Everyone knows that intranets are a great way to collect and distribute information and content throughout an organisation. But exactly what types of content should the intranet be used for and how does this content add value to an organisation?
Research from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) has shown that those intranets that make it easier for people to do their jobs are the most valuable.
Indeed, how an organisation does things is what separates one organisation from another. It is a critical ingredient to success. Does a bank manager call you back to discuss your loan application or does she send you a computer generated letter? Does an inquiry about your phone bill result in you being offered additional services or do you simply receive an answer to your question? Do you add one slice of tomato or two to that cheeseburger?
Every organisation has hundreds, maybe thousands, of decisions to make about the way it operates. These decisions combine together to comprise business activities and policies and ultimately determine whether an organisation succeeds or not. And the most efficient way for these practices to be dispersed across an organisation – particularly organisations with many employees - is through the intranet.
An effective intranet can be viewed as the ‘brains’ of an entire organisation – it describes how an organisation functions and ensures that all employees are ‘singing from the same hymn book’.
Bearing this in mind, the following list of 9 intranet content types will help your staff carry out business tasks more effectively (8 of them at least!). Use this checklist to make sure your intranet is capturing and delivering content that will add value to your organisation.
1. How to
This type of content describes how the different business tasks within an organisation are performed. Examples include how to process a sales order, how to invoice a customer, how to identify new customers, how to order a new laptop and thousands of other possibilities.
On most intranets this is a collection of web pages, policies and procedures. New organisations will create a lot of this type of intranet content as new tasks are identified and created. For existing organisations, this content is updated and changed as new processes, systems, practices, innovations, ideas, products and services are introduced.
Potentially all staff may be the creators and also the end users of this content. The value of this type of content to an organisation is that it ‘de-skills’ many tasks and spreads the knowledge throughout an organisation, effectively making it less expensive and more efficient for organisations to operate as more staff are able to complete more tasks more quickly and more consistently.
2. Forms, templates, tools, applications
This is content that supports the ‘How to...’ content. Examples may include templates, websites, online forms and web applications. This can help staff complete tasks more quickly and accurately, eg. a template (or online form preferably) for claiming expenses ensures that this task is done consistently and correctly with a minimum of hassle to the staff member.
3. Re-usable documents
This consists of documents that can be modified and then re-used again. Examples include sales proposals, funding requests, project plans and presentations. This can be a great time saver for many organisations and can also improve the quality of the document.
Imagine that you have a 100 page sales proposal that you have already done for an organisation previously (which was successful!). It is much easier to re-use and modify this sales proposal for a new client than to start again from scratch.
4. Structured content
This includes content that has a consistent structure and has many occurrences of the same item. Examples include staff lists, customer lists, service and product lists, business unit descriptions and other ad hoc lists (eg. list of recommended training venues). This type of content will also support the ‘How to...’ content and can be added and updated on an almost continuous basis, potentially by all staff.
The more items and the more comprehensive the information, the more useful this content will be. Imagine that before meeting a customer, you are able to read a description of the customer that is the sum of all knowledge of everyone in the organisation.
5. News, blogs, staff status updates
This is content that staff may or may not choose to read. It is not critical for the completion of a task but will highlight areas of the business that are important to staff. This content may be managed by a central group such as the communications team and may be used help spread the culture and values of the organisation as well as helping to engage employees. Examples of this type of content include news stories that highlight other categories of content, eg. a change in the way a task is done, staff profiles, a new customer, a successful proposal bid or a relevant external news story.
6. Reference material
This can includes case studies, white papers, other research and articles that can help your organisation in some way. It is content that does not change and can also help support ‘How to...’ content. This type of content helps develop the skills of staff and can also improve business processes. For example, you may read an article about using social media more effectively for marketing and this may change your marketing processes as a result. This type of content can be added to over time, potentially by all staff.
7. Collaboration, discussion
This is content that is ‘under development’ or ‘in-progress’. It requires less governance than the other content types and typically does not require ‘approval’ or ‘sign-off’. It may include documents you are working on with other people, new product ideas, suggestions, discussion forums, project sites and other general purpose team sites.
Collaboration areas may be used on a daily basis. Output from collaboration type content may eventually find its way to the other content types. For example, if you post a discussion question about the best place to run a workshop in New York, the resulting answer would be logically placed as ‘structured content’ in a list of ‘Workshop Venues’. In future, if a staff member is looking for a place to run a workshop in New York, rather than reading a discussion topic which could potentially have dozens of comments, they can simply refer to the ‘workshop list’ (which will be referenced from a task called ‘Conduct a workshop’).
8. Reports, performance measures
This includes content that provides feedback about how the organisation is performing – in other words, how effectively tasks are being performed. This may include the share price, customer satisfaction levels, sales figures and a host of other key performance indicators.
9. Archive, records
This content is anything that is kept simply for historical purposes (for example old product descriptions or details of staff who have left). By default, some intranets end up acting as an archive, however this is not the best place for this type of content. Over time, the more content that is added to the intranet, the less effective searching becomes and the less trusting staff are of the content. Imagine a staff list where most of the staff have left! The intranet should be a place where staff can access current, accurate and relevant information.
Alternative approaches to records management and archiving are more appropriate.
Does your intranet provide these content types? If you are interested in finding out how effective your existing intranet is in delivering these content types, why not participate in the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). The WIC has been completed by over 20,000 intranet end users from 65 organisations. There is no cost to participate.
Are there any other general types of content that should be included on an intranet?