by Toby Ward — Prescient Principal Consultant Toby Ward looks at five winning characteristics of proven and successful intranets from the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, E*TRADE, and others.
The answer to any question by any Cisco employee is "check the
website." Cisco Systems has gone to great lengths to web-enable almost
all work-related information and nearly every single work function on
its corporate intranet. The effort has translated into an annual return
on investment of more than US$800 million.
What are the winning characteristics
of successful corporate intranets such as Cisco's? While there are too
many to mention in this column, here are five winning characteristics
of leading intranets that will help drive intranet success.
Engage your users; ask them what they want and need, and
incorporate your learnings into the site plan. e*Trade regularly engages users by undertaking employee surveys.
Surveys include questions on overall satisfaction, most frequently used
areas, favorite areas and can include a call to action such as "Are you
interested in becoming an e*Channel roving reporter?"
Cisco continues to keep users engaged
through various channels including one that encourages each employee's
journalistic ambitions. Located directly under the 'News Headlines' at
the top of Cisco's global intranet home page, Cisco Employee
Connection, is a button labeled 'SUBMIT'. This button encourages all of
Cisco's employees, approximately 40,000, to submit their own news
stories to the home page. While all potential stories must adhere to
certain guidelines (available adjacent to the SUBMIT button) the SUBMIT
button encourages all employees to become Cisco journalists and to
drive knowledge sharing and collaboration through the home page.
Develop guidelines and site standards
to be applied to and used by all sites on your intranet/extranet.
Swiss-based Adecco is the largest
staffing/personnel firm in the world with more than 5000 offices in 59
countries. A highly decentralized company with managerial decisions
largely resting with the respective regions and offices, Adecco has a
centralized intranet team that is primarily focused on developing and
managing intranet standards rather than actually managing the intranet
While overall administration, and
some news headlines, are centrally managed, Adecco employs a
decentralized or distributed publishing model for its 150+ sites
containing more than 130,000 documents for users in 55 countries.
Content is published using a centralized publishing tool in four
A core international intranet team is
responsible for global intranet strategy and standards, international
internal communications (content relevant to all users), overall
management of the centralized portal, core application development, and
intranet training and tools. Most of the 55 user countries have their
own intranet site with their own management that that may include an
executive champion, a team leader, a strategist, department level
publishers and content writers that all must adhere to global
standards, use standardized templates and production procedures while
relying on centralized support and training from the international
Keep the site design clean and
simple; don't overload with Java, multimedia and other memory
There are many surfers on the
Internet who have high-speed connections and are impressed by Flash
animation, cool gadgets and media-rich pages. This is not the case for
intranet users. Employees want to find and download information as
quick as possible. As such, intranet pages should download quickly and
be designed for those users with the slowest access speeds (usually
users dialing-in remotely such as on-the-road sales reps).
Microsoft's global intranet home
page, MSWeb, closely adheres to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple
Stupid). MS largely re-uses the design and look-and-feel of www.microsoft.com
for its intranet. The look is
simple, mainly white with a splash of light blue, with very few
graphics, and no animation.
Each intranet must be measured by a set of pre-determined Critical
Success Indicators (CSIs) that measure both quantitative and
While each of the five winning
characteristics listed in this piece is not necessarily any more
important than the other, measuring your intranet's performance is
perhaps the most important element for justifying your intranet's
existence and budget. One of the great advantages of an intranet is the
availability of multiple measurement channels - both online and offline
- for appraising performance. Popularly employed measurement channels
include metrics or log analysis, online and offline surveys, focus
groups (also available online), feedback email, help desk calls and
email, usability testing and return on investment (ROI).
The last measure, ROI, is increasingly
becoming the most critical measurement as intranets grow in importance
and demand more funding and investment. By early 2000, Mitre Corp., a
not-for-profit technology company that services several US federal
agencies, regularly appraises both hard and soft cost savings on their
intranets. Since deploying an intranet in 1996, Mitre has measured HR
and administration, IS management, financial operations, technical
operations, employee productivity and other miscellaneous intranet
savings. In total, a US$7.2 million intranet investment has returned
US$62.1 million in reduced operating costs and improved productivity.
(For a copy of my white paper on Intranet ROI, please contact us
Metrics are also an important
measurement tool in the yearly, monthly, weekly and even daily
measurement of intranet traffic and usage. Popular metrics or log
analysis software packages such as WebTrends enable you to measure
'hits', page views, unique visitors, average user session, entry and
disembarkation points, clickstreams, etc. SGI uses hourly metrics to
help determine the daily news headline rotation on its corporate portal
home page, Silicon Junction. An analysis of page views for each news
story determines the order or ranking each receives on the home page
and how quickly it is rotated into the archives.
Every intranet needs to be promoted so that users know its value
and are motivated to use it.
If you build it, they will not come
(necessarily). Users need to be motivated and educated on why the site
is of value to both them and the company. While each organization has
its web-head keeners that need no prompting, many more users are not as
keen and need to be educated on the intranet's value.
Firstly, your intranet's potential
success and performance measures will be less than optimal if your user
audience does not use the intranet. Users need to be informed and
motivated -organization-wide understanding, acceptance, and intranet
use is mandatory. A marketing or promotion plan is required,
particularly in an organization where there is not a proliferation of
desk workers (manufacturing, distribution, sales, etc.). Marketing
tactics could include email broadcasts, newsletter stories and
promotion, an internal press conference, executive promotion, hosted
chats with the CEO, posters, premiums, etc.
A regional subsidiary of a large
financial/investment services company embarked on an ambitious
marketing campaign to promote the launch of their redesigned corporate
portal. The campaign included an email campaign, promotional cookies
for each employee, posters and even a professionally produced 10-minute
promotional video replete with a famous voice as the narrator. In
total, the company spent about $20 per employee on promoting the new
The key to managing the above tactics
is to plan each out during the planning phase prior to launching a new
or redesigned intranet. Stakeholders and users should participate, and
measurable goals need to be documented. While many more important tips
and tactics exist for deploying and managing a 'winning' intranet, the
five listed above are amongst the most important and should be given
particular attention during the planning of a new or redesigned