Intranet Business Goals Workshops

The essential first step to creating a successful intranet is to define business goals.

What are business goals?

Business goals state what an organisation is hoping to achieve from an intranet. Often people want to jump straight to designing a site, but if the needs of the organisation have not been defined first, this usually leads to failure. Importantly, business goals must be outcome focused, rather than technology focused. This avoids the implementation of the latest “cool” technology or buzzword without clearly knowing how it is going to help.

Why define intranet business goals?

Without a clear vision of the business goals, it is impossible to track the success of an intranet or ensure that benefits are maximised. Clearly defined goals will help to keep priorities in focus during the design and implementation stages of a project. Without the direction articulated in business goals, an organisation can waste time and resources building an intranet that fails to provide benefits.

Business goals are usually identified by talking to people around your organisation. I typically run interviews and workshops with business stakeholders (like HR managers, CIOs, line managers, Comms managers etc) to help me identify business goals.

Driving me crazy

When I conduct these interviews and workshops, someone nearly always says “the intranet should have a blog” or “the intranet should be a wiki” or something to that effect. And, just between you and me, this drives me crazy!

Goals, objectives and problems…not technology

You’ve probably heard IT people talk about “the what, not the how”. When business stakeholders start mentioning wikis, blogs, or other web 2.0 tools, they are actually talking about a solution (“the how”) not what they need the intranet to do for them.

Focus, people. Focus

Recently I tried a new way to help keep business stakeholders focused on their goals, not their ideas of what the solution might be. It worked pretty well, so I thought I’d share it here with you. This idea came from reading Iain Barker’s post on Microsoft’s Product Reaction Cards.

Step-by-step process

  1. I started by printing some generic business goal statements on cards (I've included the list below). I got these from my previous experience and a couple of google searches.
  2. During the workshops, I gave a set of the cards to each participant. I then asked them to choose 5 – 10 of the cards that they felt represented what they (or their business area) is trying to achieve.
  3. It took about 10 minutes for participants to make their choices
  4. We then talked about each of the cards they chose. Specifically I asked:
    “What benefits do you think are related to the card” and
    “Can you give any real-life examples related to the card?”

Generic business goals

Here's a list of generic business goals that I printed onto cards and used during stakeholder workshops.

  1. Support cultural changes
  2. Communicate organisational messages consistently
  3. Establish a united culture
  4. Decrease paperwork
  5. Encourage feedback
  6. Learn from past activities
  7. Enhance staff collaboration
  8. Increase informed decision making
  9. Timely distribution of news
  10. Succeed in business improvements
  11. Improve access to information
  12. Improve staff "sense of belonging"
  13. Improve trust and reliance on information
  14. Increase efficiency
  15. Increase staff satisfaction
  16. Promote the organisation’s integrity and credibility
  17. Provide a reference tool for staff
  18. Increase information self-service
  19. Provide a fun environment
  20. Deliver relevant and up-to-date information
  21. Raise awareness of the organisation’s activities
  22. Reduce the "silo effect"
  23. Reduce information distribution costs
  24. Reduce information overload (e.g. e-mails)
  25. Support business processes
  26. Support change management
  27. Improve relations between central and regional offices
  28. Support knowledge sharing
  29. Support new staff induction
  30. Encourage staff networking

Result!

The activity worked really well. I’m pretty sure only one person mentioned blogs, so that’s success in my book.

Final word

I wouldn’t use this activity as a quantitative research technique. That is, I wouldn’t count how many times a particular card was chosen throughout all workshops. The activity is best for focusing people’s discussion on goals, objectives and current problems. It’s the discussions around the cards that provides the insights I’m looking for.
If you use this technique, I’d love to know how it works for you. Similarly, if you want some more information on how you could use the technique, please contact me.

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