Saturday, September 28, 2019

Creating an Organization's Intranet

If one of the key requirements for critical thinking is access to content, your organization should create a knowledge base. This will enable the people in the organization to think critically about services offered. Don't let your fear of critical thinking, giving your team members the ability to edit content stop you from creating an organization knowledge base.

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We've come a long way from the intranets that no employee could modify or change. I always thought having an internal website, not viewable by customers or those served by an organization, was a great idea. The problem is, my early experience with an organizational intranet involved a place only a few people in positions of institutional authority could add stuff. They were too afraid, or didn't know how, to share control with the peons of the organizations, the rank-n-file. Of course, I fell into the latter group.

Why Knowledge Management?

There are lots of benefits for knowledge management sites. I share some of those in my TCEA TechNotes article, Tips for CTOs on Knowledge Management, as well as my workshop materials.

Mariya Thomas makes these points about the importance of an intranet site, or knowledge base:
Every Company needs a collective and centralized working environment to meet the end goals in a synchronized manner. Intranet simply takes care of all these areas with desirable outcomes. An intranet is a private network exclusively for the employees of a company. In companies, a whole lot of information and services are handled and delivered by these employees. so an intranet software provides a centralized common space for them to work with one another towards meeting the common goals. Let’s see how intranet enables companies to facilitate all these aspects.
She also points out that such a site also accomplishes the following (quoted from her comment here):

  1. Brings People together: an interconnection between the employees, groups, and departments of an organization to coexist and contribute towards achieving the goals.
  2. Proper Communication: a safe environment for employees to communicate and share The information and strategies with one another through chats, emails or blogs.
  3. Stable collaboration: duties, ideas, and modifications are brought to the tables and executed in real time.
  4. Saves Money and Time: duties are completed on a priority basis with convenience and fewer distractions. as the documents are in digital formats, it saves a lot of money on printing, duplicating and storing of information. 
  5. Increased Employee Engagement: The effort and ideas of each employee are very well acknowledged. so they feel valued and appreciated for their contributions.
  6. Increased productivity: Employees get immediate updates on various things. they can simply locate information and implement necessary actions to them quickly. this can expedite overall workflow, as a result, the productivity is improved in a big way.

I have found each of these points to be accurate. When a supervisor or boss complains about intranet websites, knowledge bases, it may be because they are afraid of digging beneath the veneer of their company culture. For me, that makes it clear that there should be a knowledge management/base website, if only as a protection for employees who want to bring light to the dark "policies" that are unspoken law. Micromanaging bosses will eschew KM, but that's not the kind of boss you want to be, is it?

While that sounds ominous, it can be fun to clarify procedures and processes. This makes employee onboarding so much easier and provides a knowledge base they can refer to. Each team member assumes responsibility for maintaining a portion of it. No one is so fanatical about updating something they have ownership of.

My First Collaborative Intranet

When I became a director in a large urban school district, one of my first acts was to leverage my knowledge of wikis. I had attended a session with David Warlick at TCEA's TEC-SIG annual meeting during the TCEA Convention and Exposition. I noticed he kept his materials in an easy to organize PmWiki. It appears that PmWiki is still maintained (way to go, Dr. Michaud) and available at no charge.
Screenshot of a PmWiki site I used for document management

About My Solutions for Knowledge Management

PmWiki became my tool of choice since it didn't involve a MySQL database in the background. You could drop a series of PHP files on a server, and voila, there you went. I became quite comfortable adding content to PmWiki. In fact, it became my go to tool when I needed a Knowledge Management site (a.k.a. intranet site) for my District's Instructional Technology Services department (of which I was the director).

Later, I relied on PmWiki for document management for various initiatives since there was no other easy way to get files from people and control access to certain resources. This was pre-G Suite EDU and Microsoft Sharepoint was a behemoth you wanted to avoid rather than whatever it is now (e.g. OneDrive had a different name and wasn't rolled out entirely or accessible).

Visit the Past

In time, I transitioned from PmWiki to other wiki solutions to house content, such as PBWorks wikis.Hard to believe, but you can still find some of my work and that of my team online at PBworks. In time, I switched to a more modern solution.

More Modern Solutions

When I switched districts, becoming a technology director, I noticed that there was no online space that reflected the policies, procedures and ways of getting work done. When someone left, all their institutional knowledge walked out the door with them. This was bad, especially in technology, when your network engineer walked with critical passwords, deadlines to update, processes for updating firewalls, etc. Many districts have implemented knowledge bases, relying on pre-existing systems. Some items are open, others are closed.

I relied on the new Google Sites and limited access Google Drive files in my most recent posting. Other districts rely on Microsoft OneNote. You can find a nice breakdown, including examples of both, in my session resources.

New Solutions for Knowledge Base Creation

If you don't want to use a no-cost solution to create your knowledge base, there are MANY solutions that can be adapted for school district use. I strongly encourage you, no matter what your role in the organization, to create a knowledge management site for yourself to capture processes, procedures for yourself.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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