Seven essential elements of a global intranet project

One of the most valuable aspects of a great intranet is that it allows employees to come together in a single place to communicate and collaborate. This has particular value in global organisations, where employees work in scattered locations across multiple time zones. A global intranet brings employees together and feel more like ‘one company’.

Projects to establish a single intranet in large, global organisations can be challenging. The logistics of dealing with a large group of distributed employees, the sheer amount of content on the intranet and potentially merging existing local intranets into one global platform is not always straightforward. And while using a product like Wizdom is much quicker than building a custom platform, projects can still take a long time once you factor in planning, research, testing, content migration and more.

At the recent Wizdom Conference in Copenhagen we had some strong case studies of global intranet projects from companies such as Ørsted, Ramboll and GEA. Here are some of our thoughts on the essential elements of a successful global intranet project.

1. Do your research

Global intranet projects will involve a large number of users and stakeholders, not only from different business divisions but also from locations around the world. Those involved must reflect the diversity of a global workforce with different types of employees in various roles, including those working in offices, production plants and frontline roles.

A successful intranet is designed around a thorough understanding of employees and their needs. Because of the diversity of the workforce who will be using your intranet, it is critical to spend time finding out about different working patterns, needs, pain points and perspectives. This can only be achieved through an extensive discovery and user research period that covers all your different groups of users.

There are multiple techniques to carry out effective research including interviews, workshops, surveys, observation, usability testing, developing personas and more, but it is always worth spending the time and effort. User research also creates buy-in from employees who feel they are being listened to and see that their needs are being considered for the new intranet.

2. Create a vision that everyone can buy into

With so many different stakeholders, inevitably there will be many differing ideas and opinions on what the new intranet should do and deliver. Having a strong vision for the new intranet that everybody can buy into allows all involved to work towards the same end goal. It also helps gets users and stakeholders excited about the project.

At the Wizdom Conference, we heard how Ramboll developed a new vision for the global intranet to be “an integrated digital environment, Digital Workspace, that allows employees to communicate, collaborate and deliver excellence – whenever and where they may be working.” Communicating the vision helped the wider team to deliver a consistent message to users and stakeholders, as well as establish clarity and focus.

3. Work on getting the governance right upfront

Governance is a wide topic covering the various structures, polices, roles, rules and processes to make sure the intranet delivers value and runs efficiently on a day-to-day basis. Establishing governance up-front (and making sure everyone buys into it) will allow your intranet to develop in a more sustainable and successful way, and ensure you have high quality content. The need for robust governance is particularly acute in global intranet projects so it can stop local teams going off and “doing their own thing” and undermining the high quality of your intranet.

For example, at GEA the team established various different roles with associated responsibilities to provide clarity over intranet, news and content ownership. These included portal owners, task or content owners, local news creators, global news editors, intranet owners and IT.

4. Use personalization to balance global and local content

One of the key capabilities of a modern intranet is to deliver personalized content which is targeted to the individual employees based on their profile. A global intranet should “know” some details about the person who is viewing the content and then deliver news and pages based on attributes such as the location that person is based, the division or function they work in, the language they speak or their level of seniority. This “local” content should appear seamlessly together with “global” content to ensure the intranet is relevant and useful to every employee.

Getting the balance between global and local content is not always easy and requires ensuring all profile data (usually sourced from your HR system and synchronised with Active Directory data) is correct. Teams must also work with local content owners to ensure they produce relevant content, and also deal with the logistics of multi-language content.

5. Focus on content and its findability

An intranet is only as good as its content, and a new intranet project provides the opportunity to make sure content is useful, relevant, well-written, accurate and up-to-date. And of course, getting the content right also means making sure it is easily findable. In global intranet projects two important practices help with these elements.

It is important not to just migrate your existing content. Instead spend time to identify the content that is valuable and rewrite if it necessary. For example, Ørsted used analytics and standard criteria to identify which content should be migrated, reviewed or deleted. If you’re migrating content from multiple existing local intranets, it’s a must to review it carefully.

The second key practice is to develop a global information architecture (navigation) which is based around the way employees think and work rather than organisational structures. The only reliable way to achieve this is to work with users and carry out extensive testing, a practice that both Ørsted and GEA followed to produce intuitive, task-based information architectures that a global workforce understands.

6. Establish a realistic roadmap for launch that also involves change management

It’s essential to have a realistic roadmap for the launch of your global intranet. Global intranet launches are often done across multiple phases, either because the central team is too small to fully support a single “big bang” global roll-out, or because different features and capabilities are being introduced more gradually. At Ramboll the team released several core components of the ‘digital workspace’ before the full intranet launch and continue to release new features.

Intranets also need ongoing change management efforts to help content owners and users get the best out of the platform. For global intranets it is often best to physically visit some of your key locations to help with launch. For example, at GEA the team carried out a post-launch engagement roadshow covering editor training, feedback sessions, promotional activity and more.

7. Perseverance is key

Because of the complexity and length of a global intranet project, there are going to be times when things don’t’ run so smoothly or take much longer than expected. Project teams running global intranet projects need perseverance and patience.

At the conference we heard first-hand accounts of some of the challenges including one company who had to work at the same time as a major corporate transformation exercise which the new intranet would help support. But the project team had to keep the transformation plans secret, which was very difficult when you are working with hundreds of users to shape the new intranet!

Of course, once you get to the launch of your global intranet and get great feedback from users, it always feels worth all the efforts that you’ve made!

Global intranets are always worth the effort

Global intranet projects take time but they’re always worth the effort. They provide a fantastic channel to help keep employees informed, support them in their working day and connect with colleagues from all over the world. As well as driving engagement and efficiency, they also provide a springboard to develop global digital workplaces. Using many of the elements above will help teams to deliver highly successful global intranets.

Where to next? 

Catch up on more Wizdom blog posts:

Why intranets need top-down and bottom-up support

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How to create a brand for your intranet

If you’re managing an intranet, how do you want it to be thought of by your employees and your stakeholders? It is a more serious “corporate” news channel or more of a relaxed social channel? Is it an indispensable work tool which drives efficiency or a website to...

How your intranet can support a great employee experience

In recent years several well-known companies including GE and Airbnb have appointed Chief Employee Experience Officers or Heads of Employee Experience. While some of these are a rebranding of traditional HR roles, they also indicate the rise in interest in the concept...

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