So many intranets are built around the organizational chart. But people don't always work according to the org chart. They work by doing specific tasks assigned to projects within their areas of expertise.
In order for an Intranet to be truly useful, it needs to be designed to support user task flows and facilitate team interactions. This post will show you how to get started in that direction.
Think for a moment about how your intranet really gets used. While the Intranet development team and senior management would love the intranet to be perceived as the virtual hub of all corporate activities, the truth is most employees usually visit the intranet to:
1) find a specific piece of information or
2) complete a specific task.
The easier you make it for employees to conduct these two specific activities, the more useful and usable your intranet will become.
And, if you're like most people, you don't "live" on the internet. Instead, your work takes place in the real world and you periodically check a web site whenever you need to find a specific piece of information or need help completing a specific task. Your intranet is no different. Employees will tend to use it just like any other website - it's just protected from the larger world within your corporate firewall.
While supplemental uses for the company intranet may also include access to company news and help for new employees to get started, an intranet's best use is to help all employees get things done.
The first step to organize a task-based intranet is to identify a set of key tasks within your organization. This often requires going out into the field to observe and interview employees and/or setup focus groups.
Spend time with employees and observe how they work. See if you can get a clear understanding of what they do in their jobs, including any activities and information they could get online if it were made available to them.
Once you get a list of key tasks, prioritize them in order of importance. This will help you structure your navigation choices in an intuitive way that will be more easily understood by employees.
Take a look at your intranet's usage and search logs to identify any patterns that might be common across departments. This will help you discover current trends and/or obstacles that employees have to work around on your current intranet.
An online survey is a great way to solicit feedback from employees about your intranet. However, be careful in how you design the questions. Ask open-ended questions and remain as objective as possible, while simultaneously giving employees an opportunity to offer general suggestions or provide specific input regarding new features.
Although you may be on a crunch-deadline to get your new intranet rolled out the door, taking the time to learn about and understand your users, their projects and associated tasks is a critical step. In the long run it will help ensure that your intranet will improve productivity across the organization.
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