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Coronavirus and lockdown: GovIntranet users react fast

In times of crisis, communications and guidance content on the intranet needs to work well. People need to know what to do and how to do it.

After lockdown was announced, I was pleased to discover that all my clients could access their intranets from outside their office workplaces.

For some, this was business as usual; for others this required a rapid response to setup a VPN and install software.

In times of crisis, communications and guidance content on the intranet needs to work well. People need to know what to do and how to do it. During the initial weeks of the lockdown, I watched from afar as intranet managers handled their coronavirus communications and guidance.

The seasoned comms professionals had got a handle on the situation straight off the mark, creating guidance sections on their intranets and clearly communicating this to staff. The most important information was in pole position on the homepage, showing top tasks with straightforward and concise guidance. In a fast-changing landscape, it was clear what information was new and what had changed.

At the top of the intranet homepage, this simple widget provides easy access to important pages.

But other intranets struggled.

On one intranet there was absolutely nothing about coronavirus; while on others I spotted copious news articles, all titled ‘Coronavirus update’.

Another intranet displayed adverts that disappear once clicked.
Hint: crisis communications is not a marketing exercise.

On one intranet I tried to find information about setting up IT equipment to work from home…

Nothing on the homepage.
I look for the IT section in a long dropdown menu of ‘useful links’.
Do I want ‘IT Security and Compliance’, ‘IT Service Delivery’ or ‘IT Solution Delivery’? Hmmm. Do I want a service or a solution??
I opt for IT Service Delivery hoping to find some guidance there.
Half the page is taken up with ‘Welcome!, who we are and what we do’ vanity publishing.
I discover a list of PDF documents at the bottom of the page including the ‘IT Service Delivery organisation structure powerpoint’, the ‘IT acceptable use Policy’, the ‘Information Security Policy’ and even the ‘IT Service Delivery ToR’. That’s terms of reference, right? Or a dark web browser?
Nothing helpful here.
I search ‘work from home’.
Top results are ‘Office 365 FAQs’, ‘Dealing with an FOI request’ and ‘Skype for Business’. I click the first result, knowing that I’m wasting my time. Sure enough, a mile long list of questions and answers, years old and not relevant to the current situation.
At this point I give up.

This is a prime example of a ‘tick-box’ intranet. A storage facility for documents that have been approved, signed-off, given a new version number and added to the stack of existing documents.

Since helping clients to manage communicating the logistics of lockdown and working from home, support requests started coming in with queries for how to keep staff engaged and in touch.

A good proportion of clients don’t use social platforms such as Yammer and so we’ve been busy creating new templates and giving advice on how to do this in GovIntranet. Leslie at Agento has been building photo and video gallery templates for clients solidly over the past few weeks, and the requests keep coming in.

We’ve seen photo galleries themed around:

  • The home office
  • Pets at home
  • The tree I can see from my window
  • Indoor plants

We’ve seen blog posts covering:

  • How to cope with working alone
  • How to cope with working surrounded by the kids
  • How to stay in touch with colleagues
  • How to balance work and personal life
  • Recipes for cooking at home

As ways of working have changed, I’ve witnessed intranets changing too. It’s been rewarding to hear that some intranet managers have been praised by the top dogs for the work that they’ve done on their intranets to keep staff informed and engaged during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the owner of a small business, I’m grateful that we’re able to continue in business, working from home, without having to furlough employees. And I’m proud that our product, GovIntranet, is earning its place as an effective and adaptable intranet CMS for the civil servants and public sector workers that we support – including front line workers in the NHS.

The article image is a closeup of my new ‘Dwarf Elephant Ear’. I have sadly accepted that all the plants in the office are now probably withered beyond hope of revival and am now obsessed by filling up the home with indoor plants.

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