Our intranet—six guiding principles, pt2

As we develop our intranet, we have six principles that we follow. If we live according to them, we think we are more likely to provide the right content, tools, news items, and services to the organization.

This is part 2 about our guiding principles. Part 1 discussed the first three, #1 Bottom up, #2 More than news and 3# Fix the tool time. Now it is time for the rest of them.


#4 Work in iterations
Back in 2008-2009 we remade the external web www.malmo.se. This was a huge, 18 month long project with many parts: new graphic design, new content, new content structure, new e-services (apply for different kinds of municipal service, register things directly on the web and so on) and some new internal tools for driving the web and handling citizens applications generated on the web.

We were able to launch the new malmo.se Nov 9, 2009, with most of the planned components, but the journey was a hard one. The sub-projects run parallel and everything had a nasty habit of getting in place in the last minute. Nov 9, 2009, was a rather dangerous day, when a lot of things was changed on our web and deeper down in the technical infrastructure. On top of this, the first 17 months of the project was hard to communicate and promote — because we really did not have anything tangible to show.

Working in iterations vs. Big Bang development.

Today, when we develop the intranet, we try to work in smaller iterations. We start small and short projects and we work to deliver some new functionality for the end user each quarter.

This makes it easier to communicate about and promote the intranet: “Now we have a better intranet”, “Now the intranet has a new tool to help you in your work”, “Now the intranet has gotten better — again!”. Working in iterations also sends the message that the intranet already is a good tool we are building additional functionality on — there is no need for throwing everything out and start all over again.

This way we get an “upward spiral” in the communication and the general opinion that the intranet is always getting better. (And of course we also get the general opinion that the intranet team is efficient and constantly delivers — important for getting development funds and necessary top management decisions.)

Below an example of the iterative development of the masthead.

Our intranet Jan 1, 2010...
...Oct 1, 2010...
...Feb 1, 2011...
...May 1, 2011...
...and the masthead as it will be May 15, 2012, when we launch the dashboard "My page".


#5 Four types of content
An intranet with only news is not enough. And just the basic rules, procedures and decisions in the organization is not enough content. Actually you need to have four types of content.

Four types of content.

Base content
The content that describes how the organization works. Usually static or almost static content on CMS-generated pages, in a structure organized according to categorization (global-local) and/or segmentation (business unit, job role, geographic location).

The content that describes “what is different today”. Information about new rules, changes in the way the organization works, if a system is down for maintenance in the afternoon and so on. Of course there is also room for an occasional news piece with some pictures from the latest department party, but the really important news is the “need to know” news, the information you need in order to “survive” your working day.

The intranet also need to have tools. You should be able to book a meeting room, apply for leave, order things and do other simple, ordinary work day things directly on the intranet. The employee should not feel that these things force you to leave the intranet and enter other systems. Furthermore, the intranet should be the “gate” to all other systems in the organization — the intranet should offer links to all the tools that are not directly integrated.

In order to be perceived as a modern intranet, there must also be collaboration tools integrated in the intranet. Blogs, forums, project rooms, areas for sharing documents, thoughts and links and so on. (We believe that a modern intranet also should be able to show activity streams from other business systems and from outside, for example twitter hashtags). And this content should ideally mix with the other kinds of content described above.


#6 Support employees’ communities
Our last guiding principle in the City of Malmö, but perhaps the most important, is to support the employees’ “communities” in his/her work day.

Every employee in the City of Malmö is surrounded by a lot of colleagues (I have 19.999 other persons around me), but every colleague is not as important to listen to. One could think that the ones important to listen to differs from person to person, but actually it is possible to construct a general model of communication applicable on every single employee. And this is a good thing for the intranet.

A general model of communication in the City of Malmö.

a) Your own manager is the most important manager for you to listen to, it is also very likely that you are working closely with your colleagues in the local unit. Your own unit is more important than all other units. Therefore “My local unit” is an important community for the intranet to show to you, because this gives you support.

b) Every employee in the City of Malmö is also employed by a business unit, (you could see them as subsidiaries, they have their own top managements, administration units and so on). An employee’s own business unit is the most important, more important than every other business unit in the organization. Therefore “My business unit” is something the intranet should give you quick access to.

c) You also have a profession, you are the expert on something. In order to be efficient you have to have an experts support. An HR officer need 200 pages about HR issues, a very detailed account of “how HR works” in the City of Malmö. On the other hand, I, an information officer, need 200 pages about communications. The intranet must support you in your job role.

d) Every employee also need information from the top management and the global administration in the organization. This global content, “we”, relevant for all, must be accessible on the intranet.

These communities are paramount for each employee. Every person need to be connected to these communities in order to do a good job and be efficient in the working day. And the intranet is the primary tool for resolving this.

Here is another way to show this model of communication:

Model of communication, onion model.

Guiding principle #1 speaks about bottom up, about putting Anna employee in focus. The “onion” model above puts Anna, every employee, in the center and the communities around her. The black arrow illustrates that Anna is constantly moving between her different communities during her work day. This model, reshaped into an intranet, is what Anna need in order to be efficient.

And this is exactly what we try to deliver in the City of Malmö. Look at the tabs in the picture below. From left “My page” (coming May 15), “My business unit”, “My job role”. After that “Our municipality”, the global content. “HRutan” is the embryo to “My employment”.

Later this year we hope to launch the tab “My unit” between My page and My business unit.

The masthead with the intranet top level navigation.


Bottom up, More than news, Fix the tool time, Work in iterations, Four types of content and Support employees’ communities — these are our six guiding principles. If we adhere to them we believe we will deliver an intranet that gives support and raises the efficiency in the City of Malmö.


4 thoughts on “Our intranet—six guiding principles, pt2

  1. Great stuff Jesper. Thanks for sharing.

    Interestingly, I have been working with a model for our future intranet and it looks an awful lot like the one you describe as your 5th principle, although I have divided Collaboration into “Collaboration” and “Connection” to make it more visible that we need new ways for finding colleagues and to surface relevant competences + knowledge. In my opinion this goes beyond collaboration.

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