Part One from my IntranetNow Presentation: Bringing Out Old Faithful

As I mentioned in my last post, at the start of October I gave a well-received presentation at Intranet Now, called “Lessons and Learnings of Inheriting a New Intranet”. At 9 minutes long, and in person, I didn’t get a chance to include all my thoughts – so here is the first in a series that writes up and expands on the pieces I think you will get the most value from.

So, Old Faithful…
In one of my slides I decided to bring out the usual Field of Dreams quote: “if you build it they will come”.

Field of Dreams

Quite often the quote is followed up with “this isn’t true”, “there’s more to it than that”, or something similar. In fact on the day Howard Thain from CompanyNet did just that – explaining that quite often it’s because users are averse to change.

I agree with Howard, and the people who have said something similar before, but I also disagree. With one small amendment to the quote I think it becomes entirely accurate and appropriate:

If you build it WELL they will come
While not that dissimilar, this one little world makes the world of difference to this concept. It is an incredibly important word though, which has a lot of responsibility on its shoulders.

What do I mean by “well”?
In my opinion there are two parts to this:

  1. That the intranet meets the users’ needs
  2. Plus it ultimately improves the users’ day-to-day lives

These two short sentences hide a vast amount of work, so it’s not as simple as it sounds.

If it’s not simple, why make it sound like that?
I’ll give you two different scenarios to explain my point further.

One, the site looks beautiful, your comms are fantastic and people actively log onto the site. But it doesn’t meet their needs and they don’t understand what’s in it for them. If you do nothing more to the site, then your stats are only going to go down and people will find ways to work in spite of the intranet.

Two, you tell only a handful of people about the site and it looks quite rough round the edges. But it’s fantastic and delivers exactly what they want, so they start sharing it themselves and talking to their colleagues about it. This time your hits are going to steadily increase as more people realise the benefit it brings, despite the fact it’s a change to their way of working.

The first is like a Wedgewood plate in a greasy spoon cafe. Everyone knows about it, but no one uses it because it’s not practical. The second could be compared to a viral YouTube video, Gangnam Style has been viewed more than 3 billion times and has had a large cultural impact largely through word of mouth.


So how is an intranet built “well”?
This will vary from business to business, as at the heart of the concept is the end user. Users are your people in your business, who have their own regular tasks, individual responsibilities, and frustrations. If you understand them, then you’re well on the way to understanding how to build the intranet to meet their needs and build it “well”. Then you can start to promote it more heavily, as your word of mouth reputation is going to be all the more positive for it.

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