Ten Important Points for Intranet Success

Intranets have become an essential corporate information distribution and database tool. Until recently, only large corporations had been able to take advantage of available technologies to develop and maintain Intranets. The introduction of new, easy to use Intranet tools makes this powerful technology accessible to any size organization.  

Jesse Boudreau, the President and CEO of Pictorius Incorporated, completed 30 Intranet projects in his previous role as Director of Information Systems at technology giant, Northern Telecom. His advice to those seeking to develop an Intranet is to make sure you understand the needs and goals of your end-users and clearly communicate how they will benefit from your Intranet. 

"It's more of a community effort than just an IS project," says Boudreau, "if the Intranet isn't used or updated frequently, it really defeats the purpose. You can spend a lot of time and money building an Intranet but if it doesn't provide the perceived benefits to your customer, you haven't done your homework. You end up with a big headache and most likely, redesigning the whole project." 

Boudreau reveals 10 hot points that corporate intranet teams should address before pulling up their sleeves and building a site. "If you cover 10 before you begin, your Intranet will have a better chance of success," he advises. 

  1. Start by gathering representatives from each department who want to publish information. Each department will have different information to publish and access, but make sure the overall site is cohesive and logical. 
  2. Design a roadmap of the site with your intranet team. Gather together all of the content providers, web techies and IS people that will contribute to building the site and brainstorm on what the end product will do and should look like. 
  3. Ensure that you give administrative ownership of the site or sections of the site to a specific individual. By assigning responsibility up front, everyone knows who to turn to for managing and maintaining overall site integrity. 
  4. Don't assume all end users have the latest and greatest hardware and software. Everyone accessing your site may not have a 21" monitor or the latest browser. 
  5. Don't invest in content tools that require extensive training. The content providers should be equipped with the tools to update content themselves. If they can't figure it out in 20 minutes or less, it's not worth it. 
  6. Make sure you gather statistics (online surveys, log file analysis, lots of e-mail links) and review the information regularly. You can then adapt your site to reflect the best interests of your users. 
  7. If you have a large content team, typically 6 or more individuals, create pre-production staging areas and a review process to coordinate content and activities. 
  8. Schedule regular backups of your site and design a contingency plan in case the site goes down. It doesn't take long for an Intranet to become a mission-critical application. Practice "disaster recovery" at least twice a year. 
  9. Don't wait for the perfect development tool to be released. The technology changes too fast. Look for the vendor's ability to change their tools to fit today's environment and their ability to support the latest, useful technologies. 
  10. Build for functionality, not for flash. Intranets are largely used to disseminate corporate information and for database access. Don't make the information difficult to find or database queries too complex. Speed and simplicity are much better than cool but slow graphics. 
Building a successful Intranet requires good design, careful planning and the right tools. Compare and evaluate products before making the final buying decision. Make sure that the product you choose has the flexibility to build the site you want and the tools for maintaining it quickly and easily. 

Too many false starts can quickly deflate the excitement surrounding the launch of a company Intranet. Content is king. Keep it fresh and your Intranet will quickly become your competitive edge.