Is your charity intranet a winner?

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John Newton
 
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According to Nielsen Norman Group's annual Best 10 intranets, charities seem to be seeing the advantages of more careful planning around their intranets: 

Since our first Intranet Design Annual in 2001, 10 nonprofits have been among the winners, and two of those are from this year. Might this represent an upturn in intranet budget and perceived importance of intranets at nonprofit organizations?

Properly planned and designed intranets can deliver real value to not-for-profits. However, the key dilemma that is often faced is finding the sweet spot in the cost benefit calaculation. IT Departments who are tasked with intranets may turn instictively to proprietary solutions that they understand like Sharepoint. This gives them a cost and licensing model they are familiar with. Even so, implementation is often unsuccessful where these projects are not steered by the whole organisation. It'll typically be the Comms teams who'll need to take the lead here, and they require flexible, communications-oriented solutions which can be frustratingly hard to build successully in complex systems like Sharepoint.

Nielsen Norman Group also note that implementation times have dropped to a little over a year in general, with two referenced projects using so-called 'intranet in a box' solutions taking 7 and 10 months to implement.

What's interesting about this is that while we see a very welcome move away from bespoke intranets towards pre-built solutions, it can be dangerous for charities to buy solutions without expert tailoring. Pre-built intranet solutions - like our own Sereno Intranet - are great starting points. They save you time and money but just installing an intranet without expert guidance and tailoring leaves many customers floundering. Some suppliers leave clients with pretty much an empty intranet shell expecting them to become site building and intranet experts overnight. We work with our clients to make sure their intranets are properly configured to meet their needs and typically find implementation time is about 3-4 months for small to medium projects, longer for big projects.

Where does tailoring occur? Besides account integration, you should consider home page layout, search, user profiles, data structure around your organisation - for example, if you run teams, or departments or services and projects in ways that are in some respects unique. This is just a starting list of things to consider. Please feel free to offer your own experience in this area or if you would like me to respond with a more specific blog piece on approaching customising your intranet.

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