Special Series: Taming the Intranet Beast, Part 3

Part Three: Build Intranets for Tasks, Not Branches

In the third of a five-part series on Taming the Intranet Beast, senior consultant Denise Eisner shows how putting tasks ahead of employee newsletters is smart Intranet management.

For departmental Intranets, there’s a pervasive site structure model that says each branch should get an equal portion of the real estate in the site navigation, regardless of how many or how few tasks are performed online in that section of the site. This model says that equal standing is the best structure for representing the entire organization.

There’s another common model that says that the more corporate messaging you place on the home page, the more likely that employees will be knowledgeable about departmental priorities and strategic plans.

Industry research and government’s own usability data indicates that neither of these models improve task completion, and instead end up costing the organization in lost productivity. Having employees search for content to complete a task costs government organizations an average rate of 90 cents per minute, making obstacles like two-year-old newsletter articles, untagged PowerPoint presentations and multiple copies of the same HR policies some very expensive roadblocks to completing basic tasks.

What are those basic tasks? For a start, anything that answers the basic questions about pay and vacation would meet the requirements of every employee. Beyond that, well-architected Intranets address such varied tasks as:

  • How do I book a boardroom?
  • What are the requirements for booking my first business trip?
  • Find financial codes
  • Understand the process for hiring
  • Find information about health plans for dependents

A task inventory helps establish known tasks against existing web content assets. Within this spreadsheet (or database or CMS), site managers can weight tasks according to web path analysis from analytics data, user surveys, and card sorting to determine which tasks should dominate the site architecture.

Collaborative tools also fit within this framework but their inclusion must suit the culture of the organization. The gamut of tasks involving collaborative tools includes:

  • Sharing best practices or project updates among practitioners on a wiki
  • Using personal employee profiles to publish skills sets, past projects and contact information
  • Document sharing platforms for special projects
  • Texting tools to cut down on email

At some point it will be obvious to the web team that some branches within the department have relatively less Intranet content than others that correlates to what employees want to do online. Publishing short branch descriptions that link to key documents on a document management system can address these lower-demand areas. (If no such system exists, one possible solution is to provide an email address for document requests for that branch.) Not placing this lower-demand content online frees up the site for content that fulfills employee task requirements.

In Part Four of this series, we break down the benefits of having an Intranet search engine that actually works.


Denise Eisner is a senior-level web strategist and communications specialist with a passion for creating enhanced user experiences. As a member of the Government Service Excellence practice, Denise’s experience and specializations include web strategy development, information architecture, web analytics (WebTrends and Google Analytics) and web project management. She has led large-scale content audits, developed performance measurement frameworks, and coordinated site updates to meet Treasury Board policies standards and guidelines. Engaged in the evolving spheres of information technology, corporate communications and media for almost two decades, Denise has transformed business objectives into web strategies and information architectures for corporate and government clients in the U.S. and Canada.


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