How to Plan a Successful Launch of Your New Intranet: A Step-by-Step Guide

Internal enterprise communication has evolved over the years and so have the tools for it. Intranets first appeared in the 1990s to enhance internal communication and collaboration. They were widely adopted by many organizations at the time.

But with today’s technologies, those traditional intranets are no longer in phase with how employees collaborate.

Why you need a new intranet?

Traditional intranets fail at delivering information instantly and are missing so many of the benefits offered by modern intranets, such as engaging your employees, improving your communications, helping your teams work better together, streamlining collective knowledge and helping build your corporate culture.

Needless to say, in order to enhance its internal communications, every organization needs a state-of-the-art, solution-oriented intranet. In other words: a collaboration platform that includes a lot more than simple information aggregation.

How to plan your intranet launch

Before choosing the right solution and launching the intranet, everyone is focused on finances and project costs.

How much will all of this cost? Will we benefit from a positive ROI? What are the business benefits of this solution? Is it worth it? How much time and additional resources will we need? And so on.

It’s completely normal to have all of these concerns and more. You should know, however, that besides the licensing, maintenance and support, you need to get buy-in and involvement from your key intranet stakeholders and users throughout your intranet launch journey.

On that note, let me summarize for you the key steps that you’ll need to go through in order to get your intranet up and running successfully.

7 steps of a typical new intranet launch project

  • Identify your champion, which is usually a team

Business is all about people and if you can’t find the right ones then you’ll have a hard time succeeding with your intranet project. Of course, finding them may take time and effort, but don’t despair.

A typical intranet project team usually includes a business consultant (external or internal) and a technical representative (usually internal).

  • Define your requirements

Your business consultant and your technical representative will help you map out your business users’ needs and the technical requirements and constraints of your IT setup.

As both of their names suggest, your business/functional consultant will analyze your company’s human resources demographics to define the important user groups (age, role, etc).

The business consultant will also try to understand why the current setup does not satisfy your users’ needs by launching surveys and listing the usage scenarios that the target solution needs to meet.

Your technical consultant will define the constraints linked to your internal IT systems and existing tools. Depending on your situation and whether you plan to host the new intranet internally or opt for a cloud solution, these considerations range from IT infrastructure (such as your existing servers, database, etc.) to existing business applications that need to be integrated and made available in the new intranet.

The outcome of these surveys and requirements mapping is a document that contains project objectives, technical requirements and constraints.

As for the cost, if everything goes according to plans, then this work will cost you around $15,000 assuming that a consultant works at an average annual cost of $60,000 and that this phase lasts about three months.

  • Choose the right solution

This is the one that best corresponds to your requirements (found during the second phase of your intranet project), your IT constraints and budget.

To do so, your team will size up the project budget based on a Request for Information (RFI) or its market knowledge and put together a Request for Proposal (RFP) based on the findings from the previous phase.

This phase typically costs around a total of $20,000 – $30,000 and lasts from four to six months. It concludes with term discussions and formalizing the relationship in a contract.

  • Implement your new intranet

The vendor you choose will now provide the resources that have been agreed upon. This could, for example, be an architect to ensure integration to your company’s IT infrastructure (enterprise directory, etc.), had you chosen to host the intranet internally, or developers, if there were any custom development arrangements agreed upon. Also, there may be some administrator and technical training for the people responsible for maintaining your project internally.

As for the cost of this phase, you should note the vendor costs for licences, subscriptions, and services. Keep in mind that, for the size and duration of your project, a simple deployment without deep integration would cost around $50,000 and that the annual subscriptions will cost around $30,000.

Don’t forget your own work on the deployment, half time for six months, which will cost you around another $20,000 – $30,000.

Now your intranet is ready for roll-out!

  • Launch your intranet

Now that you have a brand new intranet waiting in the wings, what should you do to introduce it to your employees and make them as excited as you are about the changes you’ve been working so hard on?

First you should prepare a communication campaign around your intranet launch so that you build up anticipation and excitement.

In order to create a smoother path for the launch, your communication objectives should support your intranet objectives. Those objectives usually seek to create awareness, change attitudes and drive adoption.

Then, you have to define your main user personas. Depending on your company size, you may need to design a gradual roll-out plan starting with a small group of users and teams instead of rolling out your intranet overnight to all your users.

Keep in mind that you can’t give the same intranet presentation to executives as you can to your new employees. Communication may differ depending on each department’s roles and responsibilities. Your intranet audience groups can consist of executives, HR, the project team, super-users who are interested in the project, the general employee base, etc.

In order for your intranet launch communication plan to be complete, you’ll also need to define the channel that is convenient for each audience group and adopt your message with the behavioral criteria of each one.

  • On-board your users

Even if your communication plan has built anticipation and interest, it doesn’t guarantee long-term adoption. So some work on this important aspect is still ahead!

The user on-boarding phase should be planned ahead of time. In the first year you’ll be investing in change management so you can ensure some ongoing key-user training on how to use and make the most out of the intranet.

In order to get on the right track, let’s say you’ll need to invest about $50,000 plus a half-time project manager (at $30,000) for the first year.

  • Maintain your intranet

Your intranet needs to be maintained technically once in production. Plus your editors and key-users need to add content and continually make the intranet attractive to users so that they actively use it. So overall you may be looking at a cost of $ 275,000 the first three years of your intranet project launch.

Conclusion

What you’ve seen above is what it typically takes to launch a new intranet successfully. The truth is, not everything will always go according to plan.

Some steps may take longer and cost more, you may face some unexpected but also some common pitfalls, and your over-enthusiasm may, unlike your expectations and beliefs, hinder your intranet success.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you, but to make you aware of what can slow down your progress.

Lastly, we’ve been working on a white paper that lists all of these pain points (based on our experience and our client feedback) and how to address each and every one of them.  Have a look at it if you would like additional information on how to succeed with your intranet project.

About the author

Nouha Blagui is eXo’s Platform brand and communication manager, a firm that leads intranet projects for over 10 years now.

She writes about topics related to internal communications within a digital workplace. She’s also a digital transformation evangelist that loves to share her experience in developing best practices in intranet projects based on a full understanding of corporate environments and processes.

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