One of the early critical milestones on the path to implementing a new intranet is ensuring you have the support of your senior management and, ideally, your budget holders. But that’s not always straightforward to achieve. Their lack of support can end up as a stumbling block which puts the “new intranet project” on ice for another year.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of the reasons why this is the case and what you can do about it.
Why aren’t senior leaders interested in your intranet?
There are many reasons why it can be hard to get a new intranet on senior management’s agenda, including:
- Senior management often view the intranet as a tactical tool rather than a strategic one, and therefore it comes lower down the pecking order in terms of investment. Investing in digital channels for customers is usually a priority over investing in channels for employees.
- Perception of the intranet’s value can be diluted because it does so many different things for different stakeholders.
- Some intranets deliver a poor experience and are associated with static content repositories, so the term “intranet” can be a slightly “toxic” brand. Intranets have a bad press!
- Some well-run teams operate their intranet successfully on a shoestring and senior stakeholders want them to carry on like that, not realising that a platform has reached end of life. (“You’ve been doing great for the past six years!”)
- The benefits of an intranet are sometimes intangible and hard to measure.
The path to a new intranet
In many organisations, there’s a rough sequence of events which results in a new intranet:
- Getting the idea of a new intranet on the agenda of senior stakeholders
- Developing an intranet strategy based on a discovery phase
- Making a successful business case and getting budgetary approval
- Running an RFP process to select intranet software and an implementation partner
- Carrying out the project and implementing governance in parallel
- Investing in ongoing change management and intranet improvements to drive adoption and value
Doing that early work to get senior manager buy-in is sensible. You need their participation, engagement and agreement for developing a strategy and business case. Not doing the groundwork increases your chances of the whole idea being rejected.
If it’s clear there is currently no support for a new intranet then you may be saving yourself a lot of effort (and heartache) further down the line. However, it’s also likely you’ll be able to get their initial thoughts on the direction of a new intranet, as well as the features which will resonate with particular stakeholders.
You may also be able to identify an enthusiastic senior champion or ally who can help you get the message across to their peers. Equally, you’ll be able to identify one or two people who need the most persuading and target the right arguments to help challenge their assumptions.
Ten tips to drive senior management support
We know it can be hard to win senior management over. Here’s a few tips we’ve seen working which can help swing them around to your way of thinking.
Tip 1: Hold one-on-one sessions
Holding individual, face-to-face sessions with senior individuals is often the best way to get their attention to explain what you would like to do. If this is impossible, then ask your supportive boss to meet their own boss to drive the argument.
Tip 2: Target “what’s in it for me”
Senior stakeholders have different responsibilities and agendas so make sure you target messages to individual needs. For example, your Head of HR wants to know about how a new intranet can improve HR services and drive employee self-service.
Tip 3: Hold a workshop to drive consensus
If there is enough interest, workshop or open session to drive a consensus on the need for a new intranet and what it might look like, can be very valuable in persuading sceptical or less interested senior management. We’ve run intranet workshops with clients and have found them a useful precursor to establishing a strategy. If getting a workshop together is too difficult, it may be possible to present at an existing management meeting.
Tip 4: Piggy back off key initiatives
Sometimes there may be key organisational initiatives such as a new strategy, an upcoming merger or a commitment to digital transformation where the intranet will really add value. This may be an opportunity to emphasise the need for fresh investment.
Tip 5: Run a Proof of Concept or pilot
Sometimes a successful Proof of Concept or pilot can help persuade senior management of the need for a new intranet, particularly those who are sceptical about benefits or concerned about risk. Naturally this tactic needs IT buy-in and can also backfire if the pilot doesn’t go smoothly.
Tip 6: Draw on the bigger picture
Covering the wider themes of the digital workplace, digital transformation, the value of the employee experience and the future of work can help to show the intranet’s contribution. A great intranet can be a strategic investment.
Tip 7: Reference the Office 365 roadmap
If you are already on an Office 365 roadmap you can emphasise some of the opportunities ahead and show how the new intranet is an integral part of your Office 365 journey. For example, a SharePoint intranet-in-a-box with an engaging interface can really help drive adoption and leverage your investment in the wider Office 365 toolset.
Tip 8: Showcase inspiring examples
Citing successful examples of what other organisations have done, particularly from the same sector, can help senior managers visualise the potential of a new platform. We find screenshots always help make intranet benefits more tangible.
Tip 9: Be positive and passionate
It’s amazing the difference being positive and passionate can make to a pitch. Emphasise the opportunities rather than the risks and the challenges. Never be defensive. Your new intranet can make a real difference to your organisation and to your employees!
Tip 10: Be consistent and clear
It’s important to be consistent in what you are saying. Although you want to emphasise different benefits to different stakeholders, at the core you should have a clear and consistent message that is easily understood so if senior managers discuss this they are coming from the same reference point.
Getting a new intranet on the agenda can be challenging and for every senior manager that is enthusiastic, there may be another who is stubborn or disinterested.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re making any progress, you might be surprised at how a well argued, consistent message can permeate senior management thinking. If you’re persistent, you may find that you have the backing of your leaders. With that support, the rest of the path to a new intranet becomes much easier.