I have been consulting with companies about how to build SharePoint Intranet sites for almost a decade now, and the conversation usually goes something like this:
Customer: I want to build an intranet because my people need to accomplish some specific tasks
Me: Well, building an Intranet is like building a house. You need to lay the foundation (servers), then frame the house (Information Architecture, Navigation, Taxonomy, Site Hierarchy, etc.), and then you can finish out the room (branding, workflows, etc).
Customer: Oh, well, what if I just want to do one thing (get departments off shared drives, paperless invoices, records management, provide ad hoc workspaces, project sites, etc).
Me: Well, that would be like asking us to build you a dining room in the middle of a field and then building the house around it later. That just does not make sense.
Thus, Top Down Intranet Design became the rule by which Intranets were often built. Now, in my defense, and for a lot of others, this process really does make a lot of sense. When you think back to MOSS 2007, or even better to SharePoint Portal Server 2003, these tools gave you a lot of potential to do things, but they also required a large amount of customization and development to be productive. Couple that with the simple fact that building a message portal, which is what a lot of Intranets are, benefits greatly from a process that is holistic in nature. After all, when people think about an intranet, we tend to think about one that looks something like…
Image taken from Nielsen-Norman top Intranets of 2012 (http://www.nngroup.com/articles/intranet-design/) http://www.nngroup.com/articles/intranet-design/)
This page, is designed with custom information based upon the individual user, fully customizable with each employee able to select subscriptions, and the ability to add/remove/maximize/minimize various widgets to create a great end user experience. The teams for creating these amazing intranets are getting bigger with teams now comprising 1.4 team members per 1000 employees with the average of the winners at 27 team members. Now, that is the long-term maintenance team size, the project team sizes were larger and increasingly are relying upon outside consultants to bring in specific talent. In addition, it still is not a fast process with the average development time for the top 10 intranets coming in at 2.3 years to design and develop.
Is This the ONLY Way?
As I think on that…27 people for 2.3 years, it rather boggles the mind. How can companies wait 27 months to get an Intranet? The real question is…do you have to?
One of the major issues with Intranet design is that it often focuses on something that I call the "Big Reveal". The project runs something like this:
The "standard" waterfall MSF approach and it works, but in this approach, there is no delivery to the end users until the end of the project (perhaps 27 months). During that time frame, they are still using their old system…or none at all and most likely frustrated. Not to mention that the stakeholders are also going to get more and more frustrated that this critical business application is taking so long.
There has to be a better way…doesn’t there?
I think that there is a better way. A new approach that develops and deploys top-notch quality Intranets. A new approach that takes the strategic goals of the organization into account. A new approach that employs the proven user centered design practices that maximize the success of the project. An approach that builds the Intranet that your end users need today…and tomorrow. A new approach that gives your organization value immediately, almost from day one. One that not only involves the users in the design, but also then gives them the results quickly and then iterates them to improve continuously.
This is a new path to success, and I want to take you on it with me…are you ready?
Stay tuned to learn about the new path.