In 2011, IDC estimated there were 1.8 zettabytes of digital data (created and replicated) in the world, growing to 7.9 zettabytes by 2015. In 2014, Gartner predicts that enterprise data will grow by 800 percent in five years, with 80 percent of it unstructured. This exponential growth of data decreases efficiency and makes it difficult for companies to analyze quickly and make decisions based on data.
Company intranets are often used to bring structure to corporate data and make it easier to access and utilize. Unfortunately, the intranet is not a panacea. Gartner estimates that 40% of portal initiatives fail to garner adequate adoption to achieve ROI and that 10% to 15% of portal initiatives are scrapped altogether. This failure statistic means that you have 65% chance of failure.
I don’t claim to have the secret sauce, but after building many intranet portals over the past 18 years I do have some things you can do to increase your odds of having a successful intranet
The Framework is Your Foundation
One of the coolest things I did as a Boy Scout was build a car for the Pinewood Derby. Each year more than a million Scouts and parents team up to carve, decorate, weigh, adjust, fret over, and finally race a Pinewood Derby car.
The purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to build character and create a foundation in a scout that will equip him to grow into a successful adult. This character building is achieved through the promotion of sportsmanship, good citizenship, personal achievement, and family teamwork and understanding.
The model cars start from a kit or foundation as seen in the picture to the above. The wood has specified dimensions. The scout creates his car under the guidance of his parents by carving, assembling, and decorating it piece by piece. These cars are gravity powered and run down a special track as seen in the picture to the below.
Building a successful Intranet Portal starts with a framework like Kentico CMS or Microsoft SharePoint. Like a Pinewood Derby Car Kit, Kentico and SharePoint are frameworks which are the foundations needed to build an intranet.
Building a Pinewood Derby Car from the framework that is provided in the kit, requires that the Scout first has a vision of what he wants his car to become. Will the car be in the shape of an Indy 500 car or maybe a stock car? Will the car be for show or are we in it to win a race? With a vision in hand the scout must plan, configure, build and customize the car to be able to race the car eventually. If the Scout desires to win the race, he must pay attention close to the fundamentals like weight and aerodynamics.
Intranets like Pinewood Derby cars require vision to achieve success. While Kentico and SharePoint provide out of the box functionality, portal implementation requires detailed planning, configuration, customization, training, and post-implementation support.
To build a successful intranet, you have to consider what goals you want to accomplish. Every company is unique and has different goals. How information workers access data in order to gain efficiency and promote communication and collaboration is uniquely tied to the culture and business needs of that company. Information, business processes, and functional requirements must be clearly designed and mapped. Individual departments may have their own unique flow of information.
The Success Factor- Planning
The number one critical success factor in designing and implementing portals is planning. The key to successful planning is to take a collaborative approach and include the business stakeholders. Each department or major division of a portal needs an internal champion who:
- will be responsible for addressing the needs of their department
- will be the collective voice and decision maker for that department
- will garner the support of their department
- is acutely responsible for schedule, budget, as well as features
For every plan, there are a series of steps that are necessary to take a plan to action. To achieve a successful intranet implementation you should divide the project into a minimum of four phases.
Phase I- Planning, Analysis, & Design Phase
If your goal is failure, leave out the most important phase: “Planning, Analysis, & Design.” This first critical phase determines the macro level information architecture, central dashboard, top level navigation, basic business processes, and the site map. Treating the implementation of a Kentico or SharePoint Intranet as a “software install” will not end in a successful intranet implementation. At this point, all you have done is installed a foundation. The rest has to be built-out using the framework.
Phase II- Building the Corporate Structure & Dashboard
In Phase II you build and implement the corporate structure and dashboard and roll it out to the user base. This phase allows the company to become familiar with the portal and involves the users early and gets them accustomed to visiting the portal for information.
Phase III- Iteration of Building the Departments
Subsequently, in Phase III you work in an iterative and agile fashion with each department to design, build, and deploy each department’s area of the portal. This is done in a consultative and collaborative approach through meetings and continuous feedback. Site maps, data maps, and processes are identified. It is imperative in this phase that the department champion be given the time to devote to the process so that a useful product is created.
Each successive roll-out delivers value and provides the entire company a new way to view, discover, and recognize the value and information provided by the new intranet. This method of deployment aids in the successful adoption of the portal. Each release provides micro level training to ensure the departments can maintain the content for themselves. This transfers responsibility for decentralized maintenance of content to the various departments responsible for that information.
Phase IV- Continuous Maintenance & Improvement
In Phase IV, we enter a maintenance phase and address new features that are identified as “might be needed” based on the utilization of the portal. A corporate intranet requires constant care, improvement, and data to stay relevant and useful.
The Finish Line
Most companies do not have detailed requirements and documented processes to build their intranets. Moreover, most companies are complex. This is why planning and an iterative approach make the most sense for intranet portal projects.
Imagine if the scout building a Pinewood Derby Car had to start by cutting down a tree and milling the wood, before beginning to carve his block of wood into a car. The pinewood derby kit and the framework it provides is a head start for building a car. Using Kentico or SharePoint as a foundation and framework for your portal help facilitate the iterative process of building out a successful intranet.
We all want to get to the finish line and we want to win the race. For a scout, building a car it is taking a kit and turning it into a car that holds the potential to win the race. For scouting it is about taking a young boy and setting him up with a foundation and a framework to become a successful adult. For intranets the “win” requires a company to improve processes and facilitate communication and collaboration.
If you need a successful intranet project follow my seven simple guidelines:
- Use a Framework – Your Framework is Your Foundation
- Have a Vision
- Do the Planning
- Break the Project Into Phases
- Build the Corporate Structure & Dashboard
- Iterate the Build Out of Your Departments
- Continuous Maintenance & Improvement
Using this method will accelerate your implementation and set you on a path for success and help your company manage and use data to make good decisions.