A 2×4 Intranet Strategy: Delivering a Corporate Intranet in only 4 months

I was recently asked by a risk adverse organsisation to come up with a strategy for implementing their intranet in less than 6 months. Looming at the end of the financial year was the renewal of their content management system which they they simply did not want to renew if they could possibly avoid it. The goal, therefore, was to reinvent their intranet with the following scope, prior to the end of the financial year.

Some intranet gurus would suggest that an intranet implementation takes 6 months to plan and 6 months to implement. After learning Agile methods my experience now suggests that this approach is very wasteful. You *can* definitely deliver and end-to-end intranet project in only 4 months. The secret is leveraging both user-centred design (no surprises there) and Scrum for its execution and using Prince2 to govern it.

The Scope

  • Migrate content: Content migration usually represents the largest part of the project and its highest risk. To lessen its impact, only the elements of highest-value, highest current usage were being migrated. This is likely to actually represent 10% of the total amount of content in the intranet. It’s highly likely that much of the rest of the content is not current, is of poor quality and requires rework anyway. After the 4 Sprints of work, should there be any content that was of high value, it was to be assessed then.
  • New governance: Create both strategic and operational models embedded with continuous improvement processes to assure content quality.
  • New taxonomy: A task-based content classification scheme and associated navigation design was required, moving away from the corporate and functional classification scheme that currently existed.
  • New CMS: Ensure that the CMS fit with the enterprise architecture of the organisation, and integrate it with Active Directory so that single sign-on is enabled.
  • Search: Index and content and produce a rank-based search result with a mental model that mirrored Google.
  • Social: Enable comments, sharing, liking, discussions and intertwine the activity with search results, personal pages and a reputation system. Personalise the results and interaction design to increase the value of content and the overall intranet to its users.

The 2×4 Strategy

Scrum is the critical part of enabling the project to be completed within 4 months:

  • 4 months — 4 sprints each of one month (4 weeks/20 days each)
  • 2 streams of scope — while the entire scope goes into the Product Backlog, the scope is virtually separated into two parts to communicate to the organisation. One stream of work is dedicated to content and its migration, while the other stream focuses on the technical-side of the implementation of the intranet.

Even with two streams of work, only one Scrum Team is used:

  • The client as the Product Owner (with the Scrum Master acting as the coach should they have no experience with Scrum)
  • One Scrum Master with Information Design/User-Experience skills
  • A Team consisting of 2 analysts and 2 developers with testing experience

Governance

Prince2 is used as the overarching project control mechanism. A fairly normal governance model should be chosen, with the Product Owner taking on what would normally be some of the Project Managers roles.

Prince2 + Scrum Governance Framework. Click to enlarge.
Prince2 + Scrum Governance Framework (click to enlarge)

Reporting

Reporting and documentation are allocated to the Team to produce during their Sprint.

Project controls & tollerances

Scrum’s rule of 3 — 3 roles, 3 products and 3 ceremonies — are perfect project controls because of the way they seek to actively mitigate risk through ensuring a high-level of transparency. To support this, specific agreed tollerances are also needed:

  • 15% tolerance for variation in Product estimation of complexity for items between Sprints.
  • 15% tolerance for variation of completion rate (Burndown) of Products.
  • 15% tolerance for variation in total items in the Product Backlog.

This choice enables the Team to learn from their estimations but if they are unable to adequately do so over a period of time to seek assistance from the Project Board.

Planning

Each Sprint of one month has 2 whole days of planning built in. The Team and the Product Owner discuss the scope, its preferred order of delivery, and the Team works out what they can deliver. This planning process is repeated at the beginning of each and every Sprint.

Up-front Design

Unless some design was carried out during the ideation phase on which the Business Case was based, no up-front design needs to be carried out. It will be done by the Team based on what they commit to delivering in the Sprint in parallel with testing and development

Testing

There is no separate testing phase. Testing is done within the Sprint so that all the products developed are production ready by the end of the Sprint. Automated testing tools are critical to ensure that the Team can work quickly as the longer the project continues, the more code there is to do regression testing against, the longer it will take to test.

The execution

In essence, the scope is executed by the Team in the following order. An efficient Scrum Team will burn-through the scope at a quicker rate than is listed here.

Month 1

  • Install the baseline the CMS, security model, points of integration with other systems (e.g. Active Directory)
  • Engage the business to create governance frameworks and create their taxonomy for content
  • Add a BA to the Team to add governance expertise to take care of the governance and associated requirements

Month 2

  • Create the information architecture
  • Baseline the user-experience
  • Implement content workflows and workflow around
  • Classify and migrate only the high-value content
  • Add a resource or two to migrate the content manually (given its now only high-value content it can be done by hand in about a week)

You could deploy the intranet at this stage to users and then ‘build around’ users from Sprints 3 and onward.

Month 3

  • Add activity-centred interaction design, along with alerts and syndication mechanisms
  • Add business intelligence tools and reporting so that content owners can understand how their content is being used and when it needs improving

Month 4

  • Customise search to adhere to take full advantage of the content and social activity
  • Add a resource who specialises in search and the search engine chosen to get the best out of it
  • Customise the search screens
  • Customise the home page and landing pages to take account of users’ activity and the content they find interesting

Conclusions

The 2×4 strategy works very well at demonstrating progress to the organisation each month, with an initial production deployment possible after the first two Sprints (2 months). The trick is to fully leverage Scrum, its roles, responsibilities, and its methodology.

M

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