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Thanks for visiting the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) website. You'll see this post may refer to the "Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF)," the "Digital Workplace Forum (DWF)" or "IBF Live." But that doesn't match our website name!

In a nutshell, we merged IBF and DWF into one service and changed our name to "Digital Workplace Group." The new name represents the broader set of services we've grown to offer, beyond an original focus on just intranets. We also changed the name of our monthly webinar from "IBF Live" to "Digital Workplace Live."

Although we've relabelled things, we're proud of our decade+ history and have left this page intact. Enjoy your time on our site and please contact us with any questions or comments.

One of the things we ask in an IBF Benchmarking exercise is how well connected the intranet team is to its users. The best companies have feedback tools on the intranet, work closely with the IT helpdesk and with the publisher community to listen to what users want.

However, this doesn’t mean you always get good advice by listening to what users say. There are potential limitations such as:

  • Users tend to ask just for incremental improvements to what they already know
  • Comments may be from a vocal minority and not be representative of what most people need
  • Often people can’t visualise the hypothetical scenarios accurately and have rose-tinted expectations (see, for example, the earlier post on this blog "Can’t we have an intranet search engine like Google?")
  • The request may be at odds with your organisation’s strategy

For example, a commonly heard message when talking to users about  information-seeking is that most people say they would prefer to ask a colleague than search a system such as an intranet. This has been shown  even as far back as Tom Allen’s work in 1977 (pdf).

However, if you dig deeper, this doesn’t appear to be true of all situations. Older generations may have an ingrained expectation that databases rarely have the right answer because they used to require complex search syntax; teenagers seem to assume Google can answer everything (limitation 2). Some types of information are much more likely to be available from a system than a person. If you wanted to know film times at the local cinema, would you have more success asking a friend first or use the web? (limitation 3).

Finally (limitation 4), one reason why intranets are attractive is that they can reduce internal service costs. You may not want highly-paid staff answering the phone all day for routine queries, no matter how much the caller may prefer that mode. You want to keep them free for the high-value, non-routine work that really needs people to people interactions. Each query has a cost, but asking a colleague in an organisation doesn’t usually expose the requester to that cost. If your staff were a premium-rate helpdesk, its unlikely they would be troubled so readily if the alternative was to get the answer on an intranet for free.

About the author

Nancy Goebel - DWG's Managing Director for Member & Benchmarking ServicesNancy Goebel is DWG’s Managing Director for Member Services. In addition to heading up service delivery, she is responsible for member engagement, retention and growth. Nancy also sits on DWG’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Digital Workplace Group, Nancy was a accomplished executive at JPMorgan Chase where she built and led a global team in desigining and implementing an award-winning intranet. She also led digital enablement and business re-engineering initiatives.

Outside work, Nancy is a wine maker, fundraiser, meditator, wife and mother of two.

Connect with Nancy on Twitter: @nancyatdwg or on Google +.

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