Intranet launch strategies: an idiot’s guide

Maybe you’ve got a new boss determined to make their mark or you’ve got an intranet platform that was coded by Noah? Whatever the reason, at some point in your intranet career, you’re bound to be involved in a big intranet re-launch. Towards the end of the project, when you’re all exhausted, creativity diminished and you’re considering alternative careers, you’ll no doubt decide on your launch strategy. To help you on the way, here are some ideas tried, tested (or at the very least, collected) by the Intranetizen team.

Launch Strategies

So how will you launch? Here are a few strategies that we’ve seen used.

The Mystery Launch — Shut the old one down and tell employees something new is coming, but don’t provide any details as to what it is. You can then launch the new intranet to gasps of awe and wonder. This strategy can work nicely when you need some flexibility over launch date but as intranets are increasingly digital workspaces, your employees may find the lack of access to key tools frustrating.

The Stealth LaunchYour mission is to upgrade the back-end and ensure that not one employee notices. This strategy is particularly useful for technical content management system updates where you don’t wish to upgrade the UI immediately. SharePoint users take note.

The Viral Launch — Set a new intranet up and run it along side the existing platform. Then sit back and hope word of mouth brings employees over from the dark side. To execute this strategy well, you’ll need to have a back up plan if they don’t switch. You’ll also need a retirement plan for the old site and be prepared to double-publish content

The Big Bang Launch — Talk to your employees about what’s coming to their new intranet from the moment you finalise the scope. Ensure that you signpost the new intranet at every opportunity to build the hype so employees get <sarcasm alert>tremendously excited by what’s about to happen</sa>. Whilst this serves to build interest, this launch strategy can make managing expectation tremendously difficult. If scope or time slips occur, you’ll be left with egg on your face.

Launch the project not product  — If you’ve caught this post in time, consider launching the idea of a new intranet at the concept stage, long before you actually have the new platform in place.   Getting people engaged and involved in your new intranet from the earliest stages will not only mean that they are more likely to adopt and benefit from the new Intranet, but will mean your project has a much higher chance of succeeding and your project costs likely far lower.

Launch Collateral

Now that you’ve agreed the broad launch strategy, you need to consider the materials you’ll need to assist. Here are a few ideas for launch collateral.

Launch video — Tried and tested launch material, so if you’re looking for inspiration, see Ellen Van Aken’s excellent collection. The obvious downsides are costs and timings: Intranets often don’t look finished until the day before launch but your video will have to be prepared weeks in advance. It’s for this reason that many launch videos use stylized graphical representations or provide just a sneak view of the site as a teaser.

Competition Prizes — Competitions for launch are remarkably common and pretty effective ways of building interest and driving adoption. Consider these ideas:

  • Naming the intranet
  • First, 100th, 1000th user
  • Treasure hunts where you encourage people to dig around the site on a hunt for information.

Launch Day Ambassadors — Identify a group of experts, champions or ambassadors for the new site and give them t-shirts for launch day. Employees often find it reassuring to be able to easily identify people that can help them quickly. Cheap and pretty efffective. Make sure the back of the t-shirt has the helpdesk number!

Screensavers — Work with your IT team to change the screensaver to direct people towards the new intranet. Whilst this is a cheap option, remember that most people don’t ever sit and watch their own (or someone else’s) screensaver so it’s best used as part of a suite of tools.

Branded ‘stuff’ — Bespoke stationery like notepads, mousemats and pens with the intranet name, logo and URL on them are a great way to get the word out. But also consider quirky apparel like flip-flops, bow-ties or beanie hats -anything that gets people talking.

Printed Materials — Posters, flyers, z-cards, FAQs, How-Tos all work! However, as businesses increasingly focus on corporate responsibility, is all this throw away paper a sensible approach? We also wonder about the mixed messages of advertising a digital platform using traditional communication channels.

Digital Collateral — Email or SMS your employees to let them know about the site. If you’re using email, develop a template that mirrors the branding and look and feel of your new intranet to give an instant visual identifier. Be careful in your use of SMS if you don’t have a mobile intranet as it may just highlight what’s missing.

Cake — Who doesn’t like cake? Victoria Sponge + your intranet URL = tasty, tempting intranet tease.

Roadshow — This is particularly effective in non-digital workplaces such as factories or distribution environments. Not everyone has a computer or mobile so showing what the site can do and inviting people to get hands-on via a roadshow can help.

Choosing the right approach

When it comes to picking the right launch strategy be sure you’re addressing the needs of your unique situation – not just copying “that cheesy video you saw Jon play at that conference”.

Think about the perception and use of your current intranet.

Do you already have good adoption?

  • If  you do there should be little need to spend on printed materials. Utilise the strength of the platform you have to make people aware of what the new intranet will do
  • If you don’t then creating some hype and excitement with a ‘mystery launch’ and promoting heavily offline will work well

What is the perception of the current intranet?

  • If perception is poor then launching the project or doing a viral campaign might really help
  • If people like the intranet they have already, then more effort may be needed to get them to move. Videos and printed materials that demonstrate the benefits to them might help, but perhaps a ‘big bang’ approach where you remove the old intranet will be most effective

What are your main concerns as an Intranet team?

  • Are you worried most about user adoption? Consider the viral approach or force people to move with a big bang
  • Are you worried about the technology or that the design might not quite be right? A stealthy approach will work here, giving you time to address any issues before too many people are put off

Launch then long wow

We have long advocated the idea that your intranet should not be subject to stop-start development pushes, but rather should have a series of incremental small updates that serve to maintain employee interest in the site. This ‘long wow’ approach is also likely easier for your IT teams. Whatever you’re launching, be it a minor update or a big refresh, we hope these ideas have been useful.

Did you nod along to this post and think ‘Oh, I could do that!’ or did you shake your head and say ‘That would never fly in my organisation!’? We’ll admit we just scratched the surface on ways to launch your intranet. Some work and some do not. In a few weeks we will be following up with another post on the realities of launching the intranet and the effects of these strategies in the real world.

What have you tried? Share your launch ideas in the comments and let us know what worked or what didn’t.


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  1. Ellen van Aken

    You’d be surprised at how well printed material can work. When launching a minisite for a particular business the owner decided to use a glossy, branded brochure to explain the different items in the site. I laughed, telling him it was not a good idea to communicate something digital with something oldfashioned. The brochure was a big hit – years later I still saw it in offices across the world. People loved it for its design and found it helpful as well. Strange but true!

  2. Chris Charlwood

    I’ve found that giving employees interactive feedback tools such as “Most Popular Resources”, or user survey’s gives a boost to intranet interest and use. Also, the more pictures the better. Intranets are all about people, so getting your employees uploading photos is key to getting it used. What is the most common use of an intranet? Typically, it is looking up a co-worker’s email or phone #… that’s really it. Making a great employee directory or search function will do wonders…

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