Fear of the big projects

I need to throw-out my current intranet, and yet the risks of the new intranet project failing (in part) are so great I feel overwhelmed. Launch in t-minus three months.

I hope you know that I’m an internal communications practitioner; that I don’t simply talk about this stuff or advise about this stuff, I do this stuff on a daily basis. My speciality is online comms – intranet and collaboration etc.

I’ve been writing for the web for seven years (longer, really) and I’ve been managing intranets for around five years. I won’t say I’m ‘passionate’ in case you tell me ton “get a room” but I’ve chosen my career and I’ve become skilled in this arena through my own interest in the subject. The lessons I’ve learnt have been won on the coal face. Thanks to some awesome mentors, I have a fair amount of experience and a modicum of sense.

But my confidence is under attack. While I can whip-up a mini-site on our intranet in hours, write a brief for a Director in minutes, and spot a typo at fifty paces, I’m under a different kind of pressure from now on.

I mustn’t tell you all the details. As a loyal member of my company, and an ethical writer, I simply can’t go in to all the details for fear of saying too much, but you won’t have failed to notice that in the last few months I’ve been thinking out loud about what a good intranet needs.

Yes, intranets go through re-designs every year or so; the content is shuffled around and the navigation is resorted so that it’s logical (to the intranet manager…) but there comes a time when you need to go further than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. New, User Centred, content is needed. Pages need to be published that address the real needs of the workforce, and… and a better Content Management System and intranet design needs to be installed.

Intranet designs do not last forever. I imagine that any extant intranet needs redesigning every 18 – 36 months, and needs incremental improvements every six months. But, even with software upgrades, systems need replacing. Wholly.

Whatever Content management System (CMS) you’re using, I hope you’re on the latest edition of it. I hope your company has been able to afford to upgrade to the latest offering at least every other version. Just like Windows, we need to upgrade and improve the underlying systems our intranets run on.

But even with upgrades, there may come a time when the vendor’s offering (the people who wrote the software that runs your intranet) just doesn’t meet your company’s needs. Just doesn’t reach the standards of software available this year.

My intranet reached such a point a few years ago. I’ve been running it for two years and it’s not been pretty nor fun. It’s time to start again.

And I’m afraid. I have fears. This is a big project, with the need to collaborate across many diverse areas of our company and talk to a great number of people. There are many risks that are being realised, and 100% success is unlikely, even though it was at one time my expectation.

I’ll say more when I’ve had a think.


Photo credit: Ioan Sameli

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  1. Very open Wedge. I think I can imagine how you feel. We need bigger budgets and hire the best developers, analysts and designers to get the things we want. If items don’t exist in the existing framework, we simply build it. We also need to bribe our senior managers so they will fully support our cases.

  2. Don’t individuals just get weary of continuous upgrades? I mean.. fixing security issues is an significant thing, but a new release each 2 months? It can grow really tiresome for the user, particularly if you have half a dozen sites that ask to be upgraded.

  3. Hello Myriam, is that right? I see your link goes to a website by ‘John’.

    I don’t recommend ‘upgrades’ every 2 months. I recommend upgrading the CMS every other version, so that’s probably every 2 years or so. I recommend adding functionality / improving features every six months, and that shouldn’t damage the end-user experience, only enhance usability and usefulness.

    So, while the intranet team might work hard to deliver improvements that meet business needs and match users’ expectation, there should be no frustration or weariness on the part of the user.

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