There’s an inherent tension in intranet strategy. The strategy suggests: “This is what we are doing, and “this is where we are heading” and commits that way forward to a set period. Here is the three-year roadmap it confidently declares, and that’s the direction we are going in.
But effective intranet strategies need to suggest adaptability, flexibility, and input from employees. The better intranet projects are now delivered in an agile or semi-agile way rather than waterfall. Is this counter to the vision associated with the strategy?
You know it needs to be iterative
Being iterative can extend beyond just flexibility over the final design and the solution, but also suggest a roadmap which is subject to change and will be tweaked. Is the intranet strategy itself also iterative?
Of course, the answer is a resounding yes. It’s a theme we cover in our Intranet Directions intranet strategy training sessions, the next one which is being held at the 2017 IntraTeam Conference in Copenhagen.
There are many reasons why strategy needs to be iterative and adaptable. Sometimes you have to change, usually from the impact of factors outside the project:
- Organisational and leadership priorities can change rapidly which can impact either budget or what you need to do with your intranet, for example the sudden announcement of a merger
- New senior people coming in often want to put their imprint on projects, and that might result in a change of direction
- Technology roadmaps are impacted by IT decision-makers and external vendors, and realistically the news that you are now moving to Office 365 will influence what you do.
When you can’t socialise the strategy
But there are also factors closer to the intranet team which need to be considered. Firstly, your intranet strategy might go pear-shaped and might need to adapt. Secondly, it is rubbing up the wrong way with senior stakeholders and groups of employees.
Ultimately this may mean that you need to make changes and tweaks to take their views into account. One of the reasons for the need for likely changes is that your discovery period which informed the strategy didn’t discover everything it needed to do, and by presenting the strategy you’re actually extending that discovery period.
Even if your instinct is not to do so, compromise may be necessary in order to get the support and buy-in necessary to make the intranet strategy sustainable.
We advocate socialising the strategy with different stakeholders and groups, as a key enabler of making it happen. But to a certain degree this is also a process of validation of the strategy too and presenting a formulated or semi-formulated strategy can help some stakeholders crystallise and articulate their thinking.
Plan for iteration
The answer to all this is to build iteration into how you formulate and maintain your intranet strategy. You can do this is a number of different ways:
- Establish governance around your strategy which involves ownership and processes for change, so that any tweaks to the strategy are properly signed-off
- Build enough flexibility into your strategy and roadmap to make changes, particularly when it comes to more detail.
- Write your strategy as a snapshot so it is true at the time of writing. If there are future dependencies such as a major IT decision which is still pending, then detail this dependency in the strategy.
- Have a plan to socialise your strategy with senior stakeholders and employee groups and view this is a validation and refinement exercise as much as it is an engagement piece.
- Have a process for keeping your strategy up to date after the big project. We’ve written before about the importance of having an intranet strategy that is pretty much up to date. Some teams choose to update the strategy on an annual basis, which also fits into their planning and budgetary cycle, and even discovery period.
Agile projects and approaches have taught us the value of staying iterative in the intranet space. Extend this approach to strategy itself and you’ll end up with something more meaningful and current. And ultimately that should mean a better intranet.
Amen to that. Imagine the scene: you are parachuted into looking after an intranet or intranet project. Maybe you are a manager, a new hire or a consultant. You know nothing and everything is chaos. There is no plan. You need a direction by the end of next week. Discover, Diagnose and make a strategy just big enough for the end of next week. Then once you’ve got a bit of a plan and a bit of control, do it again and create a plan for the end of next month; then think about next year. Bootstrap your way to that fabled three year strategy or 2022 vision. Thinking you can rustle up the future in one step from nothing is like hitting a hole in one, blindfold, locked in a wardrobe etc…