Your new intranet is not the intranet you wanted

What I wish I could say to people who hate their new intranet.

We launched your new intranet; you’re using it now, and seeing just what all that research and all those exercises were for.

The intranet team worked with around forty of you to divine the requirements, and then we tested our rough design ideas with something like 50% of the organisation.

So, like us, you might imagine that we gathered enough requirements, ideas, and data to launch a really good intranet that meets your expectations and also provides greater functionality while being easier to use.

And yet here we are; you’re disappointed, and possibly irked by the new layout and navigation.

This is not the intranet you wanted. I know. It really isn’t. I know, because I listened to your frustrations; I know, because I watched you during the design testing; I know, because I read all your feedback.

I know it isn’t the intranet you wanted for several reasons.

I was told months ago that this was a unique organisation. Which, if you don’t mind me saying, I’ve heard a hundred times before and it’s a standing joke among consultants and designers of every kind. Your information management and document management needs are not unique – your haphazard and out-dated approach to these vital matters certainly is.

However, while your org needs are not unique, your org structure possibly is. Further, your individual wishes are incredibly diverse. Our research results showed either that you don’t care about matters that aren’t directly related to your daily work (that’s a fair position), or that you literally don’t understand anything about information hierarchy (still fair), or that you have very strong views on the right way to manage and seek information. Considering your feedback, I believe it’s the latter; the diverse views within your organisation make complete sense to me now that I understand your org structure and the diverse objectives you hold. It makes me wonder; are you one organisation and can one intranet satisfy?

So this isn’t the intranet you wanted. The intranet team worked to create structure and navigation that would help the majority of you just use the intranet without too much thought, but we know there are many among you that will be frustrated when the architecture does not match your mental model of how terms and information relate to your tasks.

While we used the research to inform the design of the new intranet, we had to be careful how we interpreted the results. I brought my experience to bear and championed some common sense intranet practices, and the project manager also ensured that certain matters were prioritised because of the established practices and expectations within the org.

So we’ve done the stakeholder interviews, the user research and design testing, and we gathered a shed-load of data and interpreted it in light of your organisation’s extrinsic and intrinsic goals.

Yet this still isn’t the intranet you wanted.

This is only the launch phase. This is mostly about org news and reference material. The collaboration sites and functions (think, online document reviews, fewer emails) come later. Social communications and social groups come later.

Change is hard; fifteen percent of you will hate and reject the new intranet within minutes. Because content migration takes time and effort, the new intranet won’t meet your needs on day one, and we’ll lose your interest for months. The intranet team and champions will work to develop the intranet over the coming months, and maybe, as meeting minutes and documents move off email and onto the intranet, maybe we’ll garner your support.

Knowing something of the culture of your organisation, I know that critiques are really important to the quality of your work, and so you’ll share your negative experiences with colleagues and feed back your criticisms to the intranet team. This is valuable, and appreciated. If I could say one thing as an outsider though; please remember that the intranet is supposed to improve over time – share your critiques to help it get better, not to damn it.

This cannot be the intranet you wanted, because the intranet will evolve only now that you are using it. The intranet manager will watch the usage stats, monitor the search engine, take your feedback, lay out governance and provide training in order to grow the intranet into the responsive, breathing platform you want and deserve.

So this isn’t the intranet you wanted, but it will be.


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