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Intranet Implementation Tips

April 27, 2001
Related Topics: Intranets/Extranets, Featured Article
Six general guidelines from the Mayo Clinic's experience in getting anintranet in place:

  1. Know the business reason for your company's intranet.

    If there is no real business need for an intranet, the effort will notreceive management support or funding and will eventually lead to adisappointing failure. This may appear to be stating the obvious, but a commonmistake is to jump on the intranet bandwagon with no overriding businessnecessity.

    The lesson is to clearly state the goals of developing the intranet and keepthose goals business-related and realistic. For example, "to becomepaperless" is not a realistic goal for many companies, especially if thereare employees who don't have computer access.

    At Mayo we support two systems -- one electronic and one paper. The biggesthindrance to becoming paperless has been that 60 percent of Mayo's workforcedoes not have computer access. The organization has used kiosks, but withlimited success. Management now realizes that some processes may always needpaper, but the volume of it can be significantly reduced. One exception is aWeb-based class registration system that completely eliminated paperregistrations. However, IVR and e-mail registrations supplement the Web system.

    In addition to being "business focused," effecting cost savings maynot be realistic in many cases. Initially, Mayo Web teams were confident thatthey could realize a large ROI from the Web investment, especially after readingsuccess stories in industry journals. However, this never materialized, largelydue to unrealistic expectations.

    After reading Robert Buchanan and Charles Lukaszewski's book, Measuring theImpact of Your Web Site, teams could quantify costs. Surprisingly, by using costavoidance measures, Mayo is starting to see intranet cost savings come true. Theintranet has found its financial value via cost savings through efficiency andemployee self-reliance.

  2. Gain the support of key people in the organization. Show them how they canbenefit from technology by controlling content.

    When implementing any new technology, the right people must be selected forthe design phase. Subject matter experts (SMEs) usually know the types ofinformation to include. These people need to be teamed with technology expertsto suggest ways to provide this information online. The SME needs to feel incontrol of the content and the technology expert is simply the facilitator.

    Responding to the SMEs needs (e.g., reducing frequent employee inquiries)ensures that the intranet will gain the support of key people. This support, inturn, results in a significant time and cost savings for the HR staff such asreducing phone calls and e-mails.

  3. Form a steering group to foster communications and add direction.

    SMEs need to have ownership of the site for it to be successful. Groupmembers need to work together to determine what should be offered, rememberingboth the department's needs and its customers as well. Good communication amonggroup members, management and customers is essential. Group work impliescompromise and members need to understand that some of their ideas will not bechosen. Real benefit comes from consensus and group ownership of what goes ontothe intranet.

  4. Start with some easy winners, and then expand to the more complex.

    A common mistake is trying to do too much too soon. Start slowly and getcomfortable with the tools that you have to ensure long-term success. Teammembers need to constantly seek direction from users regarding what they wantmost while remembering that everyone's needs will not be met. Job postings werestarted with static pages and manual processes.

    These processes were automated and are now database-driven. HR gave employeesthe information they wanted, which drew people to the site. Over time, HRdeveloped techniques to save time and effort and more complicated workflowapplications can now be addressed.

    The Web has the potential to save time for internal staff, too. Starting witha simple process that helps eliminate paper can result in an early win. Withrelative ease, existing paper forms can be made "electronic." Fromthese forms, the next logical step is to design interfaces directly into yourHRIS, a much more complex process, but with huge potential for timesavings.

  5. Build interactivity.

    Michael Burgoon, in his writings on human communications, states that mostpeople are "reading-resistant," meaning that although they can read,they don't want to, because reading requires some work on their part that theywould prefer to avoid. Practically speaking, this means that developers need tobuild benefits into the site that make employees want to investigate, probe, andexperiment and learn.

    For example, Mayo's intranet can "model" W-4 wage statements ondeductions so employees can experiment and see the effect that exemption changeswill have on one's paycheck. "Ask HR" allows employees to sendquestions directly to human resources.

  6. Recognize that a dedicated staff of employees is needed to support thesite.

    The intranet may not lead to a staff reduction; in fact, organizations mayneed to add staff. However, the intranet should help employees become moreeffective and save companies money. Human resource departments have the coreknowledge, but with the ever-changing technology, can't be both HR specialistsand technology experts. Staff with Internet development experience needs to behired.

    One way to supplement technical knowledge while new staff is being trained isto use interns to do site programming. Students bring technical competence andnew ideas, but often don't understand the company's business needs or corporateculture. Interns should be paired with experienced staff members who can mentorthem and create a win-win partnership between their technical knowledge and thecompany's business needs.

  7. By Jay Fernández, an IT liaison in the HR department at Mayo, and Dr. Bijoy K. Khandheria, a cardiologist who chairs Mayo's information and technology group. Mr. Khandheria can be reached at From IHRIM's "e-Work Architect: How HR Leads the Way Using theInternet."

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