3 strategies for a successful intranet adoption

eXo Platform Blog

In my previous post, we talked about common myths and issues surrounding user adoption of digital transformation initiatives, in particular such as intranets, digital workplaces and collaboration platforms.

Let us now, as promised, examine three different strategies for a successful intranet adoption.

User focus strategy

Adopting your user point of view is a great way to approach adoption, especially if you anticipate that to be a challenge. Most users are naturally curious about the new tools at first, at least if they know about the launch (you ensure that through a launch communications campaign). But they are in a “What do I have to do? “ state of mind rather than in “What can I do?” state of mind when they face the tool – they are often blocked by a fear of making a mistake or being judged publicly.

So how can you switch that state of mind?

  • By answering the “What’s in it for me?” question

Whatever your initiative, it surely has some benefits for the end user – it is supposed to make their life easier and their work more efficient after all. You need to find a way to demonstrate that. The only way to ensure lasting adoption is to ground your tool into your business processes.

Other than the business benefits, you can use other more personal benefits. The desire for recognition for example. The desire to share one’s interests or issues. The desire to break one’s isolation (for remote workers for example). Or the desire to make your ideas heard: in large companies the way to advertise the idea all the way to the top appears close to impossible. Social collaboration tools and working out loud culture can help with that.

  • Use the imitation reflexe

Humans are social creatures, naturally fighting for social acceptance through imitation. In the enterprise context, a user will adopt his manager’s attitude towards a new tool or practice. He can also imitate a peer that he trusts or a peer that receives a visible benefit from his participation. Of course, you do need management’s help to work on this point.

  • Use information consumption

By now, we are used to constant overflow of information in the outside world and are open and eager for information inside the company, which is more scarce and difficult to find. Including relevant information in an easy to find manner in your Intranet would be a great incentive for users to adopt it. Ideally, your company communication would happen there, but also all other internal communication as well as information on collaborative initiatives and company knowledge.

  • Use intimate setting to gradually bring the user in

Your users might be uneasy at the idea of working out loud for the whole company to hear and see. They might feel their contribution does not matter much behind all those loud voices already there. But that can change in a case of a project, a small work group, a close community: a manager or a peer can mention the user for example, directly asking his opinion and valuing it with a like or a comment.

  • Work on your digital user experience

This part is about your tool. We put it last voluntarily. Indeed, a lot of digital transformation champions believe that the key to success lies mostly in their IT project/product/tool. And that is simply not true (see myth N°1).

That being said, it is still very important to adapt your tool to your users usage scenarios and business processes. Once you do that work, it will be easier for your users to work, using your tool. And if they find additional time gains or other benefits while working – you would have won the lasting adoption prize. The overall look, feel and ease of use also help.

Needless to say that your users are what ultimately counts for your adoption. Therefore, the user focus strategy is probably the most rewarding and efficient. However it is also the most difficult and time consuming to put in place.

It needs to be tailored to users subgroups, as business processes, user motivations or user generations can be very different. It also requires strong management support that needs to be worked on and ensured for each subgroup.

Global community management strategy

The community management strategy tries to obtain the same user behaviours as the user focus strategy and uses the same user motivators. But it acts at a community level rather than individual level.

  • Community management – support and animation

It starts with appointing a community manager. The latter does not need to be a communications/marketing person, but often is. The community manager will animate your community – by posting interesting content, sharing information, involving people in conversations, moderating behaviours, trying out games and contests, launching polls and more.

You also need to support your community – that is provide a help desk to deal with usage issues and complaints.

  • Identifying and empowering champions

One active user member (community manager) is not enough to make users imitate the desired behaviours. You need champions that can set an example. You need to try and find one in every significant subset of your workforce – you can use management input or volunteering for that. They can be managers or should be “peers worth imitating”. This condition is important – do not choose the 18 years old intern in a 40 year old average team, no matter how fast he adopts the technology.

Once you have your champions, you empower them – you show them the value of your tools, you train them at using them, you explain the benefits….You win them over to help your cause.

  • Content is king

Information is a powerful incentive to use a tool on a regular basis. Make sure your Intranet is a hub for all relevant and important information within the company. Corporate communications, company knowledge, user contributed content….

  • Community management digital tools

Some intranets embed community management tools such gamification, suggestions of relevant content/people/spaces, analytics, targeted communication.

  • Advertise your successes – big or small

Continually communicate on your successes in order to show examples and incite your users to imitate them.

Private communities focus strategy

Despite the name similarity, private communities focus strategy is not the community management strategy adapted to a smaller size. But it also tries to obtain desired user behaviours using some of the user motivators described in the first strategy.

  • Limit your users to relevant subcommunities and work groups

As mentioned earlier, most users feel uncomfortable at the idea of working out loud at the company scale. But this idea becomes less scary if the size is scaled down. For example, if we tell a user that his team (that sits in the same room) suddenly moves to another city for a year and they need to work using digital tools, he will probably have no issue with the digital change. At least he will try his best to succeed.

In a nutshell, the strategy consist of limiting users to certain contexts and behaviours, instead of opening up a company wide free community. For example, all work groups would be created by an administrator, with people assigned into relevant and familiar work groups and projects. Another example – participating in a group would require at least one members knowing and inviting the person in. The idea is to put users in a comfortable, confidential environment where there is no risk of being judged or of being overheard by a “stranger”.

  • Animate your closed communities

As in the case of a larger community, you need to manage closed subcommunities – moderate access, moderate discussions, etc. But this is usually done directly by the manager as communities are more personal and work oriented.

  • Limit the social noise

Another reason behind the private communities strategy lies with the managers desire to limit social noise as much as possible. As communities are limited by work interests, a user is not spammed with information unrelated to his work – from 10 groups he joined originally by curiosity without thinking about possible noise, from corporate communications, etc.

In case of success, this strategy would lead to adoption at each sub-community or project level. The success would be measured not so much by the general activity as by the work happening and company knowledge contribution through and with the help of your collaboration platform.

Which strategy should you choose?

It depends on your context: that is on your particular challenges and also on your own sensibility and preference.

  • Depending on your challenges

For example, if you anticipate strong user resistance, you will not succeed on global community management alone. On the contrary, if you main challenge is company culture, this is communications work. If managers are reluctant, private communities might be the only way to go.

  • Depending on your preference

Internal communication often drive digital transformation projects around Intranets and collaboration culture. In that case, the primary goal is often communication but in a more modern way. And quite naturally, community management strategy is a natural fit in the sense that it relies a lot on communication and content.

Human resources, on the other hand, are more naturally equipped to focus on the employee experience in the global setting and, hence, user focus strategy.

The IT department, always involved in the digital transformation projects in one way or another, would naturally focus more on the digital user experience.

Private communities strategy might appeal more the HR and the IT departments than the IC department.

But all of the above are approximations that can be very different from one company to another.

Most people adopt a mixture of all three strategies, composing their own.

Comments and ideas are more than welcome!

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I am eXo’s chief operating officer, ultimately responsible for all operations ensuring client acquisition and success. In this blog, I write about modern workplaces and their benefits to organisations and their people. Occasionally, I also blog about my personal areas of interest, such as communication, personal development, work–life balance, sustainability and gender equality.

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