Sam Lipscombe 7 October 2014 6 min read

What do people really require from your intranet?

Understanding Intranet RequirementsWhen I first came into the world of intranets, many organisations used to consider these tools internal websites. They were delivered to increase communication between the business and its employees.

Needless to say intranets have evolved. Now they are viewed as places for social collaboration, the sharing of ideas and knowledge - part of the digital workplace. When considering what an intranet can do for our business we now have to consider more than just how well these tools can publish news, and focus on how it can empower our audience.

Getting this right is a tricky business. We often have to balance the need to fix short term problems with real, long term process improvement. Change as they say, can be tough. People need to buy into the solution as well as the problem and feel like they can make a difference. As the person overseeing this change it can be hard to know where to start.

Bringing stakeholders into the process can have a hugely positive impact. Interviewing at the start of a project will enable you to begin to understand where frustrations lie. It gives you an excuse to ask questions and build a picture of staff needs within your organisation. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is thinking that we are the audience, changing the intranet to meet the needs that we assume others have.

If you’re new to this or haven’t conducted interviews in a while, I've put together 7 simple tips will give you a head start:

1) Use a true sample of your intended audience

Consider who will use your intranet, shop floor employees may have a different perception to office staff – you will need to capture a broad range of viewpoints.

2) Don't treat everyone equally

You want to include senior staff in your interviews but remember to tailor your questions. It’s better to ask senior staff more about strategy than tactics to get the most out of your limited interview time.

3) Set the scene

Highlight the objectives of the project and put the interview in context. You may be close to the project but the person you are interviewing may have just been firefighting on some other business issue – let them know why this interview is important.

4) Steer away from intranet functionality

You may find that people want to discuss how something can be achieved, try and guide people so that you can understand what staff need to perform their job roles more effectively. Functionality should only be considered once you fully understand what the requirements of your staff are.

5) Don't cram, give yourself time to reflect

Give yourself time between each interview where you can reflect and make notes about the things you have just heard. Try to avoid scheduling interviews back to back.

6) Get outside help if possible

If you can try and use a third party intranet consultant to conduct the interviews on your behalf. External consultants will be more effective at cutting through internal politics and the interviewee is more likely to be open with their answers and help point out real issues.

7) Follow up

After your interviews summarise the information that you found and follow up with the people that contributed. This will not only show that you have listened to their answers, it will also reaffirm that they have contributed to the bigger project – making them more likely to buy-in to the end result.

Conducting stakeholder interviews brings you closer to the issues that employees are facing. It will give you ideas of information that needs to be shared as well as exposure to the processes that the intranet could improve.

Uncovering Intranet OpportunitiesMy colleague Martyn has recorded a series of videos on this topic that will take you through the process of conducting stakeholder interviews step-by-step. You can find the videos right here (which also come with a few handy guides).