In these days of social collaboration and apps, sometimes it seems we’ve forgotten that content is very important. Good content is pivotal to the fundamental purpose of intranets, which is to save employees time by helping them to do their jobs more easily.
One of the foundations of intranets is self-service; allowing users to complete tasks and actions themselves.
Self-service is often associated with applications, workflow and ultimately the completion of a transaction. But actually it’s also about content and allowing users to find the information they need so they then don’t have to phone somebody up, send an email or ask a question in a forum.
In most intranets there will be content which enables self-service, particularly around HR processes. There may be FAQs and “how to do” information in different places. Other intranets may have a task-oriented navigation or a focused area on how to carry out processes. I like the example from the UK’s Department of Culture Media and Sport (and since replicated on some other UK government departments) which has a “How To” area as a top level navigation item and details of 350 key processes and tasks.
Making content effective for self-service
To maximise the effectiveness of content to support self-service you need to:
- Make it readable
- Make it relevant
- Make it findable
- Make it measurable
- Make it actionable
Make it readable
Clearly writing needs to be clear, focused and formatted in a way that makes it easy for users to scan and understand. The writing may need to suited to users whose first language is not the one the content is written in. It may also need to cross-reference other sources.
Some organisations hire journalists to draft this key content while others follow templates and train content providers to write for the web.
Make it relevant
It is key that the content is relevant to individuals. This can be a challenge when looking at task-oriented content because often processes in larger companies tend to different from location to location or between lines of business.
If your intranet has personalisation and can deliver relevant content to users based on profile data then it is well worth investigating creating self-service content tagged by user profile data. Another related issue is that the same content may need to appeal to a number of different roles, experiences and abilities. Making the same content relevant to everybody can be a challenge and invariably involves compromise.
Make it findable
Self-service content may tend to deal with some major ticket processes or commonly accessed themes such as benefits and pay. You want to ensure users can quickly find these items based on needs.
If findability is not good then preparing the content becomes a pointless exercise. There are plenty of ways to make the content findable, for example:
- Creating a task oriented navigation either at a global or local (eg HR) level
- Creating a special section of the intranet relating to how to do things
- Ensuring prominence in search, for example, using best bets
- Allowing a restricted search for a particular section of the intranet
- Cross linking from different sections such as related processes
- Guiding users towards the content when answering queries rather than giving them the answer
Make it measurable
Self-service usually has an identifiable outcome and associated KPI. For example this might be driving a number of transactions or freeing up time and resources in comparison to the way things were done previously.
While normal metrics for intranet pages are important and show engagement with the content it is also key to measure the actual self-service element. For example looking at reduced time spent or the number of calls made to the HR centre as a relative KPIs is key.
Make it actionable
I started off this blog by saying don’t forget self-service is all about content as much as it is about completing an online transaction. But of course the two also compliment each other. If your content leads to a system where individuals need to visit, then of course do link to the system. Make your content as actionable as possible.
Overall self-service is critical for intranet success. Content is critical for self-service. Make sure your overall content strategy is aligned to your self-service strategy and vice-versa.
Good content. Yes Steve, I’m with you all the way. Yes. But how?
Gerry McGovern famously quips that the perfect intranet is the survivor’s guide to a shitty week. I have started to feel that the root of most intranets’ woes, is basically organisational incompetence with content.
It is provable that the sort of content people want and need and and that helps them in their everyday work, is not what is being provided. Most effort is going towards content that is intended to create and maintain a reality that is being projected by management. That is a perfectly valid use of the intranet (indeed it has been our heartland) and it is perfectly reasonable for senior management to want to use a tool in which they have invested, for that purpose. We need to trust our brothers and sisters over in internal communications that providing that sort of content improves business performance and they in general are moving with the times.
But why can’t we have both the blistering and engaging new stories and brilliant content that tells me how to get a new security pass? Every one of those people out there in corporate-land, when they applied for their fancy jobs probably put “Excellent communicator” and “Superb standard of written communications” on their CV. And yet.
I’m afraid I have little faith that most organisations’ abilities to change this situation. I think many organisations are giving up on content full-stop. But please, oh please, prove me wrong.