As staff members, it is a truism that we work with our colleagues. But for those of us engaged in intranet content management, we are also working for our colleagues. In fact, once they have logged into the intranet, our colleagues become our clients. This is because the intranet exists for them and the success of the service we provide as intranet administrators depends upon their uptake, response and involvement.
One approach for achieving such engagement is to reconsider the information architecture of your intranet to focus on a user’s understanding of themselves and their role at the organization. A user-centered approach, rather than an administrator-centered approach, will provide key reasons for them to revisit, utilize and contribute to their company intranet. Here are some suggestions to get it started:
Try to avoid presuming what a user ‘should’ know
Aim for an intranet structure that can be navigated by a new starter on their first day in the office, as on this day there is nothing the user ‘should’ know.
By removing this presumption, a pure functional structure immediately becomes inadequate. How would a newbie know if they’re looking for a form, policy, procedure or process if they simply seek to ‘set up my email signature’?
Start by framing all of your top-level content items within such a context.
Define staff roles
A staff member will be an employee, team member, company representative and colleague. Harness the instinctive understanding people have of their roles by creating entry points that reflect them.
For example, identify current intranet content relating to the user as an employee of the organization: Entitlements, rights and rewards, training, code of conduct, position descriptions, staff benefits and new starter information.
Whilst this content may be maintained in disparate areas of the intranet, consider directing users to a single, central location to find it, for example ‘My Place’, ‘My Area’, ‘Me @ the Company’. Then apply the context: Our new starter will visit this page, click through to a ‘New to the Office?’ index, the first link: ‘Setting up your desk & desktop’.
Simple navigational improvements such as these will create a structural cohesion within your intranet for both users and administrators alike.
Test the proposed structure
If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then chances are your proposed user-centered structure will certainly have a few extra humps until it is tested on users.
Always run scenario-based user testing before applying major structural changes to your intranet. It can be a quick, cheap and simple affair and it’s one of the most effective methods of refining an intranet structure. Include colleagues from various roles within the organization and ask them to locate individual items of content as if they were from another team.
For example, ask the new starter to locate information concerning branch closure procedures for an office in a different state, or ask the accounts receivable officer to locate the current product catalog for regional sales staff.
Such testing will both reveal the strength of your user-centered structure and generate useful clues and comments for improvements to it.
Happy clients are repeat clients. Give the business of your intranet a fighting chance, make it all about them!