agenda points. Best case for your project would be one or two senior members of the HR department as part of your effort to guarantee a precise focus on employee value right from the start.
In the last couple of years, the IT departments at the various companies got more and more critical in all kind of projects. Most of new services or tools are somehow connected to technology and follow the company guidelines of security, accessibility or availability to name the usual suspects. As the IT department is responsible for running or hosting the intranet as a service, it’s essential to have them on board right from the start. There is much value gained from experienced members of the IT department, make sure to choose the “right” ones. We are looking for someone focused on end user experience and ease of use instead of using the latest and greatest technology offers. There is a sweet spot within IT people right between the old school folks and those that run nightly builds and beta software on their phones. Aim for someone who is willing to build on modern technology but maybe knows that being cutting edge isn’t always the comfortable ride it seems. An ideal candidate for your project team offers not only technology experience but also knows his way around in the IT department. You need the help of different teams in the department along the way someone who knows the drill and is capable of connecting the right people at the right time would be the best choice.
As I’m an external consultant, it would be too easy to postulate the idea of being a must-have part of your intranet team. I know of companies that are perfectly fine without the help of an external project manager or consultant as they have all the skills within their group. However, many companies lack certain parts of the skill set. That’s where external support is vital for being successful. Some teams need help with change management that is part of the new way of work, or others are more in need of technical skills. From my point, the biggest mistake I see is to onboard external help too late in your effort. Most of the times we end up in projects where after the first or second workshop the feeling is like “why weren’t we part right from the start?”. Strategic planning is one of the significant skills you should look for in external help. It’s about what do we need at which point in time to streamline all the efforts in the project. Our most successful deployments are those where we are already part of the project setup. A lot of times customers struggle with the right size or choice of project members. The project team is one of the crucial factors along the way as you discuss all the notable points within this group of people. Bottom line, decide right in the beginning if and when you need external help, don’t wait until the first problems are present.