Engaging your people in an intranet rebuild

Technology projects have many moving parts that affect the ultimate success or failure. At the end of our project as we did our post implementation review our change management activities and engagement of staff in the project stood out as key success factors.

Engaging staff and opening up to different perspectives will serve your project in the long run

Why is engagement so important?

  • It’s their intranet: An intranet should help people do their job and be easy to use. That is best achieved with a thorough understanding of who is using it. User experience activities facilitate that understanding, but engagement activities help get them on-board and involved for the duration.
  • Supports a solid business case: For a new intranet, a rebuild or for minor enhancements some sort of funding and resource will be required. Usually that means an appeal to senior management and a business case for funding. A solid business case needs to show the reasons why and a return on investment. Understanding needs of intranet users and
  • Early buy-in leads to project success: To get a true reflection of staff needs, and real engagement, it’s best to start involving them early. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need the same people for the duration of the project, but that you are continually involving staff in appropriate project tasks and using opportunities to communicating to them at regular intervals about the project goals and progress.
  • Different perspectives: It’s easy to get the blinkers on when you are working on the same project day-in-day-out. You get too close to your project, and too removed from daily business activities. The opinions of people who work in different areas, have different levels of experience and different needs will ensure that decisions aren’t made in isolation.
Take every opportunity to talk about your project and show progress.
Take every opportunity to talk about your project and show progress.

User experience design as an engagement tool

Great user experience design is an important foundation for any technology project. It’s also an excellent way to engage staff in the project. Activities such as persona development, card sorting, tree testing are opportunities to involve staff in the project and get their buy-in .

Here are just some of the activities which I used for user experience design, and for engagement:

  • Requirements gathering: Through focus groups, surveys and staff interviews. Using a number of techniques and targeting  across the organisation will help you get a broader picture of staff needs.
  • Business representative group: It’s handy to have a group of people who represent staff who are involved in the intranet who can be a consistent touch point throughout the project. Meet with them regularly to update them on project progress, seek their opinion on decision points and for help when you need to talk to people in their areas of the business.
  • Personas: It’s not always possible to pull people in at short notice to participate in the design process. Creating personas gives you easy access to what staff need and can be a great communication tool when talking to senior leaders about why your project is important. See Do-it-yourself intranet personas.
  • Show and tell sessions: The ‘big reveal’ for a project is over-rated in my opinion. Taking the opportunity to show people what progress has been made and be open about challenges and decisions smooths the change management process. Set open invite sessions and seek invites to meetings of teams and senior leaders to keep the project at the forefront of peoples minds and hear early feedback.
  • Information architecture: Whether you use an agency or do-it-yourself, start from scratch or work with what you have, you will need to do some card sorting and tree testing to get your information architecture set. Invite people to these sessions and don’t be afraid to offer incentives.
  • Usability testing: Nothing is more compelling evidence that something needs to change than when you are sitting in a room with your project team watching user after user struggle with a feature you thought was great. It can be difficult sometimes to make the argument for change without video evidence, usability testing is without question a valuable investment, and a fun exercise for staff who are usually happy to get hands on with a new system.
  • User Acceptance Testing: Once system testing is done it’s time for the project team to get into the nitty-gritty and do UAT. But don’t feel that the project team should do it alone. There is great value in having a brand new set of eyes. Even if you don’t get them to run test scripts, just allowing a group of users to do exploratory testing (have a poke around and see what breaks) can reveal defects that test scripts may not have.
Card sorting

Tips for making it all work

  • Ask what they need, not what they want: Ask questions about pain points and top tasks, rather the pointedly asking what they want. Unless you want support to keep that weather app or the long list of quick links.
  • Involve early and throughout: Having a consistent touch point early and throughout the project will serve you well from a change management perspective. Being involved in the project means staff are more likely to be on board, and even those who weren’t directly involved will appreciate the work that has gone into it.
  • Budget for design activities: Don’t underestimate the cost of “softer” project activities such as design, engagement and change management. Budget for external design resources, promotional materials, training sessions, your launch event and gifts (even something small) for those who helped along the way.
  • Be clear on expectations: You need peoples help to get the project done, so be clear on what you need from them, the amount of time and how long you need them for. At a high level it’s a good idea to get endorsement from senior leadership and your project sponsor for the time you will want from people (taking them from their daily jobs) to support project activities.
  • Treats go a long way: If you can get fancy, great. If you can’t something as simple as having a bowl of lollies in a testing room and sending a thank you email will serve you well.
  • Make it fun: Activities like testing, training, or anything which requires people to be stuck in a room for some time can be boring even for the experienced. Having some snacks, music, anything to lighten the mood will make it a much more pleasant experience.
Being stuck in a room for hours can be made easier with treats and music.
Being stuck in a room for hours can be made easier with treats and music.

Presentations on the topic

I’ve had the opportunity to present and workshop on this subject. Here are the presentations and videos for your reference:

Share your thoughts