29 July 2016

Eight tips for implementing a social intranet

There is no perfect way to implement a social intranet for every organisation using a standard mix of people, resources and marketing. You can establish the challenges presented by a project during project kick-off and ongoing insights.

Even so, Koen Wemmenhove, Social Business Consultant at Embrace, has identified a number of factors in this article that are necessary and successful in every implementation.

#1 Make sure the business case is solid

It might be obvious, but it has to be repeated: you won’t get far without a business case, and it’s not enough to simply say ‘we want to share knowledge’ or ‘we want to improve collaboration’. When writing a good business case, don’t settle for quick solutions, and look beyond the first answer you get. A successful intranet contributes to an organisation’s goals.

#2 Get the right people involved in your project

Implementing a social intranet requires a lot of expertise and input from different departments. Set up the project group, but don’t make the common mistake of limiting yourself to departments such as Communication, HR and IT. Take a look at the roles occupied by people outside the standard hierarchy of the organisation. Who are the most influential people? Who are the early adopters?

Make sure that decision-makers, the people from who you can expect exemplary behaviour, are also involved. Get upper and middle management on board. Let them about what you are doing and why on a regular basis, and tell them what you expect from them both now and later.

 # 3 Engage and motivate the organisation

The challenge for the project group is to stay in 2-way communication with end users, other projects and the different departments. It helps you establish a shared image of what the intranet should be, and improves adherence when going live. One of the most successful activities that contributes most to implementation is to arrange inspiration sessions at the outset of the project. Colleagues can contribute their ideas about the intranet, and provide targeted feedback on initial ideas.

# 4 Organise a dedicated project team

It’s something we all recognise; project members who have to go home earlier, project members who can’t free up time because of their ‘real work’, and team leaders with no time for project members because of sick leave or pressure in the department. All this puts your project at risk. To be a real team, you have to demand 100% commitment over a relatively short time.

# 5 Determine your roll-out strategy

We are firm believers in the principle of ‘think big, act small’. Your goals (business case) might be ambitious, but work towards them in small steps. This is closely in line with an agile software development framework (SCRUM). If you come up with new releases quickly and continuously, people can start using the new intranet straight away, and let you know how it can be improved. It is not essential to involve the whole organisation.

 #6 Involve ambassadors

Colleagues who can proclaim the gospel of the intranet, are known by various names: ambassadors, key users, early adopters or ICT buddies. Often, an open invitation is enough to get a group of colleagues acting in such roles. On the old intranet, ask who would like to take a fresh look at the new intranet, and contribute ideas.

An ambassador is enthusiastic, helpful towards colleagues, critical in respect of the project group, IT literate, and knows how the intranet can be utilised in daily work. For example, an ambassador might come up with the idea of making colleagues’ Outlook agendas available on the intranet, so that the front office has a better view of their availability.

The primary task of an ambassador is to help and motivate colleagues. A first evaluation takes place a few weeks after the launch, where ambassadors meet to discuss tips, tops and flops. This session provides input for further development, and targeted actions can be put in place to help colleagues further.

# 7 Make sure that management sets the right example

Every project shows that people follow good examples. The active participation of supervisors and managers positively influences the participation of their teams.

There are various methods of participation, one being responding to substantive discussions held by the team. Other managers could participate by publishing a ‘Look at the Week’ blog, where they share experiences, vision and ideas. Such a blog often inspires lots of positive responses. The intranet can also be used to make periodic reports about customer contacts, sales or other business processes more open and transparent.

# 8 Use suppliers’ knowledge

Suppliers possess lots of knowledge and experience, but the trick is to be able to use it. We’ve seen that collaboration in this area can be erratic. This is frequently due to traditional ‘us & them’ ideas about customers and suppliers, or the way procurement or purchasing rules are interpreted. However, this is unnecessary. As long as you are transparent in what you request from different parties, you can achieve benefits in terms of your project and selection of supplier.

One big disadvantage of only getting suppliers involved in your project at a late stage is that you sometimes have no idea about what can be achieved using a standard solution. We regularly encounter problems in the phasing of projects because the standard solution can do more than that described in procurement specifications.