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Why Replacing Your Crappy Intranet Is Harder Than You Think

I have had the opportunity to work on many intranet projects, several of them replacing legacy intranets. Through this process, I have developed a (somewhat counter-intuitive) theory that states the worse the current intranet the harder it will be to replace it. Huh?

There is no statement made by a representative employee that perks my ears more than “Our current intranet is SO bad ANYTHING you build would be an improvement!” Sounds like an easy win, right? No. Here’s the deal… if the current intranet is indeed so bad that it is not used this means that employees have been forced to find alternate methods to get the information they need and collaborate with team members. So, in effect, the new intranet must replace these processes… not the old (seldom used) intranet. See the difference? Requirements gathering should focus far less on what the current intranet doesn’t do and far more on what employees are doing today. That’s a significantly more difficult process! Add to that the fact that user adoption is NOT defined as the method of getting staff transitioned from the old intranet to the new but rather the enticement to get staff to change how they get and share information into a more structured, consistent process. Again, this is a tough challenge.

If you’ve defined your project as replacing the old intranet with the new (independent of technology used), you’ve started with the wrong problem… which makes finding the right solution that much harder. Restructure the messaging… “Our current intranet is SO bad I have found alternative ways to communicate and collaborate; I need to clearly understand the benefits in changing what I do to conform to a new way of doing things.” Requirements gathering must focus on clearly understanding these alternate processes and accommodating them in the new intranet design. An adoption strategy must include employee engagement and training. This project just got a whole lot harder!...

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