In the traditional sense, the intranet is the means by which the communications department publishes information for employee consumption. But this description for the intranet in many organizations falls short of its wider purpose.

How do you transform the traditional intranet into a communication platform that’s used everywhere and at all times?

Intranet supports processes

Officevibe, a Canadian agency specializing in research and support in the field of employee satisfaction, conducted a survey in March 2016 into how intranets support internal processes. The research shows that certainly, the larger organizations (> 500 employees) use an intranet - in addition to the traditional communication function - to standardize internal processes and improve the mutual and social relationships of their employees.

However, using the intranet to support processes often remains simply a nice goal and is difficult to achieve in practice. That’s because the intranet is not seen by employees as a digital work environment or a communication platform, but as a place to read the latest news, to register a visitor, or to reserve a meeting room. Different, separate platforms are used for mutual cooperation and communication.

Create an effective digital workplace

This is nicely reflected in another 2016 study, the 2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey. This research makes it clear that e-mail and intranet are used frequently, but the respondents very much doubt their effectiveness. However, (social) collaboration solutions, communication and social media channels are highly valued.

It is therefore important to transform your intranet into an effective digital workplace that brings all functions together. Here are some tips for a number of steps to help you make this happen.

Step 1: Analyze and set the objectives of your organization

Determining the organization’s needs and objectives is the first step. What do you want to achieve in communication and collaboration, and what are the biggest problems you want to resolve? Examples of these objectives include: improving internal communication, finding information faster and thus increasing productivity, enabling employees to collaborate better and more easily, and, within the development function, enabling new, more agile ways of working.

The answers to your questions about what you want to achieve and the problems you need to resolve can only be provided by your employees. Use interactive workshops to quickly convert any bottlenecks into possibilities. The answers you get can also directly provide a scope for the digital work environment project. Is the platform intended for the entire organization or only a part of it? Is it a replacement for (part of) the internal processes, or is it only intended to replace the existing platforms?

Step 2: Designing a platform

In this phase, the functionality of the platform is established. In addition, the (governance) rights and roles are determined. Then start with some "quick wins", for example, a news portal for the Communication department, a collaborative environment for the Product Development department, or a document environment for Legal Affairs.

In this phase, you must also think about the roll-out strategy. Will it begin with the pilot, or will we immediately start with a large-scale launch? It is important in both cases that the design for the new environment comes together as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Change and train

Every change is difficult, even when the new platform looks great and is user-friendly. So, in tandem with the design phase, you have to work up a communication and training plan for the new environment. Put in place an adoption strategy to ensure that the new platform is received with enthusiasm.

For example, at Sogeti, we use the following categorization for adopters: the active enthusiast (5%), the passive enthusiast (45%), the passive criticaster (45%), the active criticaster (5%). We also call the enthusiasts the green dots and the active criticaster the red dots. Start with the green dots and make sure they convince the passive critics.

And ensure that the platform continues to be provided with relevant (new) information. Without this fresh content, the new intranet loses its relevance for the organization.

Step 4: Implementation as a dress rehearsal

After the platform has been designed, it is time for the roll-out. View this step as a dress rehearsal for organization-wide usage. Adjustments can still be made at this stage.

Step 5 - Start with the digital work experience

You are now up and running with your digital work environment. Do not underestimate this moment; shout it (so to speak) from the rooftops and motivate all employees to get started. Make videos, hang posters alongside the coffee machine, send out an invitation - 'Our new work environment, have you been there?' - to every desk. Our experience suggests that giving this the personal touch is also important. For example, in one organization we made extensive use of floorwalkers. After the introduction of the new work environment, workplace ‘champions’ went out on the shop floor. They immediately helped their fellow employees by answering questions, offering hints and tips, and being immediately available to receive feedback.

Involvement in the platform

A digital work environment must be encouraged to grow within the organization. For example, integrating the news feed from the old intranet ensures that employees have a reason to come onto the new platform. But it must offer more value than its predecessor: be the place where employees meet and share knowledge and where processes are integrated and supported. But above all, it is vital to ensure that employees stay involved with the platform.

Expect questions and comments and respond quickly to them. Provide support and involve employees in the roadmap (user voice, forum, community). The start-up phase of a new digital work environment is not the end. It is the beginning of a living platform that grows and flourishes.

  • albert hoitingh
    Albert Hoitingh
    Business Analyst Office 365