What Functionality and Content Should I add to my Intranet: Part 8: Practice Group/Admin Dept – Internal Users

This is Part 8 of the “What Functionality and Content Should I Add to My Intranet” series.  To view previous parts of the series, click on Series link listed under pages on the right or use the link in the first sentence.

In my last post, I covered law firm intranet content for administrative department pages.  This part of the series will focus on content for internal users of practice group and administrative department pages.  The next post – Part 9 will focus on Research Pages/Portals.

Goals & Intended Outcomes

In a business focused on making money, the creation of an intranet should be based on a goal to increase productivity while decreasing or containing expenses with the outcome of improving revenue.  To reach that goal, the intranet’s functionality and content improves:

  • Business processes
  • Communication
  • Information access

and, in the end, delivery of services to clients.

Strategy

To date, the strategy for the creation of intranets in law firms has generally been focused on firm-wide initiatives that will make those improvements (e.g., supporting new client/matter intake).  Administrative department pages went a step further in marketing their services/support to the rest of the firm.  In recent years, some firms have begun to work more on practice pages but, in many cases, their focus has been on the marketing of practice groups/areas to the firm.  

To be clear, our strategies have focused on communication and have dabbled with improving business processes and  information access but we have a way to go.  To achieve the goal  described above, firms and their intranet teams will need to focus on processes, communication and information used by internal members of each practice group and administrative department. 

In a sense, what is needed is an intranet within an intranet. 

Outcomes

What would that look like?  Here are some ideas in the case of an admin department, let’s say IT.

 Click on image to view it in a larger format.

In this example, I created a wire frame (using IntranetFactory Modeler – a free SharePoint tool) that included links to other pages, links to bookmarks, the latest posts of an internal blog (internal to IT), announcements, and the IT calendar.  The links to other pages include some that need no explanation – policies, procedures, projects, and others that may not be so easy to determine the content. 

The Network, Help  Desk and App Support team pages are used by those teams to support their work.  As an example, the following image of the Help Desk Team Page, has the same navigation as the IT Department home page as well as a quick launch web part to give team members quick access to their most often used web apps, the help desk request que, a chart with the % of open requests by priority,  and frequently asked questions the team receives.  If you were able to scroll down, you would also see a web part for the teams knowledge base.

Click on image to view it in a larger format.

While this is an example of an administrative departments internal pages, it should give you an idea of what to include on practice pages as well.  Anything the practice group, area, team, etc.  thinks would support its work or requests during your user needs assessment.  For example, a practice area page might include:

Contacts, projects, forms, most often used DMS documents by practice area members, open matters, calendar, who’s an expert in what, etc.  Anything that is important to the practice area (within reason). 

A caveat:  If you get requests for content/functionality that may be used by other departments, groups, etc., you have a decision to make.  Do you treat it as a one-off or do you take a step back and decide if what they are asking for might be a firm-wide, office-wide, etc. initiative.  If you have a strategy in place regarding how this will be handled before it comes up, the decision and how you communicate it back to the group will be much easier.  If you went one step further during planning and conducted a thorough user needs assessment before starting to code, you would have fewer decisions altogether. 

NOTE:  IntranetFactory looks like an interesting product.  The modeler is offered at no charge along with a lite version of a product called SharePoint Works which IntranetFactory says can convert the wire frame into a SharePoint site.  A more full featured commercial version of Works is available as well, along with a commercial version that includes all of the products.

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