First of all, serve it in different courses! You wouldn’t serve the starter, main course and desert all on one plate! You’d try to eat everything much too fast, and by the time you got to the desert you’re bloated, frustrated and the ice cream has melted all over your steak. If you want your intranet to be a mission critical component of your enterprise you will need to do it in steps.
A SharePoint 2010 intranet is best served as a degustation menu. Each dish (feature) serving a specific purpose, resembling perfection in its own right and complimenting the rest of the course. One of the most common pitfalls of SharePoint implementations is the desire to achieve all goals at once. If you break them down into different independently measurable components you will not only achieve success but achieve it over and over again. Replace one failure with many small successes and suddenly SharePoint becomes a buzzword in your organisation instead of a swearword.
Information Architecture (IA) is an integral part of any web based content management system, you need to keep a close eye on the overall IA while designing the smaller and more manageable solutions. When breaking the IA down into manageable components remember two things: IA is not merely the sitemap and navigation, it also consists of metadata and classifications. Secondly, the IA will change over time. Build in a governance plan from the start on how to tackle IA changes and how to implement them.
As much as you would not put the strawberry ice cream on the steak and cover it in gravy, nor should you mix information, knowledge and processes up on your Intranet. Always keep your target audience in mind. Who is the benefactor of the solution you are attempting? Often you will have several goals in mind for your Intranet. Some of them might be
- An Increase in productivity
- To automate business processes
- Increasing knowledge sharing
- Making documents easier to find
- Helping new and existing staff to find critical information
Don’t put the “New Employee Form” into the HR team site together with some HR policies and internal HR documents. Instead, design an informational area of the intranet which can be centrally managed by a webmaster. This way, staff can find policies, information and reference material. Create an area for process automation where staff can navigate to, to get specific things done such as: equipment request, travel request, expense approval or new staff forms. Then build up workspaces for the different departments/teams where they can collaborate in a secure and managed environment. Cross promote links to the most relevant forms/processes to each team for faster user access. Use custom publishing workflows to allow content to move from the collaborative environment to the informational part of the intranet.
That way your IA can grow in a managed way instead of sprawling out of control and each audience will be served the course they requested. Tip: When designing the workspaces, treat each workspace as its own mini homepage project. Each department will have different needs, processes and types of information and the workspace homepage should reflect that individuality (while maintaining the brand guidelines of course). This way you can ensure maximum user uptake as the intranet becomes more and more relevant to how staff actually work.
Finally, give your staff the right tools to do their job. Ever tried eating a steak with no knife and fork? That’s how staff without any training will feel about the new Intranet. Frustrated. Worse still, they might actually use the tools badly and start making a mess of things. Training them on SharePoint and more importantly on your processes and how they are supposed to work will help keep staff in line with your vision and ensure a healthier IA for years to come.
To sum it up:
- Break down the intranet into the core tasks at hand (Find Information, Activate Processes, Collaborate) and build according to those core tasks.
- Build the intranet in stages. Start with one of the pillars while keeping the others in mind.
- Build mini homepages for increased user adoption.
- Give them the skills to do their job.