IBF Live report: Make your intranet a mirror for culture

9 November 2012

Reflection of woman's face in hand mirrorBy Matt Wilson – Originally posed on Ragan.com.

Some companies just don’t need fancy social tools to make their intranets effective; what works is what employees need.

“Intranets hold up a mirror to the culture they serve.”

That’s the ideal, anyway, James Robertson, managing director at Step Two Designs, told the hosts of the Digital Workplace Group’s monthly Digital Workplace Live broadcast this week.

Each year, Step Two judges intranets from companies around the globe in its Intranet Innovation Awards. Robertson said the judging panel isn’t particularly interested in whether something “is just a cool idea.”

“It’s the value that it’s all about,” he said.

That includes social tools, which have become incredibly trendy in intranets over the past few years. Robertson said some companies simply don’t need them. It depends on the company’s culture and goals. The intranet has to be baked into the existing company recipe, he said. You can’t force it.

“We see social as a means to an end,” he said. “It’s about having a mix of capabilities.”

In this week’s IBF Live broadcast, the hosts toured two intranets that placed more focus on organizing documents and making them easy to find than social bells and whistles. Robertson said that’s a good thing for those companies, a supplier and a law firm.

“Maybe they should be focusing on that instead of some casual idea of making things more like Facebook,” he said.

Document difference

The food supplier whose intranet the hosts toured was Denmark’s Chr. Hansen, winner of one of Step Two’s 2012 Intranet Innovation awards, for one major feature: document management. The company’s document search enables employees to hunt through more than 100,000 documents by criteria such as nutrition information, allergens, language, and more.

“It absolutely jumped off the page for us when we saw it,” Robertson said. “Intranets have to be more than just a dumping ground for boring documents.”

Christian Skjaeran, intranet manager at Chr. Hansen, said, ““Getting the basics right here was actually quite a big project.”

Keeping it lively

The hosts were also impressed by Chr. Hansen’s news content, which prominently featured video in many news posts, included comment sections and “likes,” and even had contact information for someone employees could talk to about the article.

“Typically, when people do news, they do not approach it like this,” said IBF founder and CEO Paul Miller.

Skjaeran said the company built its news content around what it knew employee expectations were likely to be. Those expectations would likely be drawn from external news websites.

“What we are benchmarking against is what people are used to using on the Internet,” he said.

Paul Levy, DWG’s head of interaction, remarked that “It’s a lively intranet,” adding that an audience member thought that one of the company’s videos looked perhaps a little too much like a TV commercial.

“We do it ourselves. We do have a few commercial videos,” Skjaeran said. “We have different levels of quality.”

He added that Chr. Hansen doesn’t require a video with each article, but at least requires a photo.
“It’s Chr. Hansen saying, ‘We want a standard of communication,’” Robertson said. “They set that bar pretty high.”

Continual improvement

Another characteristic of Chr. Hansen’s intranet that really stood out, Robertson said is that it’s constantly being updated. That focus on “continual, incremental improvement,” should be something every intranet manager strives for, he said.

We want to see intranets moving, not sitting still with a seismic shift every three years,” Robertson said.

Skjaeran said Chr. Hansen has two official releases of intranet updates each year, but adds improvements to the system between those releases, too.


DWG members can see a recording of this IBF Live on the Member Extranet. IBF Live Subscribers can see it in the private area of this website.

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