Tools & Technologies

The Intranet Management Handbook -Part 3. Operational Planning

I wrote a few days ago that Martin White has a new book out, called The Intranet Management Handbook. For me, this is great timing due to a couple of client projects I’m working on at the moment, and thus have been deeply reading Martin’s book.

The book is divided into four parts:
– 1. Foundations
– 2. Technology
– 3. Operational Planning
– 4. Governance and Strategy

Here are my comments on Part 3 – Operational Planning. See elsewhere for comments on Part 1 – Foundations and comments on Part 2 – Technology.

1. There are 7 chapters in Part 3, making it the longest part of the book. The chapters cover establishing the intranet team, managing intranet projects, evaluating risks, compliance, enhancing the user experience, marketing the intranet, and measuring user satisfaction.

2. In Chapter 9, Establishing the Intranet Team, Martin begins by referencing Jane McConnell’s research finding that an organization needs 1 full-time intranet manager for every 3000 employees. As a comparison (and Martin doesn’t have this in the book – I’m adding this in based on the surveys I have seen and written up), it’s not unusual for large firms to have 1 full-time Microsoft Exchange administrator for every 3000 or so employees, and that’s just for email! With Notes/Domino shops, it’s closer to 1000 in large organizations. If the Intranet provides a place for just content publishing, that’s akin to the Exchange numbers – single function, 1:3000. If it does much more and provides collaboration spaces too, that’s a lot closer to the Notes/Domino situation, so should arguable by 1:1000. Regardless, there need to be people on the ground to make it work.

3. Continuing in Chapter 9, Martin outlines the role of the Intranet team, with an initial list of 14 responsibilities, including “supporting intranet authors and publishers” and “maintaining an awareness of good intranet practice.” He quotes a number of other studies and blog posts, where intranet consultants and intranet managers have sought to explain roles and responsibilities. The chapter is a good synthesis of this material and thinking. As I said to Martin on the phone earlier today, I’m astounded at the range of skills required by an Intranet manager, and wonder how you find good people to do all these things – especially when there are no structured courses or certification. Astounding.

4. In Chapter 10, Martin addresses the management of Intranet projects, and states upfront that the definitive guide for intranet development is the Step Two 6×2 Methodology, which asks in essence: “What can be delivered in the next six months?” He talks through a number of concepts and ideas – deliver value frequently, the four skills for managing intranet projects, project lifecycle management models, and more.

5. The management of risk in business is a concept well understood by senior managers and executives, and Martin takes the ideas of risk management in Chapter 11 and applies it to the world of intranets. The chapter is a good fundamental introduction to risk management, and given how new the approach is for Intranet Managers, Martin provides some sample risks and potential responses.

6. Chapter 12, Conforming to compliance requirements, highlights the need to consider whether, how, and when the Intranet produces “business records,” and what that means at a technology and business level. For example, as an employee, if I follow the instructions on the Intranet to perform a particular task, and it goes bad, and the content is then reviewed, the original content may need to be kept as a record for years to come, along with the names of people who accessed that content. This could get complex and difficult very quickly, so as Martin says in the introductory paragraph, “Legal advice should be sought for the specific jurisdiction in which the intranet is being operated.

7. In Chapter 13, Enhancing the user experience, Martin applies the concepts of web usability to Intranets. In some ways, the challenge is easier – the Intranet Manager knows the user base, unlike for a Webmaster. In other ways, the challenge is much more complex – while the public web site has a small range of functions, the Intranet potentially has a much broader set of functions and capabilities. Key point: make sure you do usability testing, and don’t make it a one-time event.

8. Chapter 14 deals with Marketing the intranet. Topics covered include brand identity (“don’t call your intranet ‘the intranet'”), getting visibility for the intranet team, a section with the delightful name of “Cups and mats and fancy hats,” and the fundamental rule – “nothing succeeds like success.”

9. The final chapter of Part 3, Chapter 15 on Measuring user satisfaction, deals with how to gain feedback from users on the Intranet. I’m of two minds on this topic. On the one hand, I would say that gathering user satisfaction data is very important – because users are important, and the intranet exists to make their work easier. To this end, Martin provides a good range of tips of using surveys, being present at meetings to give visibility to the intranet manager, and more. On the other hand, if satisfaction is the only measure, and if the intranet is much more than just a place to publish content and news, then other measures need to be gathered as well, and those other measures – process improvement percentages, greater reach to gather ideas for decision making, etc. – are comparatively much more important than satisfaction. What do you think?

10. Chapter 15 taught me something about the 5-point and 6-point Likert scale that I hadn’t fully understood before. I thought it was about the number of points, not the specific labels. Thanks Martin!

Well that’s Part 3. There is one final part in the book to go – Part 4 on Governance and Strategy. If this book would help you in your work, see the ordering page at Facet Publishing.

Categories: Tools & Technologies