Sticky Intranet - How NOT To Create One

Flickr: Mike Riversdale - follow the birdI was talking with a fellow "intranet person" quite some months ago and she was describing how she was endeavouring to make her Intranet a "sticky place". By that she meant that it was somewhere where her companies staff would want to go and stay. Her ideas included topical polls, use of cartoons (no doubt copyright laden Dilbert) and social connectors such as a "buy/sell bulletin board".

I told her that I thought that the idea was fundamentally flawed (I think the word I actually used was "crap").

I explained that she was viewing her Intranet through the classic metrics of 'page hits', 'bounce rates' and 'time on page' which works well if your site (be it Intranet or Internet) is one of dispensing information that must (MUST) be read, internally digested and acted upon. Within most companies there is very little that can truly be said to be of such importance ... no, really, ask your staff what they really think of the latest update to the Workplace Safety Policy!

Oh, and if you're using your Intranet as an electronic workplace manual (policy, procedures, steps ...) then may I suggest you create a separate and targetted web-based application for such activites. One that stops being an "online book" and one that allows people to ask questions and get answers!

Most information on company Intranets are of fleeting interest to the majority of staff - fleeting in time and mostly fleeting in relavancy. Adding fluff to the content in a vain attempt to garnering interest is not an approach I would advocate  - if there's currently no interest from the staff TURN IT OFF! Hell, you'll save in electricity costs if nothing else.

However, there is a deeper issue with this approach. If the Intranet is viewed as a website to be consumed such as the BBC, Wikipedia, LOLCatz or any other "information based" site then it will only live up to a part of it's potential. An Intranet (or any other computer system within an organisation) has to be useful. It has to answer staff questions, supplying them with information, give them the tools for them to do their day-to-day jobs and actually be a place within which the business of the business occurs. Reading is only a part of being "useful".

We need Intranets that are:
  • Useful
  • Places to work in 
  • Replacements for/links together the disparate "collaboration" spaces we currently have
We also need a new name for "Intranet" :-)

Do we have the technical tools to provide this? Yes, we've got Google Apps, Microsoft Sharepoint, HyperOffice, Alfresco and Atlassian as well as a whole host of bolt-your-own approaches from the open source communities such as Mediawiki, 
And this is by no means a finite list - check out:

But the technology is NOT the issue, we are.
If we, Intranet-type people, define ourselves as those that deliver "read-only" systems and not "somewhere useful to do the day-to-day work" we will never deliver to our fellow staff the same benefits that the consumer web is daily handing out to everyone else worldwide.

So, was I being too harsh on my colleague ... what would you have said to her?

* Picture is a vain attempt to denote "useful", *ahem*. From maupuia on Flickr

Comments

  1. I agree - intranets are places people usually want to find information as intutively and quickly as possible so they can get on with their actual job. For entertainment there's the Web, TV, radio and wait for it... hanging out with real people.

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  2. Yep we tried it an turned it off. Used Joomla to do it. What I think is that you need to combine it with all the other resources the company has including CRM, support systems, sales management etc. You also have to foster it very early (read startup phase) otherwise is it damn difficult to get going. Same too for IM and other social tools

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