It is critical to manage the user experience of the website your employees use daily. You may know it as your intranet, employee portal, internal wiki, etc. But the fundamental challenges remain: to understand your employees, to engage and motivate them, to focus on their top tasks, to support them in key places, to monitor employees’ performance, and to build buy-in. Web professionals need to know how their efforts on the intranet user experience accomplish the organization’s overall goals. Set strategic objectives based on the following critical success factors. Help intranet contributors see how their own objectives work toward them. Start from the five we suggest:
We have tested or observed thousands of tasks on intranets, employee wikis, or staff portals. Together with our Customer Carewords partners, we have a global perspective on intranet success factors. Our articles below will give you tips, principles, best practices, and practical examples to set strategic objectives.
Quantify your top tasks. Do extensive research about top tasks. Get evidence about the tasks most important to your employees. Use facts to counteract opinion and politics. Identify your organization’s unique top tasks, related to your distinctive value, mandate, capabilities, products or services.
Prioritize the very most important tasks. On most intranets these are: find people, forms, procedures. Make sure employees can do these top tasks quickly. If not, stop reading this and go fix them. They are typically the top 30% of the value of an intranet to employees. De-clutter by getting rid of links and content that are less important – and focus your web team on user tasks that matter.
Observe intranet visitors in action. See if employees can do their task in a minute or two. If not, find out why. Don’t start by asking what they think. Observe what they do. Note where they encounter delay, confusion, unexpected results, or wrong turns. Identify the words they are scanning for, what they expect a link to lead to, why a link was hard to notice. Know what paths they take.
Test top tasks with employees. Iteratively mock up and test recommended changes. Improve the rate of task-completion until 90% of employees can complete top tasks.
Gather business context from stakeholders, personally. Watch them do top tasks, in their office or on a screen-share. As they use the website or application, listen for what is important to them and why. These stories can be valuable later as you make the business case for redesign. After modifications, observe them to see if task performance improves.
Optimize your top level pages for the top tasks they serve. Keep down the number of choices you offer visitors as they complete top tasks. Make sure headings, menus, or links contain the words people will notice as they scan.
Make sure links are visible, obvious, and clear. The essence and power of your intranet are hyperlinks.
Help focus on the top tasks by moving other things out of the way.
Reduce the rot. Almost all failure and confusion as users do top tasks is because there is just so much other irrelevant stuff. To quote Gerry McGovern, “The long tail strangles the long neck”.
Once you have identified your visitors’ top tasks, and know where the intranet is working well, monitor problem areas using web analytics. Track top search terms for pages where searchers arrive. Once you have task performance targets, prioritize your efforts by monitoring task-based data from analytics, identifying areas for improvement. Know how to extract task data from web analytics – generic web analytics are typically not designed to monitor user tasks.
Monitor how customer-centric your intranet is. Prioritize where to improve your intranet, for different user segments. Compare progress over time.
Create a top task culture amongst your intranet team and stakeholders. Inch by inch, move the intranet toward a vision that people buy into.
Start by identifying the top tasks where task performance is most in need of improvement, and where the solutions are easiest. This is the low hanging fruit that will allow you to show early success in your approach, and get buy-in for the tougher, more complex improvements to come.
Measure progress by observing user behaviour. Align roles and responsibilities around the user experience.
Develop new skills on your web team, to support employees’ top tasks. It requires a change of mindset from managing web content, or web tools, to managing user tasks instead.
Create a vision for your intranet. Make the vision real by writing stories of the important task-journeys, showing how they contribute to your business. Create buy-in through examples of improved usability, and concrete improvement in work behaviours. Collect examples that demonstrate the intranet value, and the cost of ignoring usability problems.
Tetra Pak in Sweden has successfully applied a task-based management approach to its intranet. Keys to Tetra Pak’s success are: (a) User-centred design; (b) Measurement and clear governance; and (c) Facts, not opinions.
- Example: Interview with Gabriel Olsson, Tetra Pak about Changing Your Intranet
(an excellent 6-minute video)
Build buy-in with steady progress as you improve the user experience of your intranet. Don’t plan grand redesign projects. People naturally resist change to their familiar work tools. But people expect work tools to steadily improve at helping them get work done. Work relies on it.
Employee tasks – not tools, technologies, or content
Don’t let new tools take your eye off the ball. It’s too easy to to get tangled up in the complexities of a new CMS, for example, and lose sight of the goal: to make staff more engaged, more motivated, and more efficient. Tools exist to support tasks. The success of tools, technologies, and content should be measured by how well the employees get work tasks done quickly and accurately.
Technologies come and go, but human behaviour changes more slowly. Top tasks on intranets, employee portals, etc. do not change quickly – they are everyday work. Focus on those tasks rather than competing for attention against the next big thing; e.g. social, apps, the cloud, etc. Employees expect the intranet to help them be efficient and effective at work.
Content is for work, so don’t let content strategies take precedence over tasks. Organize your intranet content around your employees’ tasks, not around your content structure or content taxonomy. Let form follow function.
The first step to take is to understand employees’ behaviour. Set strategic objectives to guide the intranet team and stakeholders:
- Identify employees’ top tasks to help you set priorities and keep from being overwhelmed.
- Support those top tasks in top-level navigation and links.
- Test usability and task performance when it’s difficult to get buy-in for intranet investment.
- Gather evidence to help people change, and to focus budget discussions.
- Build buy-in by fostering a top-task culture, developing new skills on the team, and creating a vision.
Quote of the month
“The Task-Based strategy has been the foundation of our work to successfully develop our intranet. We have used [Gerry McGovern’s] customer-centric approach to improve the ability of our employees to solve frequently performed tasks – in one area more than +50 % improvement was achieved“
Gabriel Olsson, Tetra Pak, e-Communications Director