Aside from asking broad questions or getting an initial feel for how your employees would react to an intranet switch or implementation, there are specific intranet needs-analysis techniques you can use to assess your company and its optimal intranet strategy. Some examples of these techniques include:
- Focus groups
- Staff and stakeholder interviews
- Workplace observation
- Contextual inquiry
- Task analysis
Surveys are best used for assessing the opinions of staff, rather than needs. This means surveys work well to assess satisfaction with the current intranet, but are not as helpful on how to improve the site.
Great care needs to be taken in the construction of survey questions. The questions should be specific, focusing on the recent experiences of the survey respondent, rather than on collecting broader opinions or perceptions about the site. Surveys should always be used alongside other data-collecting techniques.
Focus groups can be a good way to get a more in-depth sample of employees’ opinions on the intranet, but the groups must be monitored closely to make sure that certain individuals are not dominating the entire group.
The group should consist of employees on the same level in the company, and the group should focus on current happenings instead of future wishes.
Staff and stakeholder interviews
One-on-one interviews are a very effective way of gathering information on staff needs and issues. Coupled with stakeholder interviews including intranet authors, senior managers and executives, these interviews can give a holistic view of company functions at all levels.
These interviews should focus on what the current day-to-day intranet use looks like. It will give you an idea of overall activities and working environments. Unlike surveys, interview questions can be more open-ended and broad in order to explore topics that may come up naturally.
This involves going “out into the field” to observe staff activities and the environment in which they work. This intranet analysis technique is less applicable to working environments where not much can be seen or heard by an observer (i.e. an office-based position where most of the work is taking place on Word or over email).
Besides that, observation does allow for an objective understanding of the work environment and developed work patterns that could not be gathered through other techniques. Observation will also show you exactly what information employees rely on daily and how they obtain it, rather than having an employee tell you that information through a different technique.
This is a combination of staff interviews and workplace observation that involves discussing issues with a staff member while they are within their normal working environment. By doing a contextual interview you can see and hear from the employee what resources they are using while they work.
You can also ask the employee to show you specific examples of how they complete tasks in real time. In a contextual inquiry, the staff member should take on the role of a teacher while the researcher is the student who is learning exactly what the job entails. This technique can be a great way to gain more specific detail of daily employee functions.
This technique involves identifying key business tasks and investigating them to gain an understanding of the steps involved and the information required at each step. Then, this information is used to determine how the intranet can be used to support staff in their day-to-day activities. This can have a direct impact on business outcomes, and it is often the clearest way of showing a return on investment (ROI) for intranet development.
Intranet needs analysis tips
With intranet analysis techniques it's important to use multiple approaches to gain the best understanding of your business operations. Relying solely on one technique will end in bias, and unclear results. Use a wide range of staff and select them carefully. You should continue your research until no new information is found and you have clear results.
Analyze the results
Generally, analyzing results involves taking all the data collected and looking for patterns. Specifically for intranet development, the research team should look for:
- Main information sources and key information needs.
- Major issues or problems impacting the staff’s ability to do their jobs.
- Cultural or organizational issues impacting on the success of the intranet adoption.
- Key-business processes requiring information support.
- Opportunities for improving information management or delivery.
- Frustrating business tasks or processes.
In terms of intranet implementation, the results of the intranet needs analysis should be used to paint a picture of current problems, the urgency to change, and how the issues can be resolved.
This is a more personal approach, so the results should also be personal, involving direct quotes or examples from staff members. A concrete plan for an intranet solution strategy should be offered based on these findings, and it should address the specific business benefits that it will deliver.
Tips on selecting an intranet tool
- Ask yourself the big, important questions.
- Gather as much data as possible and analyze for actionable outcomes.
- Figure out your goals, both abstract and concrete.
- Consult your leadership team and an intranet expert.
- Start talking to get your staff on-board with the change.
- Set up training (preliminary and ongoing).
- Continue to promote your intranet solution for a smooth adoption process.
With this information, you should have a fully-formed picture of the intranet as a whole, how it has developed, how it functions in the workplace, and how to implement it for your own business.
Use this as a guide to find your perfect intranet solution, but know that in order to find something that will stick, the bottom line is you need to know what is best for your workplace. Look into reviews of other companies through your own specific lens to know what features will benefit your business and help you reach your goals.
An intranet solution can play a key role in solving many of your company's current communication challenges. Technology will not work unless the company culture supports it and the employees embrace it. Find something that everyone can get behind, and your intranet implementation will be a success.