The purpose of the intranet is to keep your staff better briefed and better prepared.
by Wedge Black
Is your intranet ‘business critical’? I didn’t quite understand this term when I started my corporate career. I was working on a billion pound project, and my director told me that whenever I rang IT (to get our laptops or QuickPlace fixed) I should say it was ‘business critical’ in order to encourage the IT people to help us quickly.
It think the term really means that something is crucial for our commercial success. I definitely played fast and loose with the term back in the day.
Nowadays, I think of the business critical intranet as being wholly necessary to the workings and processes of an organisation's purpose. If an organisation cannot create results (for stakeholders and customers) then it cannot ‘do business’.
Your intranet does not have to be business critical in order to impact your business. The business impact (the impact on your organisation’s work and results) might well be about the bottom line - profit, but may be about other important factors, like time to market, innovation (R&D), and knowledge and asset management (you don’t want to have to search for days for that million pound patent).
With this in mind, I asked several close contacts for their thoughts on how a good intranet impacts business.
Speed of collaboration and cost savings
“A collaboration platform can really impact the way a business operates. The way communication flows through the business and the speed at which you can work will dramatically change if you embrace the technology.
“From a financial perspective you can easily demonstrate cost savings against workarounds people are using and if you use a tool that is adaptable you will stop the need for additional spend in the future. Ensuring people have access to the right information, quickly, on a variety of platforms will have an impact but everyone has to embrace it for to really show benefits.” - Jenni Field, Communications Director of Perrigo.
Getting things done
“To me the biggest impact of intranets is that when they are done well they improve the employee experience. They make it easier to get things done in the workplace and facilitate richer collaboration. This is hard to quantify as ROI, but freeing people up to focus on the work at the heart of their job is what matters most.” - Sam Marshall, of ClearBox Consulting.
“Well designed and managed intranets can have the same impact on a business's efficiency as email brought in the nineties. Failing to invest in intranets now is like continuing to send paper memos around the office back then.” - John Scott of Content Formula.
Common employee space
“I can't imagine working inside an organisation that didn't have an intranet. Of course intranets come in all shapes and sizes, some don't even look like intranets, but when people need to work together they instinctively know they need a common space. But it's not just about efficiency; a good intranet should help to create social capital too. The effectiveness of that common space is critical and I don't think it's a coincidence to find that dysfunctional organisations also have terrible intranets.” - James Dellow, of ChiefTech.
“Intranets are a hugely valuable way organisations can harness the knowledge of their employees, improve engagement, increase efficiency and ultimately impact the bottom line.
“From sharing surplus equipment to suggesting ways to improve processes through ideas schemes, engaging employees through their digital workspace can help unlock hidden value throughout the enterprise and achieve considerable cost savings.” - Paul Zimmerman, of Invotra.
Other orgs share your pain
We have to consider the business impact of our intranets, enterprise social networks, and digital collaboration tools as we’re still challenged to prove the ROI, as if there’s some financial benefit to scanning paper into emails and CCing a dozen team mates.
There’s a certain banality to intranets, as there is with HR self-serve systems and the finance system - but I also think multi-way comms and collaboration enabled by any social intranet is still exciting and worth getting right. This is the decade of user research, rather than expert assumption, and so there’s a huge wealth of guidance and DIY advice available to help organisations of every size work towards ‘digital transformation’ (another term I play fast and loose with).
The Intranet Now conference (30th Sept, London) brings practitioners from across the UK and Europe (and James Dellow from Australia) and I'm incredulously pleased that my career in intranets has somehow created an annual conference that attracts so many of my intranet heroes and brands I want to learn from.
Our theme this year, is indeed, ‘business impact’ and each of the 28 presentations will give you insights and nuggets of actionable ideas to help you improve your use of your intranet, internal social networks, and digital comms channels.
Wedge Black is a communications and intranet consultant and co-organiser of the Intranet Now event.
Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr.