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Should we build intranets like internets?

When people ask for examples of our work, we find they're not actually looking for flowery, flashy examples - the usual things creatives show when they want to showcase their work.

Instead, we find it more useful to show them a range of client projects which showcase HOW the work was done. This is as important a part of the process as WHAT is produced.

Good quality work doesn't always mean you've worked on the bigger projects. We know. We've worked on sites that get in excess of four million 'hits' (yes, we're cringing at using a neanderthal web measurement tool, but most people get this) a week, but it's the smaller ones that require more focussed work and more targetted content. Plus, if big web budgets meant quality work, the Federal Government wouldn't have pulled the plug on their $13 million Grocery Choice web site turkey.

And just one last thing on these examples: when you’re looking at them, please bear in mind that the design isn’t our work. We say that as often when reviewing web pages, most people focus on the design – our contribution was primarily the web writing or strategy).

So what have we been working on lately? This should help ...

Yes.  Why not?

Intranets are fascinating business tools.  The responsibility to design them often falls to IT teams as a way of delivering information to staff in the quickest way possible.

What I find most fascinating is the relationship between the three groups who are responsible for communicating best with staff – Marketing/Communications, Human Resources and IT.

These relationships are often quite tense with various teams marking their virtual territory and vying for custody of the intranet.  Most times we end up not being strategists on these projects – we’re more like the Family Court.

Most intranet projects we’ve worked on are weighted too far in one of those directions … and this is what you end up with.

Marketing/comms intranets: are very warm and fuzzy, with lots of rah-rah and cheerleading.  Information is primarily sales-focussed.  Very glossy.

Human resources intranets: are very process-focussed.  They have lots of policies and procedures in place.

IT intranets: are built using cool tools.  Often very hard to understand or find anything.

The best intranets are built using a combination of all three.  In an ideal world, there are no custody battles over who ‘owns’ the intranet, but instead there is an easy path to a RANGE of information.

In our workshops, we often talk about the differences in what staff and an organisation think are the most important parts of their intranet.  They both start with the letter ‘P’.

Every organisation we’ve dealt with in developing an intranet says the most important thing is ‘POLICIES’ (with PROCEDURES running a close second – also a P word – how cool …)

Every staff group we’ve dealt with says the most important thing is ‘PHONE NUMBERS’ (with PEOPLE running a close second (also both P words – this must be karma …)

When building an intranet, your organisation should build it like an internet – identifying your staff as an audience and then delivering what they need from you.


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