intranet adoption

Opinion

The intranet: How to keep people coming back

Part two of our rollout series

Rob McWhirter

Rob McWhirter

Today is the day.

You’ve been grafting on this intranet for the last six months. You battled with the Finance Director to get signoff, you bought countless coffees for the IT department, you drew up your vision for a more cohesive, more connected workplace, and here you are with the tool to make it a reality. Today is launch day.

The system invitations are loaded in the torpedo hatch and your finger is on the button. Tentatively, you begin to apply some pressure; final checks are rushing through your head: “Authentication set up? Login tested? Permissions configur – oh just press the button” Your mouse emits a click.

WOOOOOOOSH.

Invitations flurry to inboxes. A cool wave of relief flows over you.

The clock incessantly ticks and tocks and tacks in the background whilst you sit, eyes glued on the intranet homepage, desperately scanning for some clue of activity…

The envelope icon lights up. Your cursor darts to it and you feel a rush fly up from the bottom of your stomach, flooding your head with a buzzy, dizzy sensation. People are using your creation. You check the analytics: over 300 unique views in the first hour. These numbers are better than you ever could have imagined.

Six months down the line, it’s a different story. No longer are people congratulating the intranet, the newsfeed is a ghost town, and you’re struggling to get 20, let alone 200 views an hour.

The momentum that seemed unstoppable six months ago has petered out. You try to revive the intranet with fresh content, a company email campaign and maybe even, god forbid, an intranet ‘treasure hunt’. Nothing works. You raise your palm, and plant it firmly on your face. 

So how do you get people to engage with the intranet beyond launch day? It’s the most common question when we sit down to discuss requirements with businesses, and rightly so; adoption is one of the key measures of success for your intranet. 

Well, we have a few ideas from our own experience. This post explores a few of them. 

Piloting

The work comes before you’ve even launched.

Rather than suddenly springing your new intranet onto your whole company, we always recommend running a month long pilot scheme before you go ahead a launch in full. Select a diverse set of users from all areas of the company: from junior assistants to C-suite members – it’s important to have a holistic approach so it can be useful to all members of the company, not just the HIPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion). It’s an important stage for gathering feedback, tweaking the design and sets the precedent that user feedback will be acted upon.

How it helps

  • De-risks the project – Allowing a sample of users to give you feedback on the intranet gives you a chance to tweak it in time for the real launch. It might also throw up any bugs or quirks that only a fresh pair of eyes can pick up.
  • Promotes the intranet organically – The users in your pilot groups will no doubt talk to their colleagues about this special ‘invite only’ group that they are part of. Suddenly the new intranet project carries an air of mystique.
  • Produces advocates – being part of a pilot project that can influence the direction of the intranet will encourage people to take ownership. This can produce advocates and allies all over the company, something you need to ensure adoption.

An iterative approach

Listen to feedback and act upon it.

The ‘big bang’ and ‘long wow’ launch concepts are well introduced in the Intranetizen article, Big Bang Theory (for intranets). It’s well worth a read.

‘Big bang’ launches see all of the development done before launch. The product is perfected, launched and then left. This follows what software people call a waterfall model and is the traditional way of producing software and intranets. But it has its shortcomings: “the fanfares and jazz hands associated with ‘big bang’ implementations quickly become tired” says Luke Mepham, instead “making an ongoing frequent release process effective means a change in approach for everyone”

That’s why we advocate ongoing, frequent updates. And that isn’t just for the technical stuff either, you can apply this approach to your content too: gathering feedback, updating and adding to it as necessary.

How it helps

  • The intranet is launched much more quickly.
  • Users feel like the intranet is evolving and their feedback is achieving something. ‘A long period without any improvement means the perception of the intranet is poor and getting worse.’
  • Incremental updates mean that if something does go wrong, it can be undone easily.

Make it useful

A well-adopted intranet is part of people’s everyday workflow.

Make the intranet more than just an information portal or a collaboration hub: make it useful.

You can achieve this by moving paper-based processes onto the intranet. The aim is to make people’s work lives easier, rather than just giving them one more place to log on to.

Intranet Connections reports that those “that have achieved the highest adoption rates have incorporated the intranet into the operations and daily workflows of their organisation”

At Twine we see a lot of our clients using our flexible Workflow Builder to produce useful tools within their intranet. Here are a few ideas for processes you can take online:

  • Time off requests
  • Feedback forms
  • Time tracking
  • Performance reviews

Twine’s Workflow Builder allows you to configure custom fields and create outputs like HTML emails and in system approvals. It’s flexible enough to produce all sorts of workflows.

Key takeaways

You’ll notice that the above tips don’t lean heavily on what the tech can do very heavily, but on how people use it.

And one thing we’ve missed off this list, because we take it as a given at Twine: make sure it is a delight to use. A wonderful user experience will help make your intranet a place that people want to keep coming back to, not avoid.