How to Hire a Digital Workplace Consultant

A digital workplace is a complex environment, often with dozens or hundreds of digital tools. A digital workplace or intranet consultant can help you navigate the digital workplace and find success.
Great digital workplaces are rarely built solely in-house. There’s too much at stake and the digital workplace is too often a political juggling act, with far too many tools and moving parts.

The average intranet redesign takes 12 to 18 months (sometimes more) -- far too much work for even two or three full-time employees. So, a complete digital workplace makeover could take years. A non-partisan digital workplace consultant or intranet agency can be the difference between failure and success.

There are advantages to doing it yourself:
  • Costs less (less external expense)
  • Internal stakeholders are forced to own their intranet (learn the ropes)
  • Internal jobs are reinforced

The disadvantages of doing it yourself are obvious:
  • Lack of skill and experience
  • Lack of people to execute
  • Lack of time
  • Internal politics and competing priorities / vision
  • Time away from day-to-day work
Firstly, lets again define the digital workplace:

"The digital workplace is how people get work done these days – using the sum total of all digital tools used in the workplace, including the intranet."

In fact, we've all had a digital workplace for decades. Any combination of 'digital' tools or apps represents the digital workplace. So, the digital workplace is nothing new. The name is somewhat new, and digital workplace consultants are more so.

The intranet and the digital workplace go hand-in-hand; the best intranets are those that not only inform employees, and help them accomplish work, but serve as effective gateways to all their digital workplace tools.


The greatest barrier to any intranet or digital workplace's potential is politics.The digital workplace can be a political football. Technology and budget are secondary barriers.

Let's face it, the digital workplace has a lot of owners: there are a lot of digital tools, and each have owners (usually in IT or HR). So, the intranet, as a gateway to the digital workplace, is valuable commodity that many want to own, but perhaps should only be truly owned by one person or group (often corporate communications).

Digital workplace consultant

Most intranets don’t grab the attention of executives. Many view it as a cost center, or simply have bigger priorities, or just don't care. The intranet is often left to middle managers in communications and IT with limited budget and power. Conflict often ensues over who owns it, and how it should be improved, and eventually the intranet or the whole digital workplace stalls or fails completely.

Resolving conflict and breaking the subsequent limbo requires senior management support and participation. Where politics runs thick, a collaborative or hybrid governance model is strongly urged.

Tearing down the political barrier often requires a third-party consultant with lots of expertise (and no political axe to grind), but an arsenal full of best practices. If IT leads the process, the other stakeholders may be suspicious. Nor does IT alone have the full range of business skills and specialty skills that are required and are often found in HR and communications. If budget allows, everyone respects an experienced and capable mediator. Enter the digital workplace consultant.


Building or redesigning a digital workplace or intranet requires a lot of work. It can take months or years. It usually is a massive undertaking requiring many disciplines, outcomes, and people.

An intranet requires:
  • Employee input (research)
  • Executive engagement
  • Best practices intelligence (benchmarking)
  • Business requirements analysis and documentation
  • Strategic planning (mission, objective, goals, KPIs)
  • Functional planning (structure, content, etc.)
  • Governance and an management modelling
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Business case and ROI
  • Content
  • Content management & migration
  • Information architecture
  • User Experience (Design)
  • Tools and applications (social, collaboration, business)
  • Staffing
  • Software (and hardware or cloud hosting)
  • Technology implementation and administration
  • Network and database administration
  • Application integration
  • Etc.
Hiring an intranet or digital workplace consultant will free-up the necessary time to stay on top of the day-to-day - content, daily news, communications, new feature and application rollouts, etc.
Finally, does your team have the skills? Have they ever developed a governance model, an editorial policy, or an AD integration plan?

How to hire an intranet consultant

If you have a budget and a work culture that recognizes the value of an outside expert then proceed with caution. Caution: an Internet consultant is not a digital workplace consultant. A web design firm has deep creative skills, and IT skills, but rarely has any business acumen and intranet or enterprise technology expertise. A big-five consulting firm has very smart people but is very expensive.

What to look for in an intranet expert:
  • Client case studies
  • Detailed biographies with demonstrated project experience
  • Experienced individuals that will be assigned to your project
  • Client references with names and numbers (not just unnamed anonymous testimonials)
  • Detailed pricing
  • Corporate strength and documented financial viability
  • Proven and detailed project methodologies

Be cautious if a consultant only has:
  • Screenshots and mock-ups
  • One or two paragraph bios that focus on favorite movies and hobbies with a cute or too-cool-for-school photos
  • People on a list in some far-flung office that won’t actually be working on your project
  • Unnamed and anonymous testimonials
  • Vague pricing ‘guess-timates’
  • Tiny shops with no documented financials (P&L)
  • VARs that are focused on selling you a specific technology solution, instead of remaining open-minded and business focused

Identifying the right digital workplace consultant

The best digital workplace consultants have deep experience with the intranet, enterprise technology, and business acumen and experience with HR, IT and corporate communications departments. Often a very strong intranet consultant can stand in for a more rounded digital workplace consultant.

Prepare a thorough and detailed RFP (request for proposal). Invite companies that have proven experience and case studies. If you don’t know one then look for a recommendation:
  • Ask a leading company or partner
  • Sniff around your local trade associations like IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) or PRS (Public Relations Societies)
  • Phone your IT analyst at Garner or Forrester
  • Google the phrase "digital workplace consultant" and “intranet consultant” or “intranet consulting”

The RFP responses from any intranet consulting firm should contain the following:
  • Services and consulting history and overview
  • Detailed client case studies
  • Line by line details of every process and deliverable
  • Solution functional specifications
  • Consulting, licensing (if applicable) AND implementation costs
  • Project team resumes, skills overview & experience
  • Client references and contact information
  • Detailed timeline and schedules
  • Ongoing service & support commitment
  • Solution technical specifications (if applicable)
  • Product demonstration (if applicable)

A final word

Google before you hire a particular digital workplace or intranet consultant or intranet consulting firm. I’m a little bias because I write a lot, have the top blog dedicated to intranets and speak at a lot of conferences, but I like to see for myself the ‘thought leadership’ credentials of the consultant. A great digital workplace or intranet consultant is not only experienced, but a leader with published credentials to support it.

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