The pleasures of being an intranet consultant

by | May 1, 2015 | Intranets

The last two months have been the busiest since I set up Intranet Focus Ltd in 1999. I have been working on two global intranet projects at the same time, with some similarities (e.g. a potential migration to SP2013 and almost total user dissatisfaction with search) but in other ways quite different in their current situation and in business drivers.  I have been working on one project for some time and then Sam Marshall (Clearbox Consulting) asked me to join him in bidding for a project where our combination of skills would be a winning proposition. The client certainly agreed and even better it’s been a win-win for us as we have shared out the tasks and introduced each other to some of the ways we each approach intranet management. Of course Sam and I have known each other for around a decade but this has been the first time we have worked together, and I hope it won’t be the last.

The first pleasure of being an intranet consultant is that there are always new things to learn. When I started up Intranet Focus in 1999 the chairman of the business I was working for warned me that all the issues about intranets had been identified and solved, as by that time there were probably 6 or more good books available on intranet management. Luckily he was wrong. Good practice (there is no such thing as ‘best practice’!) is constantly changing as novel business requirements emerge and new technical solutions become available.

The second pleasure is being able to talk to people across the organisation. For the project with Sam that meant interviewing over twenty stakeholders across the organisation. I always start off a stakeholder interview project reading through Steve Portigals invaluable book on interviewing.  This gets me back into the groove as I write myself a list of do’s and dont’s, both of which are easy to overlook in the pleasure of listening to people talking with passion about how important information and knowledge are to achieving business and personal objectives.

The third pleasure is being able to provide solutions to current challenges which can be implemented at little cost and effort. In our joint project Sam and I made some recommendations in an interim report which will probably have been implemented by the time the final report is signed off. There is also a related pleasure in helping an intranet team realise that what seems to be reasonably easy (migration to SP2013) may in fact be more challenging than IT are anticipating as it would be an invaluable opportunity to improve content quality and in particular metadata consistency.

The fourth pleasure is in being reminded that great organisations have great employees who have an understanding of the business and a commitment to success that we have to match as consultants. What ever the technical solutions for an intranet there are always two groups of users – content publishers and content users. It is so easy to overlook the demands on content publishers. “We are a part of a global organisation, so people often have to work late to talk to colleagues in the USA and Canada. As they leave at 8.30pm there is no way I can ask them if they have been able to update our department profile.”

So this is my first blog post since the second project started, but I have no intention of reading through several thousand Tweets that have passed by unnoticed, un-forwarded and un-commented. Normal service will now be resumed… least for the next few weeks.

Martin White