If you have decided to host your own intranet, you may discover it can be very labor intensive, especially if your goal is to truly reduce paper while providing employees information online. Here are several tips for small business Web and systems administrators to consider before launching or revising an intranet strategy.
Do you need help getting your employees up to speed on the intranet and its goals? Are you trying to teach them how they can contribute content for the intranet? Follow these guidelines.
Plan your content
Before rolling out an intranet, determine what information you want it to provide. Will it be strictly a human resources endeavor, or will it also provide marketing and public relations information?
Get down to business quickly by selecting the content areas the intranet site will contain. Examples include:
- Human resources benefits
- Human resources policies
- New product announcements
- Company earnings and news
- Employee contact information
- IT support documents
- Authorized vendor information
- Corporate newsletters
- Special announcements
- Regular employee contests
- Proprietary process documentation
Develop a maintenance system
Once your original content base is developed, you need to establish either an automatic or manual system for keeping your content fresh and updated. Doing so may involve relying upon the human resources or marketing staff to create new material to be pushed to the site.
A second option is to assign a Web staff member to manually update content on a regular basis. Since an intranet is intended to simplify internal information flow and IT staff load due to the simplicity of the browser, assigning a full time staff member to update content may not fit into the scheme. Your IT staff will have to handle the design for forms and more advanced content, but day-to-day information can easily be assigned to your content managers, whether they be in your department, HR, marketing, or another office.
As you prepare the outline for your new intranet, or as you prepare to revise your current interface, remember that you may decide to assign content creation and low-level editing responsibilities to participants who may not be technical staff.
Consider creating a folder structure to help them contribute and edit content using the preexisting network interfaces with which these users are familiar. You can secure access using your existing user authentication and permissions structure.
Take the time to perform an intranet “walk-through” for your employees. Explain to them the structure of the site and where specific topics can be found. Be sure to communicate the goals for the site, and don’t be afraid to solicit feedback.
You can also use these meetings as an opportunity to offer answers to very basic questions about Web browser use and how the Web can be used in general. Consider conducting a question-and-answer session regarding the intranet, too. Your time investment with employees will most certainly lead to increased buy-in of the Web and increased likelihood that your “inner Web” will receive greater internal traffic.
Identify content creators
Your next step involves identifying key members of your employee-base who can regularly identify and select content for your intranet. It is assumed the IT department will implement connected databases and publish technical support information. It’s also assumed that human resources will provide pertinent and/or required personnel data, policy, and benefits information for the Web site.
These key players, including the marketing staff, will use the next step in this content process to create new material regularly. This is a critical step, as employees won’t be inclined to frequently visit the intranet if it’s never updated.
Templates and office suites
Your next step in establishing management routines for your intranet is to develop a template system to help assist new content generation. Without diverting into great detail, the primary network operating systems in use in businesses today offer the ability to configure users for specific levels of access. For example, you will want to create a new group in Windows NT/NetWare/Linux that permits access to the folders you create in a new Web directory.
Doing so enables the key players that are responsible for generating new material to complete the templates according to the instructions you provide. You can instruct them as to where these templates (or documents) should be dropped and how new hyperlinks can be created to make them accessible on the intranet. You can also teach users how to convert office suite documents, spreadsheets, and slide shows into Web pages.
This method works very well in an environment where content is in unusual formats and cannot always be copied and pasted from other applications. You utilize a header and footer running across all intranet pages for navigation and identity. You can construct a simple HTML page that contains the code for the header and footer and instruct your users on how to create links to and from their own main page.
This second method is a more streamlined approach. You should use it when a majority of the content to be posted is being converted from major office suites. You simply instruct your content managers to save their existing or new documents in an office suite as an .htm or .html page and ensure it is deposited into the correct directory for use on the intranet.
FrontPage Express, distributed with installations of Internet Explorer 4 and 5, is a very handy tool for allowing users to create Web pages as well. It doesn’t require the development tools or extensions associated with the full FrontPage client, and it has the look and feel of Microsoft Word. It’s another option you may wish to consider.
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