The foundations of intranet adoption – It’s not just about the numbers

Healthy adoption continues to be a massive focus for intranet, collaboration and digital workplace teams. It is regarded as a key measure of success, a focus for team efforts and an expectation of senior stakeholders. If you cant get your employees to use your intranet, then whats the point of having an intranet?

Adoption is critical, but some intranet teams tend to have too narrow a definition of adoption. They regard it simply as the proportion of users who are using and visiting the intranet or related collaboration tools. An over-simplified definition of adoption means that teams focus on increasing the headline numbers such as unique users, number of page visits, number of registrations or proportion of users making contributions. This is their number one priority. Thats not to say those numbers arent important, but it does mean other critical areas of value can get missed.

To use an analogy, its a bit like just focusing on the bums on seats when launching a new movie as your criteria for success. On the surface of it that might be the most important thing when the film is launched but significant revenue may also come from merchandise, licensing, DVD sales and other spin-offs. The critical reaction to the film is also key. If your focus is only on driving up the audience numbers, then youre missing a trick.

What does good adoption mean to you?

Intranet and digital workplace teams need to take a more nuanced and three-dimensional view of adoption which is more aligned to the strategic aims of their intranet. They need to work out what good adoption means for their organisation and what value it will drive.

In addition to the proportion of people using your collaboration site or visiting your intranet, adoption needs to cover the how and the who.

The how means thinking about what successful use of your tools means. For example, are you trying to drive adoption of collaboration tools to cover specific types of work such as managing projects? Do you want your employees to using a workspace for more than just a place to dump documents?  Successful adoption needs to account for working practices and use cases which lead to positive outcomes for employees and the organisations they work for.

The who also takes in which different groups who might be using your tools and visiting your intranet, but for different purposes.  For example, are you aiming for your managers to use your intranet? Do you want more frontline employees to visit? A more three-dimensional view of adoption may cover different groups and how you want them to use your intranet.

The foundations of adoption

When intranet teams think about driving adoption they need to consider all the different ingredients which can influence it. There is no single ingredient X which drives it, but instead multiple, over-lapping factors which lay the foundations for good adoption:

  • Value: Employees find things, complete tasks and stay informed, ensuring the intranet is helping employees in their everyday work.
  • Awareness: Employees are aware of features and benefits, so they are knowledgeable about what it does and how to use it.
  • Proximity: Barriers to successful use are removed so that issues such as poor performance, difficult authentication or lack of access do not impact adoption.
  • Governance: Structures, roles, rules and processes are in place to ensure the intranet continues to work efficiently, content is up to date and standards are maintainted.
  • Improvement: The intranet continually improves to meet user needs so it stays relevant and aligned to staff and organisational needs
  • Trust: Users trust the intranet, its content and the team behind it for all the reasons above.

You cant control adoption

One of the problems of driving adoption is that it is an output or a consequence of your intranet and the way it is run.  Therefore, it is something that you cannot ultimately control or guarantee. However, the good news is that it is something that you can influence.

Considering the different foundations of adoption, there are several ways that teams can influence it. Adoption strategies need to consider all these factors, not just an engaging launch and getting your CEO to support it:

  • Intranet features, capabilities and design: how useful, relevant and engaging your intranet is will depend on what it can do and to a lesser extranet what it looks like
  • Getting users to design, shape and influence: getting direct feedback and involving users to ensure the intranet is user-centred but also helping to create advocates and ambassadors
  • A governance framework for a sustainable intranet: this has a direct influence on how up to date content is and all the processes that need to make it work to ensure visitors keep returning
  • Senior management endorsement and involvement: visible support from your CEO helps spreads awareness, legitimises use and encourages other managers to promote it
  • Champions, site owner and publisher networks: leveraging the enthusiasm and energy of communities of champions, publishers and site or community managers to promote the intranet, produce content and manage sites
  • Content management and related governance: all the standards, processes and roles to ensure content is relevant, up] to date, accurate, findable, on brand and engaging
  • Engaging launch and communications: spreading awareness of the intranet as well as the benefits of using it
  • Measurement to deliver insights for improvement: using a data-driven approach to continually improve the intranet
  • Targeted support and training to drive best use: making sure the right groups are using the intranet and its tools in the right way
  • A post launch roadmap of features and improvements: additional content and capabilities to keep on drawing people to the intranet and engage users

Taking a more holistic view of adoption

Taking a more holistic, 360-degree view of how to influence adoption means that intranet teams can develop a more cohesive, coordinated and long-term strategy for evolving it. For example, instinctively a governance framework might not feel like it will immediately drive adoption. Perhaps it wont, but it will help to maintain great content and engage the people responsible for it and that is critical for good use of your intranet.

Adoption needs to be more than just being about chasing the numbers. Its also about successful usage and targeting different groups to use it in different ways. Teams need to consider a range of approaches which will drive intranet adoption, so it is sustainable. They can then factor their efforts into the way they regularly operate. That should drive up the headline numbers but also ensure your intranet is used in successful ways which are valuable for all.

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