Build on Your Intranet, Always

At City of Malmö we try to build in small iterations, we prefer to deliver consecutive improvements rather than big bang, “all at once” projects. This way, the intranet team is running less risk of ulcers — pressing the GO button is not so dangerous.

But another great effect of the iterative approach is that it is easier to speak about the intranet, how it continuously is getting better and to get into a positive spiral regarding the communication efforts. In my experience the organization’s perception of the intranet has a good chance of getting better and better with the iterative approach.

Two different approaches to development.
Two different approaches to development.
How the communication focus and perception of the work done tend to become.
How the communication focus and perception of the work done tend to become.

Big-bang projects also tend to be intensive work for 12-18 months, and then left without care. I have just read the excellent book Digital Adaptation by Paul Boag, who calls this “the boom-bust cycle”:

The boom-bust cycle is one of periodic investment. A website receives funding for a finite redesign project, and then is left to decay for a number of years, before another major redesign. This means that for a significant portion of its life, the website is actually more of an embarrassment than it is effective.

Digital Adaptation, Paul Boag, p. 133.

Iterative development should be continuously ongoing. The intranet is not something an intranet team can fix once and for all. It should be a living and always evolving place for employee support and efficiency in the organization, not unlike a garden. Seth Gordon puts it elegantly:

Great projects start out feeling like buildings. There are architects, materials, staff, rigid timelines, permits, engineers, a structure.

It works or it doesn’t.

Build something that doesn’t fall down. On time.

But in fact, great projects, like great careers and relationships that last, are gardens. They are tended, they shift, they grow. They endure over time, gaining a personality and reflecting their environment. When something dies or fades away, we prune, replant and grow again.

Perfection and polish aren’t nearly as important as good light, good drainage and a passionate gardener.

By all means, build. But don’t finish. Don’t walk away.

Seth Gordon, Gardens, not buildings.


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