Most companies choose not to expose themselves to business dramas in their intranet projects and are only interested in real and sustainable change. If you take into account the number of working hours spent on intranet projects internally, ventures like this always end up being costly affairs. So it makes sense to give some thought to measures that will support your project. 

We’re often happy when we see intranet teams defining personas, occasionally discussing these prototypical end users, or using them in conceptual arguments. Effective teams put together focus groups that are actually allowed to test the software.

This is all geared toward one specific goal: the intranet should actually be used in day-to-day business operations. If the solution isn’t good enough to survive the stressful situations found in the daily hustle and bustle of your company, you need to ask yourself whether your project might just be a dud. I say this because the most important factor is that it’s available when you when the going gets tough and you need it the most. At that point, a good intranet functions in two ways: 

  1. Prevention: Overall, a good intranet improves collaboration, organization, findability, and documentation, ensuring fewer stressful situations arise. Yes, I can already see your forehead wrinkling with skepticism here! However, the list began with the words “a good intranet functions...” We should definitely talk about the distinction between good and bad software. However, first, you need to take a tiny leap of faith and simply believe what I’m saying for the moment. And there’s something kind of liberating in that.
  2. More effective processes: The use of wikis, central job systems, and other tools for collaboration is linked to discipline, and for many users, it’s not easy to get started. However, the long-term benefits are irrefutable and indeed striking. In fact, at our company, we regularly ask ourselves how all of the companies out there actually work the way they do. And if you didn’t ask yourself the same thing about your own teams now and then, you probably wouldn’t be sitting here with me now. Or to put it directly, even in the most stressful situations, I can still pull myself together and conjure up enough discipline to create a wiki page instead of sending a quick email. 

At this point, you may be wondering how best to proceed and whether I should have written up a list of important steps instead. Well, I’ll do my best. But only because it’s you. The thing with checklists and all the steps they detail is that they often harbor the potential for major misunderstandings. It’s better when you understand all these points as an (incomplete) collection of ideas and not as a “guaranteed recipe for a successful intranet.” Projects are always complex and unique. Despite this, in many cases, it’s still worth investing time and effort in the following measures: 

Establishing an Information Architecture 

During the project, it’s important to think about what information you want to make accessible and to whom and how in order to make the intranet as easy to use as possible. To accomplish this, each item of information should only be allowed to have one actual location in the architecture. A number of helpful techniques exist to aid in this, including card sorting workshops, and there are many experts in the market who can help you develop the information architecture.

Devising Personalized Navigation 

The next step is to create a menu structure that will be especially helpful to new users when they’re initially trying to find their way around. For this interaction, modern intranet systems offer personalized menus that focus on the requirements of the employee. For example, your navigation (depending on the departmental affiliation of the individual employee) could include marketing, sales, software development, or accounting information. Different content will be relevant to employees based in Frankfurt than employees based in New York or Sydney. New employees are more likely to need onboarding information and help finding their way around initially. All of this can map to a good and customizable navigation system. 

Defining Profile Information 

Business platforms like LinkedIn provide a wide range of options for designing your profile. You can enter your curriculum vitae, your qualifications and experience, your certificates, and (if you like) your hobbies in your profile. A modern intranet also offers many features for creating profiles that enable you to internally map applications similar to those on LinkedIn. As a project team, you should define the fields, skills and selection options in a sensible manner, so expert searches performed later will function logically within the context of your company. In our workshops, we present a wide range of profile features to customers that they then allow their employees to use to complete in their profiles. This makes the whole task a little easier. The best thing to do is ask me again in a few days. By then I’ll be happy to send you a full list of profile features. It just hasn’t been made public yet. 

Establishing an SSO Solution

To complete their profiles, your employees will first need to sign in of course. As already mentioned, a single sign-on solution is ideal for this. This way, the login from another service can be used as an authentication mechanism: if you’ve already signed in there, you can sign in to the intranet without having to clear more security hurdles. Microsoft and Google accounts are commonly used as SSO solutions here. LDAP synchronization in the background is possible as an alternative. Few of our customers use a completely separate authentication process for their intranets. (In fact, it’s probably more of a security risk.) Establishing an SSO solution, therefore, represents a sensible milestone to set for an intranet project. 

Synchronizing HR Master Data with External Systems 

In addition to the login data, third-party systems such as LDAP, Active Directory, and your ERP platform will contain additional information about your employees. It’s especially helpful at the start to transfer existing information like this to the intranet, so expert and profile searches work smoothly from day one. Modern intranet solutions have add-ons for importing third-party systems like this and also have an option for restoring data. (Few IT managers will only allow the latter, however. What’s clear is that data maintained by employees themselves is higher quality and more up-to-date. Validation or external checks can be carried out on some of the information held in SAP, and you should certainly run these prior to performing an import.) 

For the time being, the most important thing for your intranet team is to receive as much data as possible. If you take the task at hand seriously, it can turn into a fairly complex affair: one of our customers with over 55,000 employees in some 35 countries uses eleven different personnel information systems from which data is imported. The minimum set of data you should be able to draw from these sources includes first and last names, email addresses (possibly), and phone numbers, as well as affiliations with specific locations and business units. To date, we haven’t actually experienced any systems that maintain the profile data relevant to an intranet in a well-maintained and usable manner. This would be in the form of photos, skills, and extensive contact information, including mobile phone numbers. If you’re looking to negotiate the biggest stumbling block in your intranet project, deal with gathering profile information first. This requires a great deal of work and coordination. 

Generating Real News and Content for the Launch Page 

Before you go live with your intranet, you need to prepare presentable content. If you’ve created four prominent news sections, but some or all of them don’t contain current news, in just a few seconds, all of your users will see that your homepage still isn’t ready to be used in a productive manner. A simple, effective, and sensible strategy is to sign in with different user accounts and transfer real content to the system. If it helps, you can also source content from other inventory systems or your website. You should note here that the content displayed in a personalized system can change dramatically depending on user profile characteristics, such as location, department, or language. You’ll need to enter some test news for all of the standard variants. I’m constantly surprised by the number of teams that only begin to address this task relatively late in the project. Dummy (or even real) content usually works fairly well. This is an important and helpful step if you want to move forward with your project. 

Of course, instead of the intermediate goals mentioned here, you can define a couple dozen individual milestones if you want. In our public information center, we’ve collected a fairly extensive list of activities on a corporate intranet that are largely agnostic with regard to the technology used. Hang on, I’ll send you a link on Telegram.
Here you go:

Link to this page:

The Social Intranet

Foster collaboration and strengthen communication. Be effective with enterprise intranets mobile and in the cloud.

Virtual Collaboration in Companies: Social Intranets as a Digital Home 

Never before has the business world been so overrun by cloud software and specialized vendors as it is now. There is so much software out there that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of things. It is all the more important for the future of work to have a place for digital meeting - a reliable home port meaningfully networked with numerous other systems that makes it quick and easy to navigate. This will increase transparency in the company and make collaboration more effective. Based on many years of experience, this book tells you how it already works in today's digitalized world and which trends you probably should rather than shouldn't follow.

About the author

Martin Seibert was 17 when he founded the software company Seibert Media. Twenty-four years later, it has nearly 200 employees and generates 35 million euros in annual sales. He has been sharing his enthusiasm for technology in YouTube videos for many years - and now also in his new book about social intranets.

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This content was last updated on 03/31/2021.

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