How to plan and launch a new intranet

So you have a shiny new intranet waiting in the wings, what is the best way to introduce it and get employees excited about the changes you’ve been working so hard on?

I’ve been a fan of the “long wow” approach adopted by Aviva since hearing about it a couple of years ago – that you introduce and incrementally improve it using employee feedback, rather than saying: “ta daa here it is finished.”

For eight years the Intranet Innovation Awards, organised by Step Two Designs, have been celebrating innovation and new thinking demonstrated by intranet teams all over the world.

I’ve featured the competition on my blog a number of times over the years as I’m always curious to see what people are doing, which is one of the reasons I accept invitations to judge industry awards.

Further reading: If you’re new to internal comms and the idea of intranets is new to you, check out my glossary of internal communication terms. P.s. I’ll include links to past articles I’ve published on intranets at the foot of this one to get you up to speed.

Steve BynghallSteve (pictured) is a freelance consultant and writer specialising in intranets, collaboration, the digital workplace and crowdsourcing. Each year he coordinates the awards.

The winning entries reveal the approaches and designs which are critical for a successful and impactful intranet implementation. Here he writes to update us on what’s happening and what trends he’s seeing. Over to you Steve…

How to plan and launch a new intranet

When implementing a new intranet, the accompanying change management effort is critical for success and for driving adoption. This is even more important as the line between intranet, collaboration platform and social network continues to blur and intranets offer employees new ways to work and connect.

In an intranet launch, change management can cover many different aspects, including the specifics of the launch campaign, the positioning of communications, the level of training and support after launch, and the interaction and engagement with employees.

This latter element should start early, even during the design phase of the project.

Involving employees in the design not only helps guides the final outcome but also creates advocates and a sense of ownership among employees. (Tweet this)

IIAChange management emerged as a key theme in this year’s Intranet Innovation Awards. Some of the winning and commended entries show the successful approaches adopted for promoting a leading-edge intranet.

Learn as you go

While large scale intranet implementations need to be well planned, it also helps to be able to absorb lessons learnt along the way.

Launch campaigns and communications can then be refined so they are more effective.

Gold Award winner Coles is a leading Australian retailer with more than 100,000 employees. To support the company’s aspiration to be both Australia’s favourite retailer and employer, they launched a new cloud-based intranet designed for frontline retail staff. The new intranet, mycoles, focuses on communication, HR & benefit information, and process improvement through self-service.

With such a large implementation, the team chose a phased approach to the project which they called “Crawl-Walk-Run”. By launching first at a regional level, then a state and finally a national level, the team were able to hone the design and launch tactics by learning what worked and what didn’t.

They could also establish quick wins early on and ensured that mycoles was “designed by employees for employees.”

The result was a fun and energetic launch campaign which strongly reflected the brand and organisational culture of Coles. The team designed a poster campaign and other marketing materials that emphasised different benefits of using mycoles around an “anytime, anywhere” theme.

There was also a series of celebratory events at stores (lots of cake baking!), and subsequently the intranet launched with a splash.


Above: One of the posters for mycoles based on the Anytime, Anywhere theme. Screenshot appears courtesy of Coles and Step Two Designs.

Leverage the power of peers

Another key tactic for launching an intranet is:

use a network of advocates to act as local champions and experts, promoting the intranet and helping peers get used to the new platform.

This is very important in large organisations where small central teams do not have the power to reach out to all employees, and tailor messages or training accordingly.

Gold Award winner PwC is a network of professional services firms in 157 countries with more than 180,000 employees. To help facilitate collaboration, networking and improve service for global clients, PwC launched a global social intranet called Spark based on Jive.

Launching a platform on that scale and across so many territories was a huge logistical exercise, but the project team showed innovation and ingenuity in implementing Spark. Core to its success has been an advocate strategy which leverages the enthusiasm, energy and local expertise of a global network of advocates.

Picked from every part of PwC and at every level, these employees act as both local champions and trainers, promoting Spark with use cases and terminology that resonates with different roles, functions and locations.

Also when a message is delivered by peers rather than as top-down communication it can have more impact.

Key to ensuring the advocate strategy works was making sure advocates continued to say engaged. The team used a variety of tactics including:

  • A full-time member of staff acts as a community manager
  • Recognition through contests such as an Advocate of the Month
  • Resources, including adaptable slide decks and a central online hub for all things Spark
  • Regular calls with members to foster a sense of community

Ultimately these tactics have worked well, and Spark has been a resounding success, with advocates finding the experience rewarding.

Use imagination in your campaign

With employees being bombarded with so many messages, it also helps if your launch communications stand out. Commended entry PUB (Singapore’s national water agency) used a highly imaginative and humorous themed campaign for the new iteration of the organisation’s intranet, sharOn. This both invited feedback from users and also raised awareness of the new platform.

The campaign was based around sharOn’s imaginary boyfriend wanting to break-up with “her” in the style of a “photo love” story. In response to this situation, sharOn invited advice from users on what she could do to save the relationship – reflected in suggestions for improvements to the platform.

Media used included a video, a blog to keep users updated on developments, posters depicting sharOn’s posts on Facebook about the relationship, intranet banners announcing the split and even a physical “break-up recovery kit” given to users.


Above: A scene from a video about the break-up. Screenshot appears courtesy of PUB and Step Two Designs.

The result is a new intranet which has been designed with input from employees, incorporating a new range of functionality and an improved user experience.

The campaign helped to stimulate and sustain interest in the project.

Want more details and screenshots?
Each year I write the report which details the winning and commended entries. With 17 detailed case studies and hundreds of intranet screenshots, the Intranet Innovation Awards report for 2014 represents great value at little over £50. If you’re planning any intranet improvements, a redesign or just want to spark some ideas, this is an essential read.

Post author: Steve Bynghall.

Thanks very much Steve. Have you got a story to share about your intranet or the work you’re doing in-house on your internal communication? See my guest article guidelines and do get in touch to join the 100+ professional communicators I’ve featured.

Want to read more about intranets? See some of the articles I’ve published on my blog over the past five years below.

What it takes to launch a new intranet conference
A look at intranet innovations
Secrets of award-winning intranets
Up close and personal – the rise of the social intranet
Is intranet news old news?

Don’t forget you can sign up to never miss a post – just pop your email in the box on this page and it will land in your inbox.

Thanks as ever for stopping by,


First published 17 October 2014.

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