Essential Intranets by James Robertson: Essential reading for intranet planning and design

Best practices, recommendations, and examples from leading intranets by a leading intranet expert

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Essential Intranets by the always brilliant James Robertson to review.  If he hadn't given it to me, I would have bought a copy, and you should too, because this book is a must read for intranet designers and the executives who sponsor intranet projects!

The book recognizes that though intranets have been around for a long time, designing and maintaining great intranets is still challenging. James approaches this challenge by taking my favorite approach to solution design: focusing on the business outcomes intranets enable. The purpose of the book is to "inspire and inform." James talks about the full breadth of the outcomes intranets can and should enable for the organization. Thus, the book shifts the discussion about intranets from that of features and purposes to a broader and more holistic evaluation of what intranets can truly do. In fact, the chapter organization of the book is by business objective, which is a great reason to share the book with your C-suite executives.

What makes this book a particularly engaging read is that it is structured to be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be read cover to cover, as I did, or easily skimmed using the very helpful summaries included with every section. The summaries include page references to where details are discussed and also to pages where a wealth of screen shot examples are included to demonstrate and visualize each point so you can easily figure out where you might want to do a deeper dive. The examples came largely from the winners of the Intranet Innovation Awards that James' firm, Step Two Designs, sponsors, so they are both vetted and recognized as achieving the represented outcome. You won't want to copy them verbatim, but they will definitely inspire you to think about what might work in your organization.

But, as brilliant as James is, he had some pretty impressive help in creating this book. As part of the writing process, he engaged the intranet practitioner community to provide an advisory panel to review the draft chapters. When you read this book, you will benefit from their input as well as James' years of experience designing intranets that work. Of course I think everyone should buy a copy of Essential SharePoint 2013, but while you are online, you should also pick up a copy of Essential Intranets as a perfect companion!

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