I've built it, now how I do I get them to come?
June 9, 2005 7:27 AM   Subscribe

We've just added a new intranet site to our company's suite of communications tools. I've customized the site, added some appropriate materials, and sent invites to some key players across our company. Now what?

We have about 800 computer users in 50 sites in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and we want them to use the intranet site for conferences, discussions, and to share best practices and templates. We'll hold all of our classes and seminars from there, so people will be driven to the site to attend the classes, but how do we get them to contribute, start talking to one another? I think our users may be suffering from new-tool exhaustion, since we just rolled out PCs two years ago, and added several new software options this year, plus they may not understand how it differs from their e-mail or our shared network drive. What have you seen work? What have you seen not work?
posted by pomegranate to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
Were your users involved in building it? Did you ask them what they wanted to use? Did you ask them what they wanted to accomplish? Did you ask them what hindrances they experience in the functions you list? Did you ask them what, if anything, they were already using for the purposes you list? These key players you mention - are they leads or managers or rank-and-file? Do they dig computers? Do they like sharing neat stuff?

What works is giving everyone plenty of warning that a specific kind of change is ahead, and giving at least some people ("hubs," influential people throughout the org - these are your real "key players") a sizable stake in the new system from the get-go. That includes previews and lots of opportunities for input - and then implementing at least some of what they suggest. And before even that, it means a lot of study, interviews, and questionnaires to be sure you know the needs your users actually have.

Every person you want to use this system needs to be able to poke at it a little bit, or hear it explained a little bit, and think, at some point, "Oh yeah, I remember [hearing about|asking for] that." You need to keep your users in the loop before and throughout building it, because after it's "done" is not the time to be realizing they can't tell the difference between the intranet and their email.
posted by caitlinb at 8:08 AM on June 9, 2005

Well, the fundamental issue is always that usage is going to be directly driven by how much people _need_ to use it, not how much they should or could. I've led the development of lots and lots of intranet projects--both internal projects for where I worked, and for clients--and one thing I've learned is that large-scale adoption of any feature is driven by pent-up demand, not by potential benefits. In all my experience, I don't think I've ever seen "inviting" people to use a new intranet actually work. (Although it was what I did for quite a while before things really started sinking in. Ah, the starry-eyed optimism of the 90s.)

I'm not trying to be negative, but just pointing out that if you want to drive usage, you've got to identify the biggest "pain points" that it addresses, and make sure people know about it. Presenting all the cool new features, that let them do things they'd never done before, just isn't likely to change behavior. (Especially in the group you're talking about.) You need to identify the biggest, _existing_ problems that it helps to solve, and promote it as a way to help deal with them.

If you can't identify a set of existing problems that it clearly addresses, then you need to scale down your short-term expectations, and defer any idea of large-scale adoption until you can follow caitlinb's advice and roll out a set of features they're really eager to see.
posted by LairBob at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2005

Hello Mefi readers of the future. To get the intranet up and running, we involved several key decision-makers and got them excited about it, then moved lots of customer-specific info to the site. We helped it along with lots of other initiatives and it's doing great, people are using it all the time.
posted by pomegranate at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2005

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