A thriving Intranet should be a place to engage employees and compel them to return not only to consult a reliable source of information but to also participate, exchange ideas and innovate. Websites evolved from static HTML pages of the Web 1.0 era to engaging Web 2.0 online communities like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Similarly, as companies begin to understand the business value delivered by an internal Intranet, the platform steadily matures from a basic communication and information sharing resource into a more collaborative, workplace communities.
Razorfish have documented this evolution of Intranets into The Intranet Maturity Framework. Razorfish’s framework can be used as a planning tool for evolving Intranets from a static information resource into a consolidated workplace interface. Design strategies for Stages 1 & 2 are relatively straight-forward as the primary focus is on consolidating user experiences, establishing a content strategy and basic governance models. Evolving an Intranet into a more collaborative environment characteristic of Stage 3 can be challenging.
Designing Collaboration-Driven Intranets.
When the web began to evolve from the Web 1.0 era to Web 2.0, there was a focus on building sustainable online communities by attracting and retaining website members. Amy Jo Kim published three primary Design Principles and nine Design Strategies for online communities in her book Community Building for the Web. Kim’s Design Principles and Strategies where evident in the early designs of Ebay, Yahoo! and many online gaming websites.
Whilst many Enterprise 2.0 tools are available to support collaboration within the workplace exist, the clever combination of these tools ensures the successful implemenation of a truly collaborative online platform for employees. For this reason, Kim’s Design Principles and Strategies for online web communities can also be applied to evolve an Intranet from a Stage 2 Self Service Intranet to Stage 3 Collaboration-Driven Intranet.
Three Fundamental Design Principles for Collaborative Intranets
The three underlying design principles of successful online communities that underpin design strategies can also be applied to Intranet designs.
- Design for Growth & Change. Do not attempt to over design your Intranet collaboration areas. This can lead to an over investment in technology platforms or design paradigms that can be difficult and costly to change in the future. Instead, focus on starting simple and focused to allow organic growth over time with the changing needs of employees and conditions of the workplace.
- Create & Maintain Feedback Loops: Efficient feedback loops between employees and Intranet site owners provide insightful information needed to continue the evolution of the design with appropriate features in the future.
- Empower Employees: As the collaborative areas of the Intranet grow, a progressive strategy for leveraging the ideas and efforts of participating employees should be implemented. Intiatially, site owners define the purpose of the site, set the tone and feature set selection. However, for the site to be a truly valued collaborative resource, employees must be empowered to progressively build and maintain the culture of the site.
Nine Design Strategies for Collaborative Intranets.
Design strategies address the architectural, systems orientated approach that Kim refers to as ‘Social Scaffolding’. Once again, social scaffolding can be practically applied when developing collaborative Intranets to achieve a thriving employee community.
- Define & communicate the purpose: Successful collaborative areas of an Intranet must fulfill an ongoing need for employees within the workplace. Defining a purpose for the collaborative area ensures that the needs of the employees are reflected appropriately in the design, technology and policies governing the collaboration area.
- Build flexible & scalable gathering places: Effective collaboration across divisions and departments occur when employees gather for a shared purpose and begin communicating with each other. Gathering places for collaboration should initially be small scale with the flexibility to evolve as the employees needs evolve and change.
- Create meaningful & evolving member profiles: Meaningful, scalable, employee profiles assist to build trust, encourage strong working relationships and deliver personalized services as the Intranet continues to grow.
- Design for a range of tenure: As online collaboration grows on the Intranet, it is important to balance the needs of new employees with the leadership, ownership and networking opportunities of long term employees collaborating on the platform.
- Develop a strong leadership program: Encouraging effective, productive collaboration can be akin to ‘herding cats’. For this reason, it is important to recognize and empower collaboration leaders within the company to lead and encourage the development of thriving employee communities. Collaboration leaders manage collaboration sites by stimulating productive topical discussions, inspiring employee collaboration newbies and reinforcing codes of conduct if required. Successful leadership programs require planning and ongoing management.
- Encourage appropriate etiquette: Hierarchical management structures discourage cross-divisional content and social discovery and it has been documented that divisional heads act as barriers to the fluid exchange ideas. A way to mitigate this problem is to develop ground rules for the participation in collaboration and ensure that the technology supports the capacity to enforce and evolve collaboration standards as the collaborative Intranet evolves.
- Promote Cyclic Events: Regular online events such as web casts or interviews attract a loyal following of employees and stimulates discussion or problem solving activities. As cyclic events become more popular, empower employees to arrange and facilitate their own cyclic events.
- Integrate offline workplace rituals: Most workplaces have an established rewards and recognition program or special events to acknowledge employees and celebrate important achievements. These activities can easily be translated into an online environment and can also assist to enhance employee profiles.
- Facilitate employee controlled sub-groups: If the goal is to grow an enterprise wide collaboration group, allow employees to create and run their own sub-groups. This is a lasting feature that drives lasting employee loyalty.
:: Related Links ::
Yamming on with Yammer @ Suncorp (Micro blogging collaboration)