People often ask us to weigh in on our top tips and insights around the ideal approach for gathering requirements for a new intranet or digital workplace. Questions range from ‘what’s the real value of this exercise?’ right down to eager beavers wondering how best to approach this essential exercise. Either way, most people tend to agree that it's a vital and necessary step if you're looking to create a successful digital workplace.
What’s so important about gathering intranet requirements?
To start, gathering intranet requirements at the early stages of an intranet project helps you to understand and define what you want your intranet and digital workplace to do. It’s important to investigate the needs and wants of the broader organization from the start to define expectations and so there are no surprises. It's also essential to ensure that all project stakeholders agree and are aligned with the digital workplace requirements. As the project progresses, the last thing you want is for a bombshell to crop up concerning the capabilities and limitations of the new platform. Effectively gathering your organizational requirements using our top tips below will help you to avoid such surprises and put you on the right track to implementing a successful digital workplace.
What’s the Best Approach for Gathering Intranet Requirements?
It’s essential to take a holistic approach when assessing the organizational requirements for a new digital workplace. A constrained approach will produce restricted results that can lead to built-in limitations in your digital workplace. Such a limited approach is ineffective considering the key objective of a new intranet is often to universally meet organization-wide requirements, not just those of a single department.
Image Source: Survey Results from Attendees at Bonzai Intranet Success Webinar Series
1) BE SMART: For best results, ensure that your intranet requirements are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Specific: Described and precise in a way that makes sense to most people.
Measurable: Can be verified as complete once implemented.
Achievable: Can actually be accomplished given the constraints of the project.
Relevant: Aligned with the intranet project goals.
Time-bound: Can be measured over a period of time.
What’s the best way to Document Intranet Requirements?
2) DOCUMENTATION: We highly recommend a robust means of documenting your intranet requirements so that the details are clearly noted and effectively represented in the best possible way. It’s important to implement clear and concise techniques early in the requirements gathering process so that the information is reliable and can be reviewed and referenced as the intranet project develops over time. Most organizations use spreadsheets to document all requirements, but this isn’t the best way to illustrate all of the information. Oftentimes, the more visual the representation the better it is for everyone involved.
Categorize Requirements in a way that Makes Sense to your Organization.
3) PRIORITIZE: Creating a prioritized requirement listing is advantageous so spend the time creating an overall list of the intranet requirements in order of priority. It often makes sense for organizations to compile this list on an excel spreadsheet. Prioritizing these requirements is necessary so that there is a succinct list to refer to as the project progresses.
4) WIREFRAME: Wireframes display the functional elements of a webpage and are typically used for planning a site’s structure and functionality. We recommend Balsamiq as a great way to do low fidelity wireframes. We discourage the use of Visio and PowerPoint for wireframes as we find them unsubstantial for this purpose. Bear in mind that wireframes and design are not the same!
5) ORGANIZE: Information Architecture is the art and science of organizing and labeling components of an intranet platform to support usability and find-ability, as intuitively as possible. The most effective way to document information architecture is by visual representation using tools designed for this exact purpose. We’ve used many tools in the past and our favorites include Xmind, Mindjet and SlickPlan.
6) VISUALIZE: Visual design is an important aspect of your new intranet. Tools such as Photoshop along with InVision App for review can help with documenting your organization’s intranet requirements from a design perspective. Great visual design can really elevate a digital workplace environment and is helpful for encouraging user uptake after go-live.
Image Source: Bonzai Intranet ShapeShifter Release
7) GOALS & VISION: Documenting the goals & vision of the intranet is essential so that the agreed-upon goals are recognized and the intranet project stakeholders are aligned. A presentation such as PowerPoint is a useful way to record the intranet goals.
Who should be Involved for Effective Requirements Gathering?
8) GET INVOLVEMENT: The intranet is the backbone of the organization and provides value to a wide variety of users in differing ways. Therefore, it’s key to incorporate the perspectives of a wide variety of users when determining your organization’s intranet requirements. While the core intranet project team is often made up of users representing a limited number of departments, it’s important to extend requirement questions to the wider employee group, even though this seems like a huge task, it’s well worth it for the invaluable outcome their input provides.
Users from different departments, locations and levels will have differing insights as to what they require from the new platform. Include a broad range of users across a variety of:
- Business Units or Departments
- Job Functions
Communication (of Intranet Requirements) is Key.
9) ASSIGN OWNERSHIP: It’s essential to communicate requests for organizational requirements to the right people. Problems can occur when communication is restricted to the intranet project team. A simple way to communicate and obtain intranet requirements from the right stakeholders is to break them down by type.
10) BUSINESS GOALS: What does the Organization want from the intranet?
These goals are typically gathered and communicated from the executive team. It’s these goals that help to create the high-level vision for the intranet and encourage executive buy-in for the overall project.
11) USER REQUIREMENTS vs. BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS: What do you want your intranet to do to support your organization? These fundamentals are gathered and communicated from the wider group of intranet stakeholders. This process helps to define your intranet needs and wants.
12) TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS: How will your intranet achieve organizational goals?
These requirements are gathered and communicated from the technical team involved in the intranet project. This step helps to define the best technical platform and specifications necessary to create the optimal intranet for your organization.
Innovative Techniques Take the Sweat out of Successfully Gathering Requirements.
13) GAME STORM: Game-storming workshops can be used for eliciting and prioritizing intranet requirements. There are a number of exercises that can be done in person with a group of people. We’ve had great success running these sessions with up to fifty participants at a time. Speedboat is a great way to identify risks in a visible format that’s easily digested. 2020 Vision is great for prioritizing features and benefits, it changes what seems like a rather daunting task into a fun and enjoyable exercise.
14) USER STORY SURVEY: A user story survey is an optional activity that takes part at the beginning of the project. An online survey is sent to intranet end-users and each participant submits their tasks and goals for the new intranet. For example, As a ______ I want to ______ so that I can ______. Each story represents the participants role in the organization. The final deliverable is an excel spreadsheet of the participants’ responses. User stories are beneficial as they provide insight into the content and tools that end-users expect to see on the new intranet. This exercise helps to inform content planning, landing page design and configuration requirements.
Image Source: Bonzai Intranet Success Webinar Series
15) INTRANET SURVEY: General surveys are another great way to gather intranet requirements, but they should be thoughtful and structured for optimal results. It’s important to gather additional data about participants such as department, location and years of service, so that patterns can be identified during analysis. It’s a good idea to have a selection of both choice questions and free text fields. Encourage participants to provide their personal stories of where the intranet was useful and where it was limited, these tangible examples are very useful.
16) FOCUS GROUP: Focus groups are another technique that proves beneficial whereby a group of stakeholders within the organization gather to provide conversational input, encouraged by probing questions. We recommend groups of between four and twelve people. Be sure to lead with questions and have topics to steer the conversation so that it doesn’t become solely about the negatives that may exist. Focus groups can be run on a variety of topics including intranet functionality, outcomes and requirements validation.
17) OBSERVE: Workplace observations can be a great help when gathering requirements. Going out into the field and observing users at work to determine usage patterns and areas for process improvements which can be supported by the new intranet. This technique is very effective in structured environments such as a call center, field work, manufacturing and customer facing scenarios.
Have you got any more ideas to add to the list? We'd love to hear from you if you've got suggestions or ideas on what has worked well or not so well!