How do I spring-clean my intranet?

springcleaning2In my last post, I mentioned why it is important to review and remove your intranet content on a regular basis. This time I will share some guidelines on how to organize and execute a cleanup action.
There are systems that automatically send messages to content owners if their content expires.If the owner does not respond in time the content will be hidden, archived and/or deleted. There is an Information Management option in SharePoint for instance, which may be depending on your implementation – I have seen it in on-premise SP2007 but not in online SP2010.  But in many organizations this is not (yet) automated, or not for all types of content. So I thought I’d share my experiences on this topic dear to my heart.
What do you need?
  • Usage statistics, such as visitors of certain content, an overview of publishers, list of sites and their last change date etc. If this is your first time, collect everything you can find. You will learn what is useful and what not, and what you are missing.
  • A document retention policy. This is essential in determining what really must be kept, such as contracts and dossiers. Your Legal, Communication or Archive Department will be able to help you with this.
  • Criteria. What is an “old or unused group”? One that has not been used for more than 2 years or do you think that 6 months is already long enough to qualify? (Most organizations work with 6-12 months).  And does “used” mean that someone has visited the site or that content has been published?
    You may set different criteria for different types of content. A blog with the latest post from 3 months ago may be more outdated than a list of company policies that has not been changed for 6 months.
  • Objectives. How much “ROT” (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial) content do you allow? How much content do you want to remove? And “As much as we can” is also a valid objective!
  • Time. It takes really a few weeks (lead time) to do this, certainly if this is your first time and you will have to create the complete procedure as well.
  • Help content for your content owners: how to archive content, how to remove users, how to delete a site.
What are you going to do?
  1. Analyze your data and statistics.
    How many team sites, working groups, pages do you have? How many have not been used for more than 1 year? Do you spot content owners who have left? Do you still miss data and statistics that you can find somewhere?
  2. Set priorities and targets.
    Is only 1% of your documents older than 1 year, then you can focus on another area. Does your list of publishers contain 50% people who are no longer with your organization, you may want to start there! Once again, you will learn what your weakest spots are after a few of these exercises.
  3. Create an action plan.
    How will you communicate your cleaning plan? How long do people get to take action? When are you going to actively delete content? How aggressive are you going to be? If this is your first time, you may want to be a little “sweeter” than when you are doing this for the third year in a row. By then we had found out that a slightly more aggressive approach resulted in more content being deleted. “We are going to hide your blog from April 15,  and remove it on April 30,  unless you let us know why you want to keep this blog”  has been more effective than “would you please inform us if this blog still used?”
  4. Execute your action plan.
    Assuming you will do most of your content owner communication by email, you will receive out-of-offices of publishers who have left your organization, are on sabbatical or with maternity leave. You will have to search for back-up content owners. There will be questions about what exactly should be stored, how you can delete or archive information, who is the successor or how you can remove content from being indexed in search. Be prepared and keep some slack in your planning for unexpected things. Also see this as an opportunity to connect with existing and new content owners.
  5. Evaluate, learn and celebrate.
    What went well and what could be improved next time? Do you want to make adjustments to your criteria, targets or action plan for next time? Where are you going to store your communication so you do not have to re-invent the wheel next time?
    How much content have you been able to remove? Did you meet your targets?  This is a nice example of another succesful cleaning action.
    Are you going to communicate the results and to whom?
  6. Plan your next cleanup action now!
Obviously, the criteria, priorities and targets are specific for each intranet, but I hope these tips are useful to get you started. And as with everything, you will learn by doing!
If you have your own good story on this topic, please share!
Image courtesy of scottchan at

4 thoughts on “How do I spring-clean my intranet?

  1. Pingback: Intranet Lounge
  2. stefan July 9, 2014 / 5:31 pm

    Good article but what about tips on creating an action plan? Would you have a step-by-step action plan to suggest? How do you rally content owners to join forces in a corporate-wide initiative and how do you track progress?

    • Ellen van Aken July 10, 2014 / 11:19 am

      Hi Stefan, I thought I had already done that by explaining all the steps, but I guess I missed that specific part. Great idea, and I will see what I can do. Mind you, this is mostly an effort by the intranet management team, because many content owners are not interested at all, but it would make sense to make it into something “fun” rather than into something “has to be done”. As for progress, we simply exported all sites into an Excel and then marked each line with a different colour for “keep”, “change owner”, “delete” etc. And when we were done we calculated the results. Nothing fancy – but perhaps it could be made into something more useful and attractive. Thank you for the idea!

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