We are often engaged by clients who either have had no intranet before, or have had one that’s being lying mostly untouched for a few years. Here’s our top 7 to keep an eye on that may be contributing to an unused intranet :
Beware of over-engineering
- SharePoint is an extremely powerful platform, however, the majority of the user base has very few skills to maintain it. Building hundreds of content types and custom developing things that could be built using out of box functionality for beginners creates monstrous platforms that are near impossible to maintain. Keep it simple!
Never skip the strategy
- Time and time again we see untouched intranets with clients who are mystified as to why this is when sometimes millions have been spent on developing them. When there is no strategic direction for the platform with sufficient Executive buy-in, it becomes very difficult to achieve widespread adoption.
Understand it’s much more than document storage
- Subfolders, subfolders and more subfolders in deep site hierarchies makes it very difficult to use and navigate SharePoint. If you are not properly architecting your sites, you are wasting your time. SharePoint is not your fileshare.
Upgrade for good reasons
- Many companies are talked into upgrading as a silver bullet to resolve the issues they are facing. In our experience, it is extremely rare for there to be a valid business case to upgrade. Lack of strategy and training is not going to be solved by upgrading. If you are not getting value from the version you have now, how will upgrading resolve that?
Use it before you brand it
- Branding SharePoint is expensive. Most of the time, the design is done by branding / marketing departments who have no idea how SharePoint works. It is very common for default and necessary functionality elements to be removed for the sake of a banner or image. This results in unusable intranets. We cannot stress enough how important it is to use SharePoint first so you understand how it works before you brand it. If you don’t, you will end up re-branding it at significant cost.
- SharePoint is not as intuitive as the salesmen suggest. It is a very complex product that requires care and management. Users need to be trained to understand why they have to use it, as well as how. Do not under-estimate the value (and costs) of proper, long term training, evangelism and change management. People don’t like change, but everything will change for them with SharePoint. Build an intranet like a rockstar then skip the training – no-one will use it.
- The question that comes up first is always ‘how long will it take’ to build an intranet. However long you think it will, multiply that by 3 and you’ll get close. Most of the time, the content required is not available, key stakeholders are unavailable due to busy diaries, requirements change midstream. There is no average time in our experience – the size of the company and complexity of the requirements impact the timeframes. This cannot be determined in one day, you need an analysis phase first. Intranets take time and an intranet is never finished. But for the first iteration – for small businesses, 20 people or less, we’d say minimum 8 months. Medium sized, 1 – 2 years. Large companies over 1000 people, minimum 5 years.
- Users hate being kept out of the loop and in the dark. A brand new intranet that hardly anyone knows about is going to come back to bite you. Keep users informed all along the way. Progress reports, what to expect, what’s going to be available, what’s coming when, next steps, what you need from them. Weekly communications are best.