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Purpose to channel to reactions to metrics to actionalable insights

It can be tempting to focus intranet measurement on just basic web metrics, using these statistics for justification of an approach and reporting purposes only. But the real value comes from using the metrics to judge whether you’ve achieved your goals, and for continuous improvement.

In the two most recent research reports published by DWG, there is a key underlying theme that runs throughout. This is a theme that addresses an area that many have reported difficulties with: demonstrating value.

Why are so many struggling with this? We all intrinsically know the benefits of having an effective intranet and of having good internal communications. However, when it comes to assessing whether or not we’re actually achieving those benefits, many fail.

A considerable chunk of the answer to this question lies in our approach to the metrics themselves. To become masters of the data available to us, we need to be:

  1. Using it as a way of deriving insights into whether or not we’re achieving our goals.
  2. Looking for areas where we can improve our approach in order to maximize our desired benefits.

Rooting “value” in clear goals

In our “Successful social intranets” report, published May 2014, we found that one of the difficulties that teams were coming up against was the need to demonstrate a financial ROI of their efforts. A key insight emerged from the research:

Demonstrating value of a social intranet needs to be rooted in its purpose and the business requirements it is supporting

Whilst the focus of the paper was on social intranets, this lesson applies equally to more traditional platforms. The key takeaway is to root your definition of “value” – and the metrics being used to measure value – in clear business goals.

Using metrics to assess whether you’re achieving your goals

The relay baton for this theme was picked up by Chris Tubbs in his report “Measuring internal communications”, a taster of which was given in his blogpost “Don’t get drunk on cheap intranet statistics”. Expanding on the messages provided in “Successful social intranets”, Chris reveals an essential lesson:

“Measurement should provide insight, not justification.”

If we unpick this statement, we arrive at one of the difficulties of using metrics to demonstrate value: many use basic web metrics as a way of providing simple reporting, to show how well their intranet is performing in a vacuum from the wider goals they’re seeking to achieve.

This level of reporting will typically focus on units of measurement such as comments, page views and “likes”. A focus on these metrics will often lead to declarations such as “Our intranet is doing really well! We receive x number of page hits per month, and x number of comments on our articles!”

Measuring internal communciations - metricsWhilst it is important to know whether or not your intranet is being used, statements such as this do not help us answer the question of whether or not we’ve achieved our business goals.

Ultimately, the number of page hits you receive is just data, with no context as to the meaning of that data.

To truly get value from your metrics you therefore need to go one step further than this: you need to “level up”.

And the step above basic web metrics is to combine them with other metrics and analysis in order to derive actionable insights into the effectiveness of your approaches for achieving your desired goals.

Deriving actionable insights from intranet metrics

One of the reasons it is so easy to fall into this trap is because intranet data is relatively easy to collect. What is difficult is using them as a clear indicator as to whether or not we’ve achieved our objectives, and to gain insights into the reasons behind any successes or failures.

Here’s an illustrative example:
  • Purpose / benefit: You want to improve employee satisfaction and engagement by increasing feelings of openness and trust. You want to increase engagement with your CEO’s blog.
  • Channel selection: You decide that the CEO’s internal blog is the most direct channel. You review the content she’s publishing and give her some tips to make the posts more compelling. You also implement an email newsletter sharing the latest posts across the organization.
  • Proxy metrics: A month later, you see that there have been 3 blog posts and 10 comments. There have been 5,000 views of the blog, an increase on the previous month.

At first glance, it may seem that the fledgling programme isn’t doing too badly. However, you then dig a little deeper. None of those new views originated from the newsletter. Three of those comments are asking when the next pizza day is going to be, on a post that had nothing to do with the company cafeteria. And it turns out that most employees still don’t feel comfortable commenting on the CEO’s blog.

This is where the importance of actionable insights come in. Why didn’t the newsletter lead to increased views? What was the sentiment of the comments made, and the reasons behind those sentiments?

In order to answer those questions, you need to go beyond those basic units of intranet measurement; they are only proxies that we use as indicators of the deeper insights we’re actually interested in. Those insights can be arrived at through a number of tactics.

These tactics can include surveys, focus groups and interviews related to the broader business objectives.

The CEO’s blog itself can be the focus of these activities too, as well as qualitative analysis of comments on the blog. The important thing is to see beyond the basic data generated by the digital footprints your audience has left, to try and understand the behaviours you’ve seen.

Metrics as part of a cyclical process of improvement

Here’s another theme that we’ve touched on before: the idea of “rinse and repeat”.

With a clearly defined goal and a wealth of actionable insights at your fingertips, you now need to act on them. This is where the true value of metrics comes into play: using the conclusions you’ve drawn to improve your approach to achieving your goal.

This then becomes part of an ongoing process of monitoring the effectiveness of your efforts for specific goals, and using the data available to you to constantly improve those efforts based on the insights you’re deriving.

What does this process look like? Here’s a worked through example:

Purpose to channel to reactions to metrics to actionalable insights

To summarize, the five basic steps required to make your internal communications metrics on the intranet truly useful are:

  1. Start with clear business objectives and focused purpose
  2. Identify outcome metrics related to those objectives
  3. Identify the most effective internal communications channels for the purpose
  4. Tie together relevant intranet metrics to your outcome metrics
  5. Analyse, learn, rinse and repeat.

Finessing your approach to metrics and dropping it into this broader process of insight and improvement is therefore essential for making sure you’re measuring your intranet for the right reasons. Take your approach to data to the next level; don’t stop at the metrics.


Related research

Measuring Internal Communications

Measuring Internal CommunicationsTargeted metrics that demonstrate impact

Even with social intranet metrics like “number of comments per news article”, quantifying the impact of internal communications via the intranet can be challenging.

“Vanity metrics” sound good, but “a page view is not an idea understood, a behaviour changed or a user engaged.”

This report explains how to tie intranet statistics to targeted outcomes for internal communications.

Free executive summary


See Also

About the author

Shimrit Janes, Community Manager and Researcher for the Digital Workplace Group (DWG)Shimrit Janes is the Director of Knowledge at the Digital Workplace Group. Shimrit is responsible for driving the research, knowledge and content agendas for DWG’s new arm dedicated to non-profits and governmental organizations: Digital Nations Group (DNG).

Connect with Shimrit on Twitter: @shimi_j or Google +.

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