The A to Z of intranet diagnosis: 29 data inputs, triggers and sources

We recently wrote about how an intranet diagnosis, an honest assessment of where you are with your intranet, is critical for crafting any plan forward. To get to point B you’ll need to know where point A is, otherwise all plans and roadmaps are effectively pie in the sky. Understanding where you are is relevant from top leading-edge performers to the weakest about-to-implode intranets.

To get your diagnosis you need evidence. However in the bold new world where everything is “data-driven” many intranet teams might not feel they have a rich enough set of data to enable accurate decision-making. First of all you don’t need to have just numbers as a data input to understand your intranet. Secondly there are a huge variety of sources out there which can help. Thirdly, you can drive some specific initiatives to help understand your intranet’s successes and pain points.

Here are 29 (count ’em) data inputs, triggers and sources of wisdom which can help with your intranet diagnosis. We’re sure there are more out there, but this is what Chris and I managed to bash out.  Here goes:

Advocate networks and site owners

Publishing, super-user and advocate networks are a good source of quality feedback. They usually have know-how to understand the deeper functionality of the CMS and enthusiasm to bother to give you the feedback. Their input can be rich and valuable.

Application owner roadmaps

What’s going on in the technologists heads? Where are they going? Can you go too? Will it be expensive? Probably. WIll it be better in the next version? Certainly. Get connected. This is rich data to show the gap where you are now and where you need to be.  See also Vendor roadmaps.

Case studies

Chris has his reservations about case studies but I love ’em! They are a good way to illustrate how and what other companies do and therefore by implication what you could be doing too. The best sources for case studies are things like Nielsen Norman and the Intranet Innovation Awards but there are also lots of webinars, Slideshares from the intranet conferences and even vendor-driven case studies.

Content audits

Content audits tend to be time-consuming and done in preparation for content migrations, but you can learn a lot.  Is your content rubbish and out of date? Is there duplication? Is it actually not that bad? A content audit gives big hints about what you need to do.

Corporate strategy

Does your intranet support your content strategy in any way?  Going into new markets? Acquiring many businesses? Changing customer perceptions? If your intranet doesn’t help your organisation deliver on its strategy, it should do. A change in corporate strategy or an organisational change such as a merger will be a major influence and input into your own intranet strategy and future direction.

Email usage stats

Email stats are indicative of both trends and issues which intranets can positively influence, for example reducing internal comms related emails or reducing the numbers of attachments sent.  Intranet driven self service can reduce emails to your IT and HR helpdesks.

Employee engagement survey

The annual engagement survey might deal with some corporate generalities but it does show long term trends and also identifies high level issues, for example around communication. More specific breakdowns, details of feedback comments (if available to you) and output from employee listening programmes can also be gold dust.  Use it!

Employee interviews

Why not ask a few regular Debbies, Daves and Delias how they work and what they need?

Employee observation

Why not watch a few regular Debbies, Daves and Delias to see how they actually work?  For example when was the last time you hung out with some frontline workers?

External benchmarking

External benchmarking of your intranet or digital workplace can give you powerful insight. Both Chris and I do work for the Digital Workplace Group, formerly the Intranet Benchmarking Forum, which is probably the market leader with the most mature methodology.

Focus groups

Oh no, focus groups! I’m picturing you rolling your eyes. But if the feedback is useful, what’s not to like?

Forum and community research

If you already have a set of communities, forums and discussion groups this is a great place to learn about the topics that people are discussing or also a forum to ask focused questions? A bit of sentiment analysis could be just the ticket, for example to learn about the behaviours of sales staff, personal assistants, factory workers and other groups.

Glassdoor employee reviews

Are the wretched and ancient systems that people need to wrestles with so bad they are mentioned after people have left the company? Powerful stuff.

Guerilla user experience feedback

You can use “guerilla UX techniques” to get quick feedback on designs by asking questions in the lobby, setting up a stall in the canteen or going from desk to desk. It’s quick, instant feedback.  You could even use polling functionality on your intranet for a snap poll too.

Help desk stats and feedback

IT and HR helpdesk data is a key source of information on common pain points, but there’s also often some rich data and feedback buried in exchanges. If your IT folk codify feedback and can provide output….then grab it!

Imagination and gut feel

You are not a scientist. You are in business so it is OK to follow hunches, but remember to check in with the real world. The aim is to understand reality a little better, not to make any fantasies more elaborate.

Intranet metrics

What do the numbers say? Do people really use this stuff? Do they get value from it? Be broad in what counts as an intranet metric. Numbers from any of your sources count – visits, hits, registrations, engagement etc. etc.

Intranet survey

An intranet survey nails down the opinions of your users. Clearly this is a key source of data. Whether you do this annually or more ad hoc to feed into projects, past and present data are both an essential ingredient to inform your intranet direction.

Output from other projects

Other initiatives which involve workplace technology may already have done some extensive research or just have some good war stories. Don’t reinvent the wheel – go and visit your friends from another department about what they did a few months previously.

Peers in other organisations

What do you peers do? Are you behind or ahead? We know the plural of anecdote is data, but put some structure behind it and you can get something useful together. LinkedIn, conferences, Twitter, training course, your little black book. The only limit is how much of a brass neck you have.

Research and thought leadership

There is research and thought leadership out there which can be useful background for your project. Some is intranet-specific but others look at related issues. Be wary that many whitepapers have a vendor message lurking somewhere in the background. Be even warier of sweeping statements about millennials.

Screenshots

There are lots of intranet screenshots freely available which both give ideas for design but also illustrate in a very tangible way potential use cases and the art of the possible.

Stakeholder interviews (anonymous)

When you want the issues to be more important that the personalities. Do a series of interviews and make sure that everyone knows things are going to be anonymised. People can speak freely.

Stakeholder interviews (on-the-hook)

Get the senior stakeholders to put their money where there mouth is. Do a series of interviews and relate the write up to who said what.

Usability testing

How’s usability? And your information architecture? From high tech user labs to cardsorting, it’s all useful stuff.

User testing

What do people do all day? How do they feel when they do it? To what extent does your intranet help or hinder? Get people to write down in diaries when they used the intranet and for what. Then analyse.

Vendor roadmaps

Vendor roadmaps are an influence on what you may be able to implement, for example if you’re locked into the Microsoft stack. It also gives you a flavour of tools available.

Worldwide Intranet Challenge / Digital Workplace Trends

Andrew Wright’s long running survey can show you the basics and give you a heads up about where you are intranet wise. Jane McConnell’s survey has a wider scope looking at the wider world of digital working. Both provide some positioning compared to the other data which can be very useful. Moreover the service is free.

Workshop

Well, we would say this wouldn’t we? Come to our London-based workshop on June 30 2016 for a very practical and focused day on kickstarting, refreshing or reviewing your intranet strategy.