Intranets now have a powerful set of capabilities and apps, from internal communications to collaboration to forms and workflow to being fully optimised for mobile devices. Indeed, some are morphing into digital workplaces, becoming the starting point of the working day for employees.
However, despite the powerful features of your intranet, it does not necessarily guarantee adoption from users. And without adoption, your intranet might as well not exist!
The intranet adoption conundrum
Adoption is often a conundrum for intranet teams. As an intranet consultancy, it’s something we get asked about all the time.
Despite the best efforts of teams, employees seem hooked on repeating old habits, such as using email for everything.
One critical point is that, in most cases, using the intranet and the related tools is not mandatory. There are other options for employees. So instead of using collaborative spaces or social tools, employees prove resistant to change and revert to the ubiquitous email. However good your intranet is, the idea of “build it and they shall come” has long been discredited.
Another key reason is that employees are constantly bombarded by messages and information, and that’s on top of them being fantastically busy with their everyday activities. It can be challenging to get their attention and let them know about the intranet or social tools they should be using.
Plan for change management
For the best chance of good intranet adoption, you need to plan for adequate change management. Change management is likely to feature marketing and communications, training and support and initiatives to drive engagement. Generally, it will need to be targeted to specific groups and it will need to be ongoing.
Typical change management tactics for intranet and digital workplace projects include:
- Traditional written communications, often via the intranet itself
- An engaging launch campaign with teaser videos, events, competitions and roadshows
- Endorsement from senior leaders
- Self-service resources including how-to videos, user guides and e-learning
- A support community to answer questions and give advice
- Targeted training for super-users, content owners and community managers
- Use of an advocate or champions network and their continuing engagement to drive use via peer recommendations
- A “train the trainer” programme
In addition there may be behind-the-scenes stakeholder management, possibly a programme of improvements released iteratively and, of course, a highly useful site!
You’ll need budget!
All of this takes time and resources to deliver adequately. Although you can leverage the (free) energy and enthusiasm of local champions, there’s a limit to what you achieve without any spend. You’ll still need to support and train them, produce resources, get your message across to users and even travel to remote offices.
If you’re not budgeting for change management as an integral part of your intranet project then you’re missing a trick. A good approach is to do this upfront, presented together with any development, product, IT and design costs. Indeed, we’ve seen some projects which have budgeted most of the project costs to change management.
Also with the opportunities for lower costs delivered by an intranet-in-a-box solution, presenting additional change management costs can be more palatable for stakeholders.
Here’s some reasons why you should budget up-front for change management.
There may not be budget for business-as-usual
Traditionally when a project is considered finished and goes into “business as usual” there is either little budget left or investment can get cut. Budgeting for a period of ongoing change management can reduce the chance of that happening.
Change management starts during the project phase
Change management effort starts during the project phase, not just around launch time. When you involve employees to provide input, give feedback and test your new intranet, you’re helping to drive a sense of ownership and creating advocates for the new platform.
These people may help you launch it later and act as champions within their peer networks. Consider change management as a process which runs from the very beginning of your project.
Employees and organisations are continually changing
Organisations, teams, employees and their needs are always in a state of flux. You’ll always need to educate new starters, train new content owners and launch new features. All that requires ongoing support and change management. An intranet is never truly finished and nor are the efforts to drive intranet adoption.
Complex platforms are likely to have a phased launch
Usually central intranet teams are very small. Realistically a team of three may support 100,000 employees. To cope with the workload, it may mean that a staggered or phased launch is required in organisations. This may require a sustained change management effort lasting months.
Adoption will be part of the strategy and business case so be consistent
Your intranet strategy and related intranet business case will almost certainly have envisaged good adoption. Ideally, both should have mentioned the change management efforts required. If this element is in your business case it should then be in your project budget too.
Manage the expectations of your senior stakeholders
Intranet teams are always keen to win budgetary approval for a new platform, and getting that doesn’t always come easy. Don’t succumb to the temptation to sugar coat a budget request by leaving out change management costs so it is more likely to get passed. Make sure your senior stakeholders understand that change management is essential or you’ll be setting yourself up for a fall.
Digital literacy is a source of competitive advantage
Learning how to use the tools on the intranet and wider digital workplace, for example those in the Office 365 suite, can help to increase confidence in tools and levels of digital literacy across the workforce. This is hugely beneficial in the long run and can really help drive digital transformation, deliver better collaboration and inspire innovation.
Change management is key
The experience of organisations shows that change management is key to driving intranet adoption, and good levels of adoption are a prerequisite for intranet success. If you want to achieve convincing intranet ROI then employees need to be using the intranet on a regular basis. Change management is integral to success.
Training, support, communications and campaigns need to be properly resourced. By including the costs in your original project budget plans, everybody has a realistic view of what will be needed to make your intranet a lively platform that helps employees with everyday work and enables wider organisational objectives.