EP 06

Iterative Intranets

We've built our fair share of intranets over the years, and we've noticed many of our clients like the idea of the "big bang" launch where they can celebrate and have an event for the launch of the intranet. We're all about celebrating, but the process of actuallly getting all the pieces in place and keeping it all up to date while the intranet is being built is a lot of work. So we have a few ideas around this topic, and why you might want to consider a phased approach to your intranet launch.

Please enjoy the conversation with Mike Bodell and Matt Dressel.

Episode Links
Hosted By
Matt Dressel
Mike Bodell
Produced By
Mitch Herrema
Edited By
Mitch Herrema
Music By
Eric Veeneman


[00:00:00] Matt Dressel: Unless you're investing a large amount into it to make it happen in, let's say, three months, let's say six months, your whole organization is going to change, right? Like you're going to get, you know, a new CEO is going to be brought in, a different, you know, in today's world, the pandemic will happen and now everything will shift and all of that work that you did to try to set up this big bang will just change from underneath you.

[00:00:28] Mitch Herrema: Hello, and welcome back to Make Others Successful a podcast about modernizing your workplace, and improving your organization's communication, collaboration, and business process automation. Today, we're going to be talking about the topic of iterative intranets. We've built our fair share of intranets over the years, and we find that our clients often want to go after a big bang approach with their intranet where they launch everything all at onetime, and they get everything ready and celebrate and that part of it is great.But the process of getting all the pieces in place, and having everything organized and up to date, while the intranet is being built, is quite the task.So we have a few ideas as to why this might not be the best idea and why you might want to go after a phased approach for your intranet. Please enjoy the conversation with Mike Bodell and Matt Dressel.

[00:01:21] Mike Bodell: Matt, what do we think about this, this is something you and I have been involved in helping organizations build intranet or manage intranets or migrate intranets for the better part of 15 years, at some level, so most of that time we spent doing that stuff with SharePoint or Microsoft related technologies and we've kind of experienced a variety of levels of success, depending on involvement, our involvement, or depending on the customer's level of skill or engagement, both with us and then once we move on and go somewhere else and help someone else. So what is it? What is an iterative intranet? And why do we think that that's important?

[00:02:07] Matt Dressel: So I think intranets in general, one of the biggest challenges that people have is they turn it into something bigger than it needs to be and what I mean by that isn't that they are adding more features, what I mean, is they think about it as they think about perhaps a brand new launch to their public website and they think of it as I need to get everything that I had on my old site, or everything, let's say they didn't have a real site that had a bunch of sections, I need it to be perfect. So I can do a bunch of marketing on it, and I can get sales for it and it really needs to be 100%ready, all the content needs to be there, all the marketing language needs to be there. That isn't a great approach for an intranet for a couple different reasons. Number one, organizations traditionally don't have dedicated people that are focused on understanding and implementing the content for an intranet.More often than not, it is someone's second job, someone's third job that they're doing, especially when you get beyond maybe the high level content, so maybe they will have somebody in the marketing department or in an internal communications department that's doing some of the top level content. But then you as you get further down and into departments and areas, and whatever that might be, you have people who are just the manager of a group or just the manager of doing this thing and they don't understand the difference between communication, collaboration, and what messaging they really want to wraparound what it is that they do in the organization and most of those people won't really understand what they really need, until they start doing it.

[00:04:03] Mike Bodell: So when you get that deep into the organization, you're letting those people be involved in adding content, because that's often what happens in a large organization. You can't have two people just do it all.So you try to spread that load. What you're indicating, and I think I've seen this many times is people that don't really understand the purpose of the intranet as a communications platform. Look at all of the stuff that they think might be useful to their team and others who interact with them in the organization and they just dump it all out there.

[00:04:33] Matt Dressel: For sure and on top of that, if they don't have a good example, or a good working usage of other areas on the portal, it's difficult for them to understand what you're really asking them to do. So as it relates to an iterative approach to doing intranet's we really recommend starting small, starting with something that you can launch and get people using and get people used to. So a lot of times we talk about news, news is an untapped resource that doesn't take a lot to do, and doesn't have a huge impact on the business. So let's say today, I'm sending out a newsletter to my whole company once a week with a bunch of news. It does not take much to stand up one or two or three SharePoint sites with news and start adding news to them, and change that email that I send to point to these news articles and for most people, when they use it, they're not going to really notice very much of a difference, but they're going to start thinking in their mind, oh, I went to the site and I can see last week's news and the week before’s news and the week before’s news, and I can see this other stuff. That's kind of cool.

[00:05:44] Mike Bodell: So news is easy to create, it's valuable to people who care about where the organization is going and what everyone's doing and because of that, it creates a draw to the intranet and so then people are going there more regularly, they get used to it and then as that becomes a draw, you can start to think about adding things.

[00:06:05] Matt Dressel: Yeah, but even in that case, I wouldn't necessarily say that I launched an intranet, from a marketing perspective, because a lot of people what they get hung up on is, well, I want to launch this thing, I want to have a launch party, I want to celebrate to the world that we launched an intranet, we just did news, it's not enough to call it an intranet, so don't.Start getting the value out of that news piece, but don't get hung up on saying this is the intranet.

[00:06:27] Mike Bodell: So I'm going to throw one at you here. That makes complete sense if I'm thinking of a clean slate organization that is like hey, we're new to office 365 we have SharePoint, we want to figure out how to use it, what's a good way to get started? We think we need an intranet because that'll be a better communications platform, but what should we do and they have nothing to work from. What about that organization that's large, and they've got an intranet already and they either don't like it, because the content doesn't make sense and there's a lot of collaboration content on there that shouldn't be there, or they can't find anything, but everything's there somebody knows where it is, but I don't know who that person is. So what do you say to that organization who says I need to have a big bang, because I need all that stuff that I have there to show up in the new one.

[00:07:09] Matt Dressel: I still wouldn't try it, I would still try to recommend they go against a big bang, I wouldn't start with news, that wouldn't be the place, news would probably be one of the last things that I move. But let's take an organization that does, let's say they don't have a lot of department level. So it's a bigger organization, but they don't have an intranet section for a particular group, but they have, they have benefits and career and maybe a section talking about their culture and what they're doing.There's no reason you can't take pieces of that and start to move it and modify the linking between the two. So let's say that this time of year, that right now, you know, this might be around forever, this right now is in October, it's getting close to when open enrollment is for most organizations. So let's say that's happening, take this opportunity, build out your benefits section and an open enrollment section in the new platform, link to it, have back linking as best you can. Do it, start, make it happen, I would strongly encourage you start to move in that direction. A part of the reason being, especially for even a picker or for smaller organizations, you can think oh, it's more nimble,I don't have as many people to talk to. But also for large organizations, that big bang approach is even worse, because unless you're investing a large amount into it to make it happen in let's say, three months, let's say six months, your whole organization is going to change. You're going to get, a new CEO is going to be brought in a different, you know, in today's world, the pandemic will happen and now everything will shift and all of that work that you did to try to set up this big bang will just change from underneath you.

[00:08:59] Mike Bodell: So what I'm hearing you say is look at the landscape, look at what's coming. Choose something that's high value, low hanging fruit will be compartmentalized a little bit, compartmentalized, I want to touch on that as well and then move those things as your starter, but then have a plan for attacking the bigger body of content, a piece at a time and one of the things that I was hoping you would touch on is that compartmentalization because prior to SharePoint Online, in the way that Microsoft recommends information architecture today, everything was site collection with sub sites underneath it, which made things very difficult to move and migrate and things like that. But now, with the recommendation of your information architecture being dedicated site collections for either purpose or for specific teams, so that you can put secure boundaries around those you can actually take a piece of that content out of your old intranet, put that into its own little container and then as things change, as you just mentioned, that piece can be moved around, however you need it to be moved around and you haven't lost that effort.

[00:10:03] Matt Dressel: So the two things I'll mention about that is, that doesn't, I'm not going to fool anybody, that doesn't make it easier to start with, you're still going from a world where you had all this stuff in one big container, to now making multiple containers that you would have this stuff in that's a big lift and shift, the sunny spot is going forward, that it is a lot easier.Yes, it will be burdensome to start with. But once you have that moved, if you need to rework something in a particular area, swapping in and out from the hub is not that difficult, it can be very, very beneficial in that regard. The other thing you mentioned was, we talked about large organizations and what they do, so the terms I use are iterative is, I'm going to maybe every month be launching a new thing or doing a new thing. There is another approach that is the one that I really would recommend for more larger enterprise, which is a phased approach, which is more structured, then I'm just doing work and trying to get something new out there every month and more saying, we're going to do benefits, and then we're going to do, maybe we're going to do the human resource area, or the or the, about us section and culture section and once we get those two things done, we'll launch the intranet, right as it is, or maybe once we get enough, we'll switch it to be the primary intranet will be the new, and the old will have several things that are kept, that are still being used from it, but it's largely removed. That's the type of thing that I would approach for most larger size enterprises that aren't willing to invest a large amount of money to do this quickly, they're still going to be those people that absolutely have to do everything all at once you can do it, it's just going to cost you a lot of money if you want to do it right, either, because you need todo it quickly, I have to bring in a lot of hands, a lot of people to make this happen, for the three months that we're going to do this work or six months, we're going to do this work, or because it's going to take you a year and a half to do it and there's a whole other level of expense that goes into that.Having these people in these multiple updates, and making sure it's all in sync and making sure you're really ready for when you really want to launch. So there are reasons to do them, but for the vast majority of people, iterative, phased, one of those should work for you.

[00:12:44] Mike Bodell: I was just thinking, as you were talking about that, it occurred to me that we should remind everyone that, let's say you take an iterative approach to your intranet and you're thinking that well, I'm going to take the iterative approach, and that's going to take me through these, you know, six phases and then I'm going to be done, no, you're not going to be done. You have to have a plan for after that final phase, for what comes next.

[00:13:11] Matt Dressel: You mentioned it when we started, and I forgot to talk about it, about what the biggest problem people have with intranets, the biggest problem is engagement, getting people to use it, if I never update my benefits section, it's not going to be very engaging. When somebody first hires on they're going to use it and if they ever need to go back and look at some of their benefits, they'll use it beyond that, it's like what's the point? If you're using it to deliver your financial statements, if you're using it to deliver a message from all the directors or leadership on a regular basis, if you're doing stuff with it all the time, it's going to be relevant. Well, if you're doing stuff with it, it's going to have to change, because the way that we're doing financial reporting is going to change. When we talk about our initiatives for the year that's going to change. Things are going to change, you're going to re need reshuffle it, and you need to spend the time to do that.Does it need to be, you know, a huge undertaking? No, it shouldn't be. But there should be an effort to keep it fresh, an effort to talk about it. If nothing else, it's the effort to say once a quarter or twice a year, hey, what's going on with the intranet? What do we like, what's not working? And how do we improve it?

[00:14:27] Mike Bodell: That makes a lot of sense and I think the last thing that I wanted to touch on and this is more of a boots on the ground thing and that is, let's just take a couple minutes and talk about some of the key tools that we use when we're looking at that content that's on your existing intranet or content that's on a file server somewhere. What are the right tools to use?What are the methods that we should apply when we're looking at that content determining what we need to do with it?

[00:14:50] Matt Dressel: So as it relates to intranet launches and migrations, that's an interesting topic. There are tools available, that are mostly third party, one is called ShareGate and is the one that we traditionally use, there's some other ones out there that do it as well. They can do a lot for you to help keep things in sync. So let's say I am trying to migrate and Ido want to bring over all of the documents from a particular spot, I can set up a ShareGate migration process, and migrate those documents into the new location and I can then later on, do a Delta sync. So it's basically just going to get changes and that type of thing will help tremendously for things like documents, they won't help at all for pages, and news articles and those types of things just have to be moved over. But there's a lot of tools out there that can help you assess your content. So you can pull from ShareGate, you can pull reports that will tell you all the documents, all the list items, who has permission to them, so you can kind of look at what the lay of the land is currently. You can even use that after the fact, so let's say that you're looking at that twice a year update if you wanted to look at hey, what's been going on what's been edited recently, you can use those tools to look at those things as well, which can be useful for even after a migration.

[00:16:13] Mike Bodell: So what I get from that tool can be something that I can use in a content inventory, as I'm evaluating everything, a ROT analysis.Which for those of you who don't understand is redundant, outdated and trivial content, you're trying to identify that. So that you don't need to move that stuff over, and you can ultimately get rid of it. So those are the types of things that need to happen and ShareGate is just an example of a tool that can help with that.

[00:16:33] Matt Dressel: For sure and those are things you should be doing on a regular basis, no matter what. So you should be looking at your content and saying this is old, we don't need this anymore, let's get rid of it. Because again, it goes back to if your intranet is relevant, people will have a higher tendency to use it. The other thing I was going to mention about that particular thing, usage, there's also some tooling and some functionality with what's now called Viva, Microsoft Viva, which is really just SharePoint with some extra features. But that can help make it easier for people to get access.So one area is the content, it's making sure content is relevant and up to date and that it is meaningful to the people, your audience. The other piece of it is making it easy for them to find it and with some of the things coming out from Viva, where you can set up a home site, configure home site to be part of teams you can basically from within teams or one of the SharePoint mobile apps, you can basically always get to that content that's on your intranet from everywhere, all the time, which also can be a big driver, because it just lowers the barrier to finding that stuff.

[00:17:40] Mike Bodell: So any device anywhere, anytime, content.

[00:17:44] Matt Dressel: Yeah, that's the idea.

[00:17:45] Mike Bodell: Very good. All right, well, I think that's all we have. We want to thank everybody for joining this podcast.

[00:17:52] Matt Dressel: Yeah, it's been fun. It's a little interesting, a little different.

[00:17:56] Mike Bodell: A little interesting and different and we look forward to speaking next time.

[00:17:59] Mitch Herrema: Thanks for joining us today. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, so you will always be up to date on the most recent episodes. This podcast is hosted by the team members of Bulb Digital, special thanks to Eric Veneeman for our music tracks. If you have any questions for us head to makeotherssuccessful.com, and you can get in touch with us there. You'll also find a lot of insightful blogs and videos to help you modernize your workplace. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time.

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