Conducting audits of several SharePoint intranets inspired me to design a list of much-needed intranet best practices for law firms, about which I blogged here. Now, being in the pre-design strategy and planning phases of two large firm intranets, I realize that I stopped short at 7. Two more best practices have surfaced (suggested by clients and CGS, a technology company) that are equally critical to usability and long-term success.
Intranet best practice #8 is integration. Law firms have numerous systems and databases that lawyers access on a daily basis. Give users a single point of entry to their workplace tools and programs. Use dashboards for their: personal billing statistics (YTD productivity data – aging A/R, realization, originations if tracked, how lawyers are tracking against their monthly goals); and documents (recently edited, recently opened). Integrate your website, experience database, CRM and other content-rich tools. This is not a focus on technology – rather, it's focusing on how lawyers work.
Integration must be mapped and planned so usability isn't sacrificed either at launch or as your intranet grows.
Intranet best practice #9 is governance. Every intranet should have a content/design governance structure and plan. Without discipline and guidelines, the intranet can quickly become amoebic, growing into an unrecognizable mass (or mess) without structure and form. Invariably, a person will need to be the arbiter of disagreements about content and design. Here is a good governance structure: users >> content contributors >> content managers >> governing board. The contributors, managers and board should meet before launch to establish the governance and vibrancy plan, then quarterly to ensure that the intranet's integrity is preserved.
A final note about content governance. I received advice years ago about buying clothes and adding to my closet. I often don't embrace this good counsel, but I still believe in its efficacy. Don't add one new thing to my wardrobe unless I eliminate one thing. The same goes for content on your intranet. Content expires (just like the floral dress from two Springs ago), and it drags down the relevancy of the rest of your site if it's left to languish. The second that lawyers view your intranet as irrelevant, it's over — it's extraordinarily difficult to regain lawyers' trust that you aren't wasting their time.