Seven essential elements of a global intranet project

One of the most valuable aspects of a great intranet is that it allows employees to come together in a single place to communicate and collaborate. This has particular value in global organisations, where employees work in scattered locations across multiple time zones. A global intranet brings employees together and feel more like one company.

Projects to establish a single intranet in large, global organisations can be challenging. The logistics of dealing with a large group of distributed employees, the sheer amount of content on the intranet and potentially merging existing local intranets into one global platform is not always straightforward. And while using a product like Wizdom is much quicker than building a custom platform, projects can still take a long time once you factor in planning, research, testing, content migration and more.

At the recent Wizdom Conference in Copenhagen we had some strong case studies of global intranet projects from companies such as Ørsted, Ramboll and GEA. Here are some of our thoughts on the essential elements of a successful global intranet project.

1. Do your research

Global intranet projects will involve a large number of users and stakeholders, not only from different business divisions but also from locations around the world. Those involved must reflect the diversity of a global workforce with different types of employees in various roles, including those working in offices, production plants and frontline roles.

A successful intranet is designed around a thorough understanding of employees and their needs. Because of the diversity of the workforce who will be using your intranet, it is critical to spend time finding out about different working patterns, needs, pain points and perspectives. This can only be achieved through an extensive discovery and user research period that covers all your different groups of users.

There are multiple techniques to carry out effective research including interviews, workshops, surveys, observation, usability testing, developing personas and more, but it is always worth spending the time and effort. User research also creates buy-in from employees who feel they are being listened to and see that their needs are being considered for the new intranet.

2. Create a vision that everyone can buy into

With so many different stakeholders, inevitably there will be many differing ideas and opinions on what the new intranet should do and deliver. Having a strong vision for the new intranet that everybody can buy into allows all involved to work towards the same end goal. It also helps gets users and stakeholders excited about the project.

At the Wizdom Conference, we heard how Ramboll developed a new vision for the global intranet to be an integrated digital environment, Digital Workspace, that allows employees to communicate, collaborate and deliver excellence whenever and where they may be working. Communicating the vision helped the wider team to deliver a consistent message to users and stakeholders, as well as establish clarity and focus.

3. Work on getting the governance right upfront

Governance is a wide topic covering the various structures, polices, roles, rules and processes to make sure the intranet delivers value and runs efficiently on a day-to-day basis. Establishing governance up-front (and making sure everyone buys into it) will allow your intranet to develop in a more sustainable and successful way, and ensure you have high quality content. The need for robust governance is particularly acute in global intranet projects so it can stop local teams going off and doing their own thing and undermining the high quality of your intranet.

For example, at GEA the team established various different roles with associated responsibilities to provide clarity over intranet, news and content ownership. These included portal owners, task or content owners, local news creators, global news editors, intranet owners and IT.

4. Use personalization to balance global and local content

One of the key capabilities of a modern intranet is to deliver personalized content which is targeted to the individual employees based on their profile. A global intranet should know some details about the person who is viewing the content and then deliver news and pages based on attributes such as the location that person is based, the division or function they work in, the language they speak or their level of seniority. This local content should appear seamlessly together with global content to ensure the intranet is relevant and useful to every employee.

Getting the balance between global and local content is not always easy and requires ensuring all profile data (usually sourced from your HR system and synchronised with Active Directory data) is correct. Teams must also work with local content owners to ensure they produce relevant content, and also deal with the logistics of multi-language content.

5. Focus on content and its findability

An intranet is only as good as its content, and a new intranet project provides the opportunity to make sure content is useful, relevant, well-written, accurate and up-to-date. And of course, getting the content right also means making sure it is easily findable. In global intranet projects two important practices help with these elements.

It is important not to just migrate your existing content. Instead spend time to identify the content that is valuable and rewrite if it necessary. For example, Ørsted used analytics and standard criteria to identify which content should be migrated, reviewed or deleted. If youre migrating content from multiple existing local intranets, its a must to review it carefully.

The second key practice is to develop a global information architecture (navigation) which is based around the way employees think and work rather than organisational structures. The only reliable way to achieve this is to work with users and carry out extensive testing, a practice that both Ørsted and GEA followed to produce intuitive, task-based information architectures that a global workforce understands.

6. Establish a realistic roadmap for launch that also involves change management

Its essential to have a realistic roadmap for the launch of your global intranet. Global intranet launches are often done across multiple phases, either because the central team is too small to fully support a single big bang global roll-out, or because different features and capabilities are being introduced more gradually. At Ramboll the team released several core components of the digital workspace before the full intranet launch and continue to release new features.

Intranets also need ongoing change management efforts to help content owners and users get the best out of the platform. For global intranets it is often best to physically visit some of your key locations to help with launch. For example, at GEA the team carried out a post-launch engagement roadshow covering editor training, feedback sessions, promotional activity and more.

7. Perseverance is key

Because of the complexity and length of a global intranet project, there are going to be times when things dont run so smoothly or take much longer than expected. Project teams running global intranet projects need perseverance and patience.

At the conference we heard first-hand accounts of some of the challenges including one company who had to work at the same time as a major corporate transformation exercise which the new intranet would help support. But the project team had to keep the transformation plans secret, which was very difficult when you are working with hundreds of users to shape the new intranet!

Of course, once you get to the launch of your global intranet and get great feedback from users, it always feels worth all the efforts that youve made!

Global intranets are always worth the effort

Global intranet projects take time but theyre always worth the effort. They provide a fantastic channel to help keep employees informed, support them in their working day and connect with colleagues from all over the world. As well as driving engagement and efficiency, they also provide a springboard to develop global digital workplaces. Using many of the elements above will help teams to deliver highly successful global intranets.

The original article was published here

Building a policy library that employees actually want to use!

One of the key use cases for an intranet is providing a centrally- controlled library for important official documents, where all employees can access the very latest policies, procedures and forms, knowing that they are accurate and up-to-date.

Typical examples might be the HR manual, the social media policy, risk management procedures or contract templates to use with clients.

A good policy library not only provides easy access for employees, but also supports content owners in ensuring only the very latest versions of documents are accessible.

While perhaps the policy library isnt the most exciting aspect of an intranet it is one of the most valuable! All too often these central official documents get stored on emails or lost on the file network. It can be incredibly frustrating for employees to have to trawl their inbox to find the right document or having to call Nadine in HR only to find that she has just gone on holiday.

It can also be risky if you use out-of-date documents or apply policies which may have just recently changed, for example, due to GDPR. Sometimes, for compliance purposes, organisations must also show they have a good way to control the risk of employees accessing and actioning out-of-date policies.

The Institute of Cancer Researchs Policy Library

One piece of work which we are particularly proud of is the creation of a custom policy library for the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). This was part of a wider project to create a new SharePoint intranet.

The ICR, based in London, is one of the worlds most influential cancer research institutes. As a research establishment and a charity with an exemplary reputation, it is critical that the organisation and its employees operate in certain ways and follow various procedures, both for compliance purposes and to maintain its own high standards. Therefore, having a central library for policies, procedures and formal guidance documents was a priority for the intranet team.

The previous library, the Approved Document Library (ADL), was not doing its job. An audit of content found that the majority of documents were not meeting information governance requirements. Employees found it hard to find the documents they needed, and content owners found it very difficult to post the latest versions. The overall user experience was clunky and there was a lack of confidence in the tool. In short, it was not fit-for-purpose.

Working closely with the intranet team and users at ICR, Content Formula was able to scope, design, build, test and launch a new Policy Library that employees actually want to use. The library is based on SharePoint 2013 and has been built from scratch.

By focusing on the needs of both users and policy owners, and ensuring good findabilty, content management and a strong user experience, usage of the new library has increased by 48% compared to the old system. Its also a library where the content meets the ICRs compliance and information governance requirements.

Some of the key features are described below:

Providing easy access to policies for all employees

All employees have access to the new library via the global navigation on the intranet. Its very easy for employees to find. Its also called the Policy Library rather than the confusing ADL a name which new staff wouldnt necessarily associate with official policy and guidance.

Providing a great user experience

The policy library presents a smart, clean and modern interface with a number of intuitively-labelled categories and a prominent search box. The attractive and easy-to-use design has been critical in establishing trust with users and driving adoption of the tool.


The policies themselves are presented in ways which makes them easier to digest. We know that policy documents can end up being lengthy and wordy and sometimes employees just need to find one piece of information contained within the document.

Large fonts for headlines and maximum characters per line ensure that documents are easier to scan, while users can jump to different sections through a hover-over facility. In addition, selected information from the cover sheet is presented to the left of the document with an option to see all this information.


Strong findability


There is also very strong findability baked into the policy library. Each policy has a main category and then a sub-category which are clearly displayed. There are limits on the number of categories which can be set to avoid confusion for users. A very clear search interface also displays all the relevant hits under each main category.

When accessing a policy there is also the ability to view related policies which share the same sub-category, and also view custom links to related content such as FAQs which the policy owner thinks relevant. This allows an employee to view important content about the use of the policy.

Centred around users

We also added another couple of features based around how employees actually use policies. A prominent Save button exports a version of the document in Word which also preserves much of the attractive styling of the online version, while a Print button prints out the policy for convenience.


Making life easier for policy owners

One of the issues with the previous library was it was hard for policy owners to use. The new library removes many barriers for policy owners and includes:

  • The ability to have different owners and approvers for different policies – different teams throughout ICR can maintain their own sections of the library
  • Allows for a different approval process for minor edits and major edits a highly practical detail which means more senior staff dont need to approve elements such as corrections to typos
  • Allows editors to add links to FAQs and other useful context
  • Sends out automated reminders when policies are due to expire
  • Has full version control and highlights differences between versions of documents if required
  • Can do reporting on links.

Having these features has helped policy owners to keep their own policies up to date.

Need a great policy library? Get in touch!

Every organisation needs a central place where employees can access and find official documents and forms. In some sectors a strong policy library is critical. We created an excellent library at ICR which has driven user adoption, helped business policy owners and satisfied compliance requirements. We can do the same for you! If you need a robust but also highly usable policy library then dont hesitate to get in touch.

SharePoint 2010 end of life is a great opportunity for intranet managers

The managers and teams who run intranets are critical to intranet success. In our experience, behind every super intranet, youll find a set of intranet super heroes who are going beyond the call of duty to increase collaboration, drive communication and help employees get thing done!

Many IT teams will be considering options and planning with a budget to move to supported environments. There are some who will choose to accept the risks and plow ahead with other priorities. For the Intranet manager still bound to 2010, the opportunities are great and the time to act is now.

Are there still many people using older versions?

In 2017 the SharePoint and Office 365 Industry Survey by Sharegate, Hyperfish and Nintex, looked at the SharePoint versions deployed in around 450 of their customers. The results show a strong growth in the deployment of SharePoint Online (167% from 2016 to 2017). In addition, they also indicate that there are still a lot of people on older versions of SharePoint.

These numbers are similar to other surveys I have seen and are certainly in line with what we experience among many of our customers, particularly the larger ones.


What are the risks of running unsupported SharePoint?

In some cases, the risk of running on unsupported software is acceptable. If youre not changing anything and not connected to anything; that may expose you to new security risks, then it may be acceptable to delay an update.

You should however, make management aware that there are risks and certainly costs associated with running unsupported environments.

But if we intend to be up-to date, what then?

If updates are on the agenda, then there are opportunities. For a start, this is the chance to consider whether you want to be cloud based, on premise or hybrid for the next few years. Whatever you choose, you can consider several different solutions.

The lift and shift

You can upgrade what you have, although this isnt always as easy at it sounds. In this case, youre likely to need the help of third party tools to reduce the pain. The benefit of this solution is the business doesnt really get involved beyond checking their sites have moved correctly. You get what you have, warts and all.

The spring clean

Before you carry out your lift and shift, you look long and hard at your environment and decide what you can throw away. This usually involves quite a lot of business engagement and organization, but its a great way to get rid of out of date and ownerless material.

The fresh start

You build everything new and migrate what you need into a nice new environment. This gives the opportunity to make use of some of the great new features and possibilities. Intranet projects dont have to be the monsters we had a few years ago, its getting easier to get real business value of the box.

The flagship and scrapyard approach

Just like the fresh start, you want to build some new things and get the most out of the tools for your business, but that doesnt mean that you need to build everything new. Its fine to build a few fantastic examples that people want to be part of and are motivated to use, while in parallel freezing new requests in your old environment. However, its not always a crime to keep the information in the older systems for just a bit longer. As always Intranet managers need to:

  • Deliver value
  • Balance budgets
  • Reduce risk
  • Reduce business effort and find the right pace for your organization

… and if you get the chance; transform the organization just a bit at a time.

Is this the opportunity to take the next step to the employee engagement you always dreamed of?

It could be… and maybe your IT team is already helping to make the business case for the investment on your behalf. If they are planning to upgrade the old system, you may be able to cooperate and get more out of 2019 than you thought. Whatever you choose to do, youll need to get your budget application sorted out this year… time for a coffee with the CIO?

The original article was published here

We use cookies to give you the best experience on our site. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find more about the cookies, please see our Cookie notice.

You can also read our privacy policy.