When it comes to creating and sharing content, you know the power of an intranet and the benefits it brings to an organization. It enables your employees to find the content and contacts they need, to create and share information easily, and to interact with each other in brand-new ways. Whether your task is to build a brand-new intranet for your company or business unit, or make improvements to the current model, one job is the same-ensuring management is on board with the idea.
"Our shared drive was difficult to navigate," says Kenneth Fonzi, associate director of information systems and services at Children's Hospital Foundation in Washington, D.C. "And we couldn't always
find information relevant to the Foundation on the larger hospital intranet."
It was time to create a new intranet presence, one designed just for use by the Foundation. Fonzi was lucky-his management team understood the problem. "The idea for the intranet was a directive from Foundation leadership."
The leadership realized that internal communications could be better and that information was siloed, even within their relatively small organization. They also realized that the intranet used by the larger organization was unwieldy for the Foundation to use and inadequate to meet their needs.
The Children's National Medical Center intranet is run on SharePoint and serves thousands of employees. Fonzi and his team were given the option to use it for their own intranet. The team reviewed the needs of the Foundation, compared products, and decided to use Igloo Software instead. At the time they started building the intranet, Children's Hospital Foundation had about 88 employees, so SharePoint seemed like overkill for what was needed.
If you aren't lucky enough to have management approach you with a plan to build or improve on an intranet for your organization, you may have some steps to take to help convince them of the value of this tool.
Champion Content First, be a champion for the intranet and what it will do for employee productivity. This means you need a solid understanding of the kind of content floating around your organization-what it is, where it is, who creates it, and who needs access to it.
Think about how employees interact with the content today-whether you use an intranet now or not. How do they access the basic tools and data-forms, templates, or databases-to do their jobs? Where can they find information all employees need such as human resources and benefits information? What steps do users have to take to find staff members or identify subject matter experts?
Your organization has content that addresses each of these needs, as well as information about its business units, customers, and other shareholders. And that data is housed someplace; in most organizations, it is housed in many places. Once you understand the basic types of content and how employees use it, you can articulate the benefits of improved access and sharing.
In addition to the content itself, an intranet provides an extra layer of information-content about the content. This meta-content gives users and management useful contextual information-who created and posted the content and when, who updated it, and how others rate or comment on the content.
As an IT team member, you may not be accustomed to helping executives understand the value of a tool like an intranet. But it's your job to be the champion for the project, to be the person who can articulate the value-how the new or improved intranet will increase productivity and encourage collaboration and, therefore, have a positive impact on the bottom line.
After all, you are asking the finance folks and management teams for an investment of time and money to develop and maintain this tool, so you need to convince them it will be worth the resources expended. That process starts long before you ask for a check. As you examine the use of content in your organization and build a case for how an intranet will increase engagement and productivity levels, here is some data you may find useful.
In July 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute issued a report titled "The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies." This study discussed the value that social tools, including intranets, bring to communications and knowledge-sharing within an organization.
According to the study, information workers spend 1 day a week looking for the information and resources they need to do their jobs effectively, whether that resource is a person, a document, or data. A well-organized intranet helps employees find the information they need and accomplish tasks more efficiently by shifting the model-from one-to-one to a many-to-many.
That is the power of social technologies-the ability of participants to create, share, and consume content and to take advantage of content created and shared by others. And that is a powerful message to impart to management-the time and energy employees can save by using an intranet for communication and consumption and dissemination of information.
As you craft the value proposition of your intranet, think about what the management team wants to know when considering allocation of resources: How will it impact operations or budget, such as expenses, revenues, productivity level, or regulatory or compliance issues? Help them see the benefits of shared access and collaboration.
"Our leadership has fantastic vision," says Fonzi. "They know what kind of organization they want us to be and they understand the need to break down silos, be more collaborative and innovative, and to find new ways to work together."
Before, during, and after implementation, build partnerships and alliances on various levels of the company. The more people on board when it is time to sell the story and ask for resources, the better off the project will be.
As you seek to build alliances and create champions, help employees understand the value and benefits of accessing content via an intranet. Use studies such as McKinsey's to share insight. Use real-life stories (every organization has them) about situations in which improved or collaborative access to content could have made a real difference.
When seeking to build or improve on an intranet for your organization, as the intranet manager you are the biggest champion. It is your job to help the management team understand how this will impact the bottom line and to help employees understand how this tool will help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. That means that you have to know both the content and the audience. It may take a little bit of marketing or sales skills, but in the end, this will show you have their best interests at heart.
Even though Fonzi was working with a management directive to create an intranet, that didn't mean that all the employees were on board. While most of the new employees get on board pretty quickly, some existing employees were initially resistant. It was a matter of retraining some folks that the shared drive is no longer the way to go.
"We had one person who said, ‘I'll never use it because I have all my bookmarks and I know how to find everything,'" says Fonzi. "I made it a personal mission to win her over.
Fonzi's advice for building advocates:
1. Take early adopters, the folks who were easy to convince to use the tool, and put them to work telling the story.
2. Get buy-in from naysayers. Win them over and then turn them in champions for the intranet.
In terms of ongoing leadership support, Fonzi and his team created three levels of governance for the intranet:
- An advisory council, comprised of senior staff and a mix of older and newer employees, who create policies and address issues as they arrive
- An executive steering committee, which has representation from and liaises with Foundation leadership, to help shape the intranet and define the overall direction
- A super user group, comprised of development assistants and a lot of millennial employees who have been trained to use the intranet, help to get buy-in from other users and contribute ideas
All use their intranet for collaborating. Using Group Spaces, it is easy for the governance teams to share information and report back on initiatives.
At Children's Hospital Foundation, the leadership was on board from the beginning. They were genuinely excited about creating and sharing content. That may not be true in your organization. But you have a vision. When it comes to convincing your own management team that a new solution is in order, help them see it by talking in their terms-business needs, budgets, operational concerns.
"Vision is crucial," says Fonzi. "We look at intranet best practices and the people who are moving toward a real social intranet. We are finding ways to really be a community both on- and off-line. We use the intranet to make sure we have access to the tools we need. Our intranet is an example of leveraging technology so that we can be better than ever."