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Why training needs the intranet
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pixel.gif (807 bytes) How to build the training intranet
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AN INTRANET IS a communication tool, like print, the phone, e-mail and fax. It is not a software application. For this reason, it is a bad mistake to allow your intranet to be dominated by your IT department. They will have a very valuable role to play in providing the technical infrastructure and ensuring the smooth running of the system, but they are not the best people to determine the design architecture and certainly not the content.

To be fair, most intranets are set up by IT and then handed over to HR, Internal Communications or Marketing to manage. Hopefully a steering group will be set up to represent the interests of the various content providers and training must be represented here.

In the early stages, there will be a lot of work to do in planning the training contribution to the intranet, designing the training site and populating it with content. The great danger is to believe that the work is now done. An intranet is not a one-off exercise – if it is not continuously maintained, evaluated and enhanced, users will lose interest and it will certainly die.

The labour necessary to keep the intranet going should be no more than is needed for current systems – in practice, there should be savings. But for this to be the case, the intranet must replace what you have now, not supplement it and this requires some important decisions to be made. This is where the training department’s expertise in change management should prove invaluable – the intranet can not just be imposed upon people, it must belong to everyone.

We are already seeing second-generation intranets and these are characterised by the degree of automation applied to the process of providing content. The traditional approach to building web sites by hand-crafting pages in the web’s own HTML format is unnecessarily labour-intensive. New tools are available to allow HTML pages to be automatically generated by databases, which in themselves are simply maintained using on-line forms. This is where your IT department can really earn its crust. If you are being asked to train up half your department in web design, then this is the time to ask IT some serious questions.

Unless you’ve been brought up with on-line information systems, an intranet will take some getting used to. You can not simply apply the techniques used to produce paper documents to the screen. The good news is that an intranet is technically really quite simple – certainly to the extent that you need to be involved with it – and that means that you should soon be able to take the initiative in managing its future. The trainer’s analytical, design and presentational skills will undoubtedly prove invaluable to the organisation in ensuring that the intranet works for you and your customers.

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