Is it wrong to love your own intranet?

9 December 2011 by

By Matt Wilson, www.ragan.com

Without question, intranet managers should care about the communities they curate. But should they be in love with them? According to the Digital Workplace Group, they should.

“There is something about how good an intranet is that is down to the personality of the person managing it,” Mark Morell, “the intranet pioneer” and a benchmarker, told the hosts of this month’s IBF Live broadcast. “If you get the right person with the right qualities, you can achieve a lot more than a similar organization in a similar circumstance.”

What does it take? Persistence, patience, a sense of purpose, and a constructive, positive attitude, Morrell said. That’s the only way intranet shepherds can press on after disappointments, he said. A former intranet manager at BT Group himself, Morrell said he was often very protective of portions of the intranet he thought were useful to his colleagues.

A poll of IBF Live listeners found most intranet managers have an uphill battle, with 85 percent of respondents saying their company has no formal usability program.

The discussion between Morrell and the hosts served as a sort of kickoff for DWG’s “Intranet Love Affairs” celebration, which will culminate in a research paper to be published in January. On its website, IBF is asking intranet managers to describe why they love their own intranets.

“It’s nice to know that there are other people out there who have gone through the same experience as me,” Morrell said.

Other topics discussed in this month’s broadcast include:

How much news space?

Sally Roberts, intranet and knowledge manager at Macfarlanes, a London-based law firm, presented her company’s intranet, Macsnet, to the panel. One thing IBF CEO Paul Miller observed was a relatively small section for news, under a title image in the center column. “There’s often too much space given over to news on intranets,” he said.

Panelist John Wooden, director of usability services at Fredrickson Communications, agreed. He said Macsnet had it just about right. News “isn’t the primary reason people are going to the site,” Wooden asserted, adding that they’re there to get tasks done and find resources.

Ad-like buttons

Macsnet also included an area of quick links in the bottom right-hand corner of the home page that went to areas that included links to news websites, vacation booking, benefits information, and so forth. They were presented as small square images.

“It looks very much like ads,” Wooden said. “If it looks like an ad, and it’s on the right, people will ignore it.”

Roberts said people don’t generally ignore the quick links. For example, when a partner asked her to remove a link to the list of news links, people complained. However, employees did often wonder exactly what some of the images meant, and whether there were perhaps too many of them.

Roberts said she was changing the position of the quick links and paring them down in an ongoing intranet redesign.

An early version of the redesigned home page included an area where users could create their own, personal quick links. Wooden said that although that seems like a good idea, people often don’t use such features.

Scroll bars

Wooden also said the use of internal scroll bars on the Macsnet home page could be problematic. “People don’t always notice them, so you risk people not seeing the items that are lower down,” he said.

Roberts said an earlier iteration of the intranet didn’t include so many scroll bars, but people also didn’t like to click links to go to another page. She said she’s working on a way to get rid of the scroll bars in the redesign, along with making menu items easier to identify.

Are intranets dead?

Miller took on some of the recent talk about the health of intranets with the contention that they aren’t going anywhere. As proof, the panel looked back at some of the IBF Live intranet tours from 2011.

One of those tours was from IBM, which is relaunching its intranet, W3. Miller said that alone should be proof intranets aren’t dead.

The panel also took a look at Accenture’s intranet, which has added gamification elements such as badges to its intranet. Wooden said Accenture did a good job of adding those elements, but companies have to think such changes through.

“Some collaborative efforts don’t succeed because they’re not made easy,” he said.

Categorised in: Intranets

Nancy Goebel

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