New year, new intranet! It's hard to believe it's that time of year again—the release of the Nielsen and Norman Intranet Design Annual. This is the 16th consecutive year that the nearly 500-page report has been published. If you have big plans to overhaul or re-design your intranet in 2017, then this is just the article for you. Here you will glean insight into the 7 common threads that the top 10 winners all shared. If you're thinking of applying for the 2018 awards, I highly recommend taking some pointers from this year's winners.
The winners spanned various industries from the US, EU, Canada and New Zealand. In alphabetical order the 10 best intranets of 2017 are from the following organizations:
- Bank of America, NA (US)
- Encana Corporation (Canada)
- Goldcorp, Inc. (Canada)
- Goodwill Industries International, Inc. (US)
- ICM Corporation (US)
- JetBlue (US)
- Kerry Group plc (Ireland)
- Latvia Railway: State Joint Stock Company (Latvia)
- Santander Group (Spain)
- Tourism New Zealand (New Zealand)
When applying for the Intranet Design Annual 2018, here are some tips that this years' winners all honed in on.
Tip 1: Clearly Identify your Intranet Challenges
No matter how large the challenges you face, recognize and address them. All winners overcame great hurdles to make their award-winning intranet a reality. Interestingly enough, the challenges faced by winners are not unique—every organization we've worked with has experienced one or more of the cited roadblocks:
- Short timeline to delivery
- Lack of SharePoint knowledge
- Limited staffing to maintain the new intranet
- Organizational buy-in and user adoption
- Strong negative connotations of intranets due poor user experiences in the old intranet
- Difficulty creating search that works due vastness of the intranet and complex site structures
- Politics—shifting internal priorities and disagreements between key internal stakeholders
- Integration with other key information systems
Tip 2: Agile Approach all the Way
Many of the winners used an Agile approach for development and implementation. With an Agile approach, team members focus on incremental, iterative tasks. As a proven way to manage large projects with properly tested product increments, organizations felt they could work more effectively. Additionally, with built-in mechanisms for empirical feedback, project milestones could move forward faster without having to wait for executive sign-off. This approach also catered to intranet teams who are typically composed of team-members who work in different offices and are not solely dedicated to the project.
Tip 3: Involve End Users and Stakeholders
It takes longer, but when you solicit feedback from the people who are impacted by your intranet, you'll design one that lasts. Many of this year's winners implemented research methods such as UX tests, surveys and field studies to garner input from end-users. To engage stakeholders, the winners held meetings and workshops to dig deep into their needs and priorities. Stakeholder involvement from the get-go is integral to the success of your intranet once its deployed—it creates shared goals and will also guarantee promotion, use and push from your organizations' leaders.
Tip 4: Integration and Centralization
Integrate or link to? This was a question all intranet teams asked themselves. Given that the aim of an intranet is to unify disparate systems and information, it is not always clear when to consolidate a system or database into your intranet, and when to simply link to it. With no true policy for being able to decipher which solution may be best, IBM asks these questions to help decide if a system is a good candidate for integration:
- Does the system/application support a step in a larger workflow?
- Does the tool get used on a daily for business critical activity?
- Is the tool business critical?
- Will the integration be challenging and costly to achieve?
Points 1-3 are indicators that a system is worthy to explore for integration, and point 4 is intended to rule out integrations that will constrain resources.
Tip 5: More than Just Responsive
A common theme amongst all winners extends upon responsive design. Once a novel idea—responsiveness across mobile devices is now expected by end-users. Judges were looking for ways in which organizations went beyond responsiveness for on-the-go experiences that make it easier for people to do their jobs. Goldcorp for example, developed an application so that mine workers can work offline underground, and then sync content to the intranet when back online.
Tip 6: Governance from the Get-go
I can’t stress enough the importance of developing sound intranet governance from day one. Intranets that boast longevity are ones that plan for up-keep in a systematic and accountable manner. I’ve managed the delivery of intranets for some of the world’s largest organizations, and no matter how talented their people are, intranets will fail if they are missing proper protocol for maintenance and improvements. Intranet governance should be owned by the team who is responsible for re-designing the intranet. This is different for all organizations but commonly this is Corporate Communications, HR or IT and sometimes a combination of stakeholders from each.
Tip 7: IA Testing for Intuitive Navigation
Intuitive, task-based navigation takes time. Many organizations engaged in user research to develop navigation that makes sense to most users. To arrive here, it is common practice to start by completing your content inventory to assess how this content would be organized by your users. Card sorting activities and tree testing of the proposed categories is a sure way to creating an intranet that makes it easy for users to find what they need. To learn more about Bonzai’s proven delivery process, check out this infographic.