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Processes and Productivity

Optimizing an Intranet IA: Validate, Verifiy, Maintain

The success of your intranet is dependant on constant nurturing. This guide will give you the tools to ensure your intranet remains valuable long after launch.

4 minute read
intranet information architecture
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Once you have launched your new intranet Information Architecture (IA) it’s important to continue testing and validating all of your hard work. As your intranet grows, you’ll need to maintain your intranet information architecture to make sure your content remains findable and relevant to your users.

It doesn’t matter how amazing your IA or content at launch is; if you don’t maintain your intranet, the value it provides will decline over time. Often, an intranet will launch with a beautiful, well thought IA, that will degrade over time as content is bolted on without much thought. This continues until the voices of users crying out results in a large-scale IA rebuild, and the process continues again. To avoid this pattern, validating and verifying your intranet is one of the most important, yet underestimated tasks.

Validation and verification are independent procedures that are often used together for checking that a product, service, or system meets requirements and specifications and that it fulfills its intended purpose. Verification denotes precision whereas validation indicates the value of the end or final product.

Both your content and intranet architecture will evolve over time to meet the demands of your users. The IA needs to grow and change as new content is added or removed from the intranet.

Here are some simple validation and verification steps to ensure you are getting the most of your new site:

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1. Review content

One of the biggest concerns with intranets is old, stale, inaccurate content but there are steps you can take to make sure your content stays continuously relevant:

  • Establish an annual cycle of content review, including reviewing the navigation to see where new content will fit.
  • Encourage the deletion or archiving of stale or old content. If your users aren’t accessing certain content or pages, get rid of it.
  • Run a stale content report and obtain statistics about any content or pages that aren’t visited.
  • Similar to a content inventory, you can run a ROT (Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial) analysis on your content and identify what content is redundant, outdated, and trivial (not used).

2. Manage your intranet information architecture

  • When adding a new section of content to your intranet, reach out to users to understand and learn how they may organize the content (consider running a mini card sorting exercise for a single section).
  • Check and verify intranet metrics and anecdotal feedback from intranet users to see if there are any areas that are underperforming. Is there information that people are consistently having trouble finding? Are there sections of the intranet that no one is visiting? If so, it might be a good idea to retest your structure (try using the task testing method) to see if intranet users can still find content easily.
  • We recommend testing your IA every two to three years—more often if your structure has changed radically.

3. Establish a tagging strategy

A tagging strategy will help to ensure that your content is well described so that it’s easily found through search. A tag management tool (available in ThoughtFarmer), makes it easy to review and cleanup tags.

4. Encourage Content Owners

Intranets get stale because often intranet content owners don’t have the time to manage their content. You can help by:

  • Creating standards and guidelines for creating and maintaining content
  • Run reports and send to content owners, highlighting stale or under-used content
  • Establishing intranet review meetings with key content stakeholders
  • Having a clear governance model that outlines who manages different parts of the intranet
  • Having community managers who manage different sections of the intranet to ensure longevity
  • Providing training on writing for the web or using the intranet
  • Providing areas where content owners can share tips and tricks with each other

Final thoughts on intranet information architecture

It’s easy to assume once your intranet software is up and running that your work is done. However, the success of your intranet is dependent on how you maintain your intranet architecture. An effective verification and validation process is critical for long-term success and will help verify that your intranet is built correctly, and is responding to users needs.