Intranet Purpose Statement & Straw Dog Iteration

THIS IS PART 4 OF THE SharePoint in Practice BOOK SERIES, continued from PART 3.

Portal Purpose Statement

The first task for the newly formed Design Team is to state the purpose of the corporate portal.

What business problems are we trying to solve? These may already be stated and available as part of a project definition, project charter, or employee satisfaction survey. If not, define them with your team now. These problem statements will feed the purpose statement used in design, development, project management, and all communications.

From previous projects, here are some examples of business problems to be solved:

  • Staff struggle with and are frustrated by current systems.Example Portal Purpose Statement
  • Staff can’t find the information they need to do their jobs.
  • Company appears old-fashioned or unprofessional because the portal is outdated or nonexistent.
  • Staff waste time recreating information rather than finding what has already been created and re-using it.
  • Old technology no longer serves users’ needs.
  • Old technology is no longer supported by the vendor.
  • People in different locations are working well together but don’t really know each other.

Straw Dog Iteration

As per TIKI guideline #2, Iterate, the best way to support and utilize the Design Team is using a straw dog (or straw man) approach.

With the straw dog approach we first build a quick, rough draft, and then allow people to criticize and question that draft, before a lot of effort has been expended. Rather than starting with a blank whiteboard, the straw dog gives your team a starting point and a better sense of the goal. This approach has been labeled pretotyping (, and it can be a very powerful technique.

For example, apply the straw dog approach to develop the Portal Purpose Statement. It would be easy to spend a lot of valuable time with 10 people “wordsmithing.” To shortcut that process, create an initial statement that people can examine, judge, and question. This will create a huge step toward agreement. Start with a statement like the one drafted in the box above, tweak it to fit your needs, and present it for people to criticize and refine.
Sometimes an initial purpose statement is accepted and finalized very quickly, and other times more time and effort are required to refine the exact wording. In the latter situation, when you seem to be “writing by committee” and the energy in the room starts to drag, then table it, saying, “Please think about this, and we’ll revisit it when we meet again in two weeks. In the meantime, feel free to email me with any ideas or thoughts you may have.”

Occams razor for simplicity

TO BE CONTINUED…In this series, we are posting and expanding on the concepts in the SharePoint in Practice book. This is the second instalment of Chapter 3. Up next is the all-important DESIGN DOCUMENT that guides all aspects of our design &  development.

Please weigh in: Do these concepts make sense to you? What are we missing? From your experience, what challenges and success strategies can you share?