Microsoft has this great article about why even small businesses need intranets. The article makes some great points about why a small company would want an Intranet: my favourite is the acknowledgment of broken telephone amongst a company of even two staff; “communication suffers when you’re dealing with more than one person“.
And while clear, effective communication is one reason why you would want an intranet, you can’t actually build an effective intranet without having a content strategy. Just like website content planning, having a communications plan and content strategy is essential to meeting the long term goals of the company intranet. Here’s why.
Tangible Words has been leading an IT team in Kingston, Ontario through the process of developing a company intranet for their staff.
We’ve been designing and tweaking the intranet system, since the soft launch because sometimes the goals you think you need to set are not enough. Having the content strategy in place has been helpful to acknowledging the limitations of our initial goals because the content strategy has always been a document to which we return for answers and creative problem-solving. Having a well-mapped content strategy reminds us of the problems we were worried about experiencing before the project started so that we don’t lose sight of them.
Also, the content strategy document gives us a point to figure out where we went wrong if ever we feel like something isn’t working in the project. (For instance, we might think that we can create staff engagement by doing X, Y, and Z. But the time comes and fewer people are spending time on the site than we imagined.)
In a small business, you’re already juggling so many balls, it’s too easy to let the important, long term goals drop whenever you feel frustrated – which is why it’s often so hard to get awesome initiatives like an intranet off the ground when you’re a small or even mid-sized company. However, if you have a document that lays out your intentions, you always have a place to return to figure out what you didn’t include, do more research and try again. In this way, big projects get off the ground with a content strategy in place.
Secondly, most people who have the dream of getting a project in place like an intranet are naturally quite entrepreneurial. They have a vision and a dream of what’s possible. In a young, underdeveloped field like website copywriting and content marketing, these people are rare, and can be considered the “early adopters” of Effective Online Communication. As such, they are quite “bouncy” in their ideas, and lose track of where they intended to go quickly as a new idea catches their eye. The value of having a content strategy specialist working with you on website projects is tenfold here. Firstly, the external perspective of a specialist content manager is there to make sure the project is managed and still running even when the staff are too busy. If you have someone (proficient and competent) in charge of your content strategy for your company intranet, things will not fall by the wayside – not when you get busy, and not when you get distracted by the next great idea. The content strategy keeps you focused and able to tweak whatever isn’t yet working. Your decision to hire a consultant is a commitment to saying “we want this done and we want it done by this date.” A content communication strategy company will be able to create the milestones and metrics you require for your company intranet.
Thirdly, an intranet is a place to store, update and grow information. Naturally, the site will evolve and you will get feedback from staff beyond your IT department that you want to implement. Having an external content strategy person there will make sure that new information and ad hoc ideas aren’t added in such a way as to defeat your original site goals. For instance, no one wants a stagnant company intranet where you can’t easily search for information and the site is disorganised. A content strategy will make sure that even new ideas are filed in a searchable, organised way that makes sense to store the information.
If you decide to start setting up a company intranet for your small business, remember that websites aren’t just about cool designs anymore. In fact, you’ve probably already discovered in the first version of your company website that it’s essential to manage the output of new information on your website. So you need to plan website content beyond pictures, colours and layout but to incorporate a long term view of the goals you want to meet with any website. A content strategy helps you have a roadmap for managing the pages and posts and designing the flow of information.
The worst part about trying to get any kind of a website (intranet or otherwise) together, is not allotting facilitated creative thought time and sessions. You and your team need to a process for setting aside constructive, creative space at the beginning of your project and throughout it’s life: to ask the right questions, to determine goals, to get all ideas in the pot, and to figure out what is missing.
Being able to ask “How close are we to where we all hoped we’d be?” and “Has our course shifted?” is essential, and easily guided by a content strategy document which you start at the outset, and tweak throughout the project’s life.
**There’s another great article I recent read which talks about how intranets are not social enough – 5 reasons. Unfortunately the comments were closed here, but I will make the point that if you are using WP for your intranet like Tangible Words is for one of our clients, it’s totally possible to also make it social (the very premise of this article is that they are not social – but I say, “They can be!“).
***You will have original goals of value to document, and it’s normal that you will learn new and better ways to create value with your content as you test the site, get feedback and evolve.