Mapping an intranet strategy

 Your organization is probably dependent on an internal Web site, given the single, convenient source of official information it provides employees. Changing the technology you use to deliver it can bring huge improvements to what you can offer them.

 A hand-built site containing static HTML pages is the starting point for many organizations implementing an intranet. It might begin with departmental enthusiasts tinkering to create pages for colleagues. Eventually, the HR department realizes that they too can use the site to provide information to employees. Handy applications get added.

 The site's value to employees is demonstrated, but it can quickly become messy. No one is notified to remove content when it goes out of date. Site areas get added in an uncontrolled way, making navigation difficult. Consequently, the ability of the site to provide information to the whole company at a low cost is undermined. It might be time for a change.

 A dynamic site based on Web content management (WCM) software is a good option, which can significantly improve the quality of the navigation and content. Reusable templates drive page layouts and support content entry. It's easier to deliver more information more quickly. More users are likely to use the site more frequently. However, to implement that approach, you need to go through a substantial design process and a broad program that includes change management. And unless you integrate with wider content management (CM) processes, there is no automatic funnelling of content onto the site. As a result, only so much information will be available at any one time, and adding applications is a technical challenge. A dynamic site based on portal software is an even better approach because it's easier to add applications alongside information. More personalization is possible, offering a distinct and useful view of content and applications to individual employees or groups of employees. You can configure the software to deliver information and application access via mobile devices, or to run multiple sites serving multiple audiences. Portal software, therefore, provides a platform that can serve you well in the future.

 No matter what you do, remember that technology is just a component. Successful sites for employees are delivered by a framework of capabilities that each require attention and must work together in support of the site. Technology supports the contribution, storage and provision of information to employees. Standards ensure the site is branded, relevant to employees' needs and consistent in terms of navigation. Operations ensure the service is maintained on a daily basis. A governance process ensures that the other three elements work effectively with one another, and can be used to monitor and measure the success of the site.

 Whether you are making an incremental change to your site or implementing new technology, you also need to understand what employees want. Then you can plan a program of change.

Sarah Kittmer is a senior analyst with Ovum's (www.ovum.com) Technology Group, specializing in enterprise content management, e-mail sarah.kittmer@ovum.com.

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