Sprints, leaps and baby steps – What it takes to make an intranet strategy work.

Next week I’m speaking at Intranätverk – the newest star on the intranet conference sky. Kristian Norling has done a remarkable job of putting together a great lineup of speakers mostly from Sweden but also some notable people from around Europe. Kristian promises to bring a twist to the regular intranet conference and I am happy to play my part in making this happen.

My talk will be about intranet strategy and how we at Grundfos have been quite successful with a more sustained model but now find ourselves faced with a challenge. It will not be about Sharepoint although there IS new version out there which is awfully hard to ignore. Heck, just last week I walked though Copenhagen Airport where Microsoft banners lined the security check area. I’m sure there are a whole bunch of jokes that can be made based on that but I’ll leave that up to you J

A new Sharepoint – that also means that whenever intranet peers meet it doesn’t take very long before the conversations turns to the topic of this new version. Sometimes it makes good sense to upgrade but all too often this is done simply because an eager and very tech focused intranet manager wants the newest version. An even more common scenario is that the IT department tells the intranet team that they will now upgrade to the latest version as a part of the overall strategy (or some other reason) with no questions asked.

Let me always having the most recent piece of software is NOT a strategy. It’s an operational thing. Even if it is labeled as a strategic ambition, it is an incredibly stupid one! Strategies need to be made around what the platform – be that the intranet, record management system or something else – can help your colleagues, the users, achieve.

What about the scenario where the USERS are the ones asking for the new version of a given platform? It is not at all a common thing so I was really surprised that when Grundfos announced that the entire company should move to MS Office 365 I was approached by quite a few who excitedly asked “when are we getting Sharepoint?”. Why was that?

The answer is buried in the fact that our intranet is more than 10 years old. It is grown with the company and with the needs of my colleagues but more importantly, it has grown INSIDE the organization and little heed has been given to the outside world since our intranet was – and is – doing a good job. We are in a situation where we have had great success growing our intranet with the company to serve the needs of our colleagues but if you compare to what’s going on elsewhere it is clear that what started as a small discrepancy – a hairline fracture – has now grown into a big crevasse and we now need to prepare to take a big leap.

This is obviously a very daunting task but nevertheless one that has to be done. If we fail to do so people will start looking elsewhere. In Grundfos we have seen a spectacular uptake on the use of Yammer which I think is excellent but it also underlines my point that although a sustainable development model is the best way forward you inadvertently find yourself in a situation where radical change is needed. It’s a fact of life!

So how do you create an intranet strategy that work? My answer is short and simple: Make sure that you always grow with the company. Users hate surprises but every once in a (great) while you need to take a great leap forward to catch up otherwise people will be leaving. Most importantly you should never, ever stop listening to what your customers really need and it is NEVER “the latest version of SharePoint”…

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If you are interested in reading more about my thoughts on the development gap that I have outlined here, I hope that I’ll see you in Gothenburg. If not, you can take a closer look at the J. Boye blog where I wrote a blogpost titled “Mind the gap – also when developing your intranet

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3 thoughts on “Sprints, leaps and baby steps – What it takes to make an intranet strategy work.

  1. Excellent point… Unfortunatly, this has been an issue with SharePoint since the first version (or actually the second version).

    For the same reason, businesses tend to release SharePoint in an somewhat uncontrolled fashion, to feed the hunger for new buttons to push. Far to often the result is a poorly implemented solution with lots of functionality that is not relevant, and little that is…

    Now, with the cloud focus Microsoft have these days, release cycles may very well be a lot faster, meaning that there will a more continuous update flow for SharePoint. Question is, if this is the opportunity to start talking about process before product…?

    1. That could very well be the opportunity. Another question, however, that also begs answering is what the more frequent updates and added features will mean. I foresee a future where what we know as “the intranet” will become more and more personalised. Not in the sense where you have access to information based on your profile, but a situation where you will actually be able to build a digital workplace that suits your daily work thus enhancing your personal productivity.

      It’s not right around the corner, but there is little doubt that companies are going through a very disruptive period when it comes to the internal online landscape and for us working with this it is challenging and exciting times ahead.

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