There is a lot of buzz today in the intranet world about user experience, social features, and serving a mobile workforce. These things are all great goals to aspire to, but the reality is most organizations are living with an intranet that is perceived as somewhere between outdated and useless. A good, more realistic starting point for improving an intranet for many organizations would be the really big mistakes to avoid at all costs. So this post will focus on the top intranet scenarios that virtually guarantee that any conversation about your intranet will begin with the rolling of eyes and loud groans--this is a classic “what not to do” post.
1) Having a static welcome page a la 5 years ago.
One of the biggest frustrations we hear from frontline staff is they don’t use the intranet because it is exactly the same as it has been for years. The welcome page should serve as the “headline news” of the organization, with addition of news and announcements at a minimum a couple of times each week.
The other part of this is how it looks. You should refresh your intranet graphics at least every 3-5 years. As a rule of thumb, when you update the look and feel of your public facing website is an ideal time to freshen up your intranet to keep a consistent look and feel.
2) Making it hard for employees to find what they are looking for.
Too often, intranets are structured like a glorified shared drive, making it very difficult and frustrating for staff to find documents they may be looking for. In many cases, this means having to know exactly where to look for information within a folder structure and/or having to know the title of the document. If your organization’s search crawler is outdated and does not have robust search capability to locate search terms anywhere in the body of the document or metadata, this must be task #1. Particularly in healthcare where saving a minute or two can save a life, time is of the essence, employees simply do not have time to waste fumbling around looking for information.
3) Limiting the ability to make changes to IT staff.
This is a recipe for disaster. This scenario is frustrating for IT, Marketing, HR, departmental staff—basically everyone. IT is invariably overloaded with mission-critical projects which make it hard to find time to update the intranet. Departmental staff who want content updated get frustrated because it takes too long and usually requires a few rounds of back-and-forth before the end result is something they are satisfied with. Do everyone a favor and utilize decentralized content management and a system that is easy for non-technical departmental content editors to use.
4) Having only hyperlinks and documents.
It is amazing how many intranets are a glorified list of hyperlinks and documents. Better to include images, fillable forms, blogs, and other interactive content. All of these elements encourage engagement. More and more organizations are incorporating social features as well. For example, why not allow employees to comment on news and announcements? This allows them to add their two cents worth and really be part of the conversation.
5) Overloading pages, making them busy.
There is no doubt about it, some collections of content can be vast. Instead of building pages that become very long, keep content above the fold and organize content on multiple pages as needed. Even something as simple as including brief information on news and announcements along with a read more link for the full story can help maximize valuable space. Going along with this, using different fonts and colors that may be outside of guidelines in order to get content to stand out may seem like a great idea, but can lead to a very inconsistent, patchwork-like intranet.
These mistakes to avoid are the most common we come across in working with hospitals all over the US, but there are certainly more. Are there any you would add to the list?