Strategies to ensure effective, ongoing maintenance.
OK, you’ve designed a killer intranet, devised a clever campaign to promote its launch, and put a strategy in place to ensure that your site is optimized for user engagement. Now, it’s time to plot out the best way to maintain the intranet so that it continues to be a relevant and valuable resource for employees.
Because an intranet is not a “set it and forget it” project, you’ll need to commit resources to ensure that the site is updated regularly.
Best practices vary for every organization, but generally, maintaining an intranet involves figuring out how to make sure your site does not end up as a graveyard for out-of-date content. Things to determine include:
- What’s the best way to maintain the intranet?
- How do I keep the site neat and clean?
- What rules should we enact?
- Who is going to manage the upkeep?
- How do we know if the upkeep strategy is working or not?
To shed some light, we turned to Maik Andreas, a consultant at Dresden, Germany-based Communardo, which builds apps for Atlassian products and runs an Atlassian consulting practice, and Arto Kovalainen, Senior Consultant with Helsinki-based Atlassian solutions partner Eficode, who has been building intranets for 15 years.
Andreas recommends thinking of your intranet as a garden—blooming with content that must be tended to and weeded in order to maintain its beauty and functionality. Just like a real garden, your "Confluence garden" will need gardeners to keep it in tip-top shape.
With that in mind, here are three must-dos to master intranet maintenance:
1. Find your Confluence gardeners
Who should be your gardeners? You’re going to want to tap knowledgeable people from the organization’s various business teams to oversee content-management tasks on their specific pages or areas within the intranet.
“It’s smart to have one [gardener] for each space or each specific topic. So, if there’s an area where you have a lot of HR content, it might be the HR manager who is the gardener. Or if it’s all your sales documentation, it might be one of the sales leaders who’s handling that,” Andreas explains.
Gardeners should be in charge of:
- Deleting outdated documents/ topics
- Encouraging other users to create and post only relevant content—so there isn’t as much to remove or update
- Ensuring new content is published according to guidelines for tagging and organization (more on that later)
- If you use Refined: managing their respective corner of your intranet site by keeping links, modules, etc., clean and up to date
Gardeners, he adds, should be power users. “They have to know the structure of the site, the logic of Confluence, and the functionalities of any installed apps they use with the intranet,” Andreas explains.
What’s the best way to facilitate this process? According to Kovalainen, it’s about empowering these administrators—whom, he says, are often the most active intranet contributors—to take ownership of their areas. “The most essential thing for ensuring the upkeep of the intranet is that you define the ownership” of different content spaces, Kovalainen notes.
2. Create a schedule for maintenance/updates
Keep in mind, Andreas notes, that your gardeners are doing this maintenance work on top of their regular jobs, so you need to be realistic about how much time they can commit to intranet upkeep. Putting in place a smart information architecture during your intranet design phase ensures that you have a good baseline for upkeep and will pay dividends during upkeep.
“When [your information architecture] is messy, it makes the gardener’s job harder,” Andreas says.
How often should you expect your gardeners to do an intranet clean-up? Andreas recommends once a month ideally, or once per quarter, if monthly is not feasible. And, he says, it’s not only about deleting old content; it’s crucial to keep the intranet alive through updates such as:
- Fresh content
- New graphics
- New landing pages (*every few years)
“When you make these kinds of changes, users can see that the system is alive. During the summer, for instance, if you’ve got a summer-themed background, they know that’s current and recent,” Andreas explains.
The goal, adds Kovalainen, is to make sure your intranet is not “the imperial crown of information: something that is just there forever and never gets changed or cleaned up.”
Communicating with the users who frequently create content is another helpful way to stick with a schedule that prevents your site from becoming outdated, he notes. “Communicate continuously with your content owners, stakeholders, and most active contributors, and collect feedback from regular users,” about how and when content is ready for a refresh or replacement.
3. Continually review and improve your labeling strategy
The content labeling strategy you use within your intranet plays a key role in how easily users can search for—and ultimately, find—the content they need. The structure and approach for labeling should be set during the site design phase when you’re putting together the information architecture for your intranet.
To review, it’s crucial to make sure that your labels are:
- Clear: They use words and phrases that are common for your company/industry and are easy to understand
- Distinct: Labels that are too similar can easily confuse users
If you’re hearing from users that they have a hard time finding what they need on the intranet, you may need to tweak your labeling approach during the upkeep and maintenance phases. “Sometimes you’ll find that the keywords and labels are just a mess,” Andreas notes. “There may be no real label concept that works and/or no guidelines on how to specifically use the labels or how to use a space, when to create a space, or how to link several topics that belong together.
To combat this, make sure you have a sound and well-documented strategy for labeling and meta data inside Confluence.
Atlassian resources to help you level-up your content management strategy in Confluence:
- Guide to removing, adding, searching for labels in Confluence
- Guide to using labels to organize Confluence pages and attachments
- A guide to using the Page Properties Macro in Confluence Data Center
- A guide to using the Page Properties Macro in Confluence Cloud
For extra help with the labeling and metadata upkeep process, Andreas likes a third-party app called Better Content Archiving for Confluence, which helps to structure and categorize your labels. Kovalainen also recommends the Duplicate Content Defender app which helps to prevent pages or pieces of content being created with the same names.
Maintaining a Confluence intranet with Refined
For intranet managers using Refined and Confluence:
- Delegate admin permissions to your “gardeners” and set up a process for them to be responsible for upkeep.
- Use the Site Builder to include only the spaces/pages that are necessary for your audience. Encourage teams to use spaces outside of Refined for other activity to avoid cluttering the overall experience for users-that way, there is less for your gardeners to properly maintain.
- Keep layouts fresh on key landing pages like site and space homes by experimenting with new modules in the Layout Editor. Integrate Google Analytics to study user behavior, then tweak layouts to help users navigate to the most frequently accessed content.
Journalist-turned-business storyteller Amy Roach is a veteran writer and editor who has contributed to many lifestyle, family, business, trade, and educational publications. Most recently, she served as Managing Editor for New York-based Today Media, a regional magazine group publishing award-winning luxury lifestyle and business magazines. Currently, she runs her own boutique writing firm, providing content, copywriting, and communications services to a wide range of businesses.