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In ‘Deleting your intranet (part one)’ we looked at some of the key reasons senior management does not understand how exactly intranets align with and support business goals and explored how perception, lack of awareness, and engagement all play a key role. I also pointed out that a good approach is to try to understand what your boss worries about and make the link to the intranet.
This week I’ll share with you five relatively easy, yet very effective methods you can utilize to ensure that your intranet is seen as delivering value, as well as turning your senior managers into believers as well.
V. Different people look at value in different ways. While we won’t go into debating the definition of value itself here, we need to establish that any value delivered through your intranet should be viewed in the context of your company’s business goals, strategy and deliverables. While this might sound like: “Doh! Everybody knows that…” we very often fall into the trap of labeling the wrong things as ‘intranet value’. Or in some cases – double counting that value.
Let me illustrate the above with the following example: your HR department is implementing a travel booking system. There is a solid business case behind that implementation, including some tangible arguments about the cost savings the new system will bring to the company.
However, the new travel system is not integrated with your intranet. At least not the way you’d like it to be: it has the vendor’s default look and feel, it requires people to use a different login etc. Now, is there an opportunity for you to generate additional value when integrating and how can you build a solid business case?
Even if you are successful in integrating the travel booking tool into the intranet and implementing single sign-on – how much value will this actually add? Or will that be one of those soft benefits we already know senior management doesn’t believe in? This is where a lot of people try to double-count the real business value the system brings.
But how about you actually go and talk to your HR people to see what else users need to do as part of the travel booking process, and which might be relatively easy to implement. Do they know for example that for some countries you need to have a mandatory vaccination? Or that there might be a security situation where they’re going? Talk about and try to understand the whole process from your HR department. And look for those opportunities where the intranet can add real value to the travel booking tool.
A. is for Advantage, that being Competitive Advantage for your company. I’ll try to illustrate this with another example: I see a lot of initiatives to provide mobile access to the intranet nowadays. These are usually well thought through, but mainly focus on the technology side of things and try to address things like productivity and other intangibles. As we’ve already discussed last week – these soft benefits are usually more difficult to sell.
Now think about your mobile employees. Who are they? Are they mainly sales people, people on the shop or factory floor, mobile workers, senior people travelling? Again, go out and talk to them to understand better if there is anything they are missing access to from your intranet while on the road. Sales people might need better and easier access to product data sheets. Or have access to the latest competitive intelligence brief on the client they are about to meet. Or simply read the latest media coverage on the client from a real-time news feed available on their mobile device.
Keep in mind that all of these teams might already have some way of being able to access the information they need when outside of the office. But this usually comes down to carrying lots of printouts with them, and relying on somebody being in the office to call when something is missing.
Its amazing how many opportunities you’ll be able to spot if you spend an hour with them. Test out any opportunities you identify with a small-scale pilot. If successful, these people will become great advocates for the intranet. You will also be able to use these successes to your advantage and as robust arguments when proposing to scale up your mobile intranet access solution to the rest of the company.
L. is for Leadership. A client I worked with recently had some difficulties trying to implement an intranet platform where the system would use smart profiles in order to deliver personalized content to the employees. Their IT solution already ‘knew’ quite a lot about each user, including their geographical location and the line of business they were working in. It was also quite logical for the intranet team to implement a way for people to get information only relevant to them.
The difficulty in that particular case was trying to sell the smart-profile solution to management and secure funding. Putting the user’s needs to be able to get personalized content simply wasn’t a winning argument.
Then, a rather interesting opportunity presented itself. The company developed a new overall strategy which had to be communicated to all employees. The central Internal Communications team had developed a great set of materials, which unfortunately were too generic and too high-level to make sense to all of the company’s workers and practitioners. Each member of the management team translated the overall strategy into the context of their respective lines of business, however for a lot of people on the ground it was still ‘somewhere up there’. So, heads of individual business units translated the line of business materials again, this time really linking it to specific objectives and deliverables for their respective teams.
What was the opportunity here with the smart profiles? A single intranet page where every single employee of the company could find out three things:
1. what is the new overall company strategy
2. what does that mean for my line of business
3. what does it mean to my team and me directly
Instead of asking employees to go to three different sites to get the content, all they would have to do is stay on their one single personalized page, which would give them the right content at the right time, based on knowing who they are.
Needless to say, leadership liked the idea, embraced it, and spotted a whole range of other opportunities that were now possible by using the smart profiles and personalization the intranet team had been trying to push and implement. The intranet team itself gained a lot of visibility and was seen as being proactive and directly supporting the company’s leadership and strategy.
U. is for Understanding. In all of the points I’ve raised above, I’ve repeatedly hinted at the fact that as your company’s intranet manager you are not only expected to know all about intranets and their latest trends, but you also need to be able to develop a deep understanding of your business and the direction your company is going, at the same time linking that directly to your intranet efforts.
Intranet people are often labeled as ‘techies’, simply because they understand technology well. Gaining deeper knowledge and understanding of your business lines however will give you an edge and position you well to spot opportunities to add value to the company and make your work visible all the way to the top. It will also help you gain that ‘business acumen’ which people working on the intranet are so often perceived to be missing.
E. is for Engage, Engage, and Engage. I cannot stress enough how important this is. There is an element of engagement in every single point that we have looked at and also in last week’s post. Because only through the right level of engagement with your users and management can you reach the level of understanding about your organization and its needs. It is through engagement that you can demonstrate your leadership skills and take others on the journey with you. It is engagement that will let you spot those opportunities and help your company gain more competitive advantage. Through that you will be able to deliver the real value to your company and co-workers.
We’re far from having to delete our intranets yet. But we also need to work hard to ensure we don’t end up in the same situation as the unfortunate Danish municipality I mentioned in part one. And in case your intranet goes down because a working backup is nowhere to be found – you really don’t want your manager to be making statements that this will have absolutely no impact on your company.
Do you think the points above are valid? How have you dealt with them in your organisation? What worked and what didn’t for you? What are the ways you’ve dealt with both perception and value?
This is a guest blog post for the Digital Workplace Group by Rossen Roussev. Rossen is an Exec-for-Rent on intranets, competitive and business intelligence services, and talent management. During his 24 year professional career he was also the Enterprise Portal Manager for Royal Dutch Shell. Rossen currently lives in The Netherlands.