Many businesses have deployed intranet technologies for business- to-user information sharing, but few have investigated the effectiveness of this investment as demonstrated by South Africa's The Porter Motor Group.
In Cape Town, South Africa, The Porter Motor Group, an automotive
dealer network, recently set out to evaluate user perceptions of the
intranet, and the results have provided some valuable insights for
As IT becomes increasingly recognized as a service rather than
application provider, there is a greater need to develop service and
customer orientation. User surveys are valuable tools for gathering
qualitative information in a way that can be quantified.
Porter Group used a survey to provide a means of gaining insights
with a minimum of data capture or complex analysis, with the goal of
better understanding its effectiveness for directing actions towards
service improvement. Possibly more important is that the research is a
broadly applicable method of measurement. It is not specific to the
Motor Industry and could find applicability across a wide range of
different companies where assessment of intranet service quality needs
to be evaluated.
IT as a service organization
Measuring user perceptions to determine intranet effectiveness is
the same as measuring customer satisfaction in any other service
delivery environment. While customer surveys are common in many
industries, the IT organization needs to adopt a similar, albeit
internal, approach to understanding user requirements and
Understanding the business value of technology has been a concern
within the Porter Motor Group for some time and this survey is the
beginning of a process that will drive IT projects for closer alignment
to business requirements and improved service quality.
The primary aim of the survey was to measure intranet
effectiveness and to establish an overall service quality index for
service delivery. Analysis explored to what extent user expectations
and perceptions differed and whether the instrument provided a valid
A service quality survey is used to determine a ‘service quality
index’ based on the assumption that Service quality (Q) is the
difference between user expectations (E) and user perceptions (P). The
questionnaire asked for responses to the variables’ importance and
performance across different service dimensions to arrive at the index.
According to the literature, service quality should at least meet
expectations, and therefore, Q should be equal to or greater than zero
as a negative position, means service expectations are not being
The basis of the research
This research was conducted at a time when the Porter Motor Group
(PMG) was attempting to introduce Knowledge Management concepts and the
redevelopment of the Intranet offered an excellent opportunity for
The original corporate intranet PMGNET was introduced in 1999 and
users had become familiar with the concepts. Its introduction
represented a milestone in the company’s history and facilitated
structural changes along with greater emphasis on efficiency and
communication. PMGNET content was provided by a community of
information providers publishing corporate material and general
information that contributed significantly to the collaborative
Recognizing the dimensions of service quality
The questionnaire was based on the well-established SERVQUAL
instrument developed by Parasuraman et al (1985, 1988) using a set of
items (dimensions) that reflect a model of perceived Service Quality.
Statements are used to measure expectation and perception (experience)
for different dimensions as shown below:
Reliability: Provide accurate information and
consistency. Intranet is dependable with minimum downtime, content and
information is up-to-date and accurate, Intranet look and feel is user
Responsiveness: Fast Website, easy access and
willingness to provide help. E-mail address for support and
suggestions, Intranet response times are fast and reliable, Intranet
content publishers always open to suggestions.
Assurance: Credible information, secure and
allows users to inspire trust and confidence. Intranet content is
appropriate and relative to the PMG, marketing and sales performance
statistics promotes user confidence, the company Internet and E-mail
use policy is accessible.
Empathy: Caring communication provides individual
attention to users. Intranet content is easy to understand, knowledge
centre is assisting users to collaborate, share and exchange ideas,
community agent is encouraging team building.
Tangibles: Appearance of the Intranet site.
Information is found with minimum key-clicks, the Intranet home page is
visually appealing, navigation is consistent.
Decision makers and those with access to the internal network and
Intranet were the main target of this study. Each question provided a
7-point scale on which the respondents could assess importance and
performance of different aspects of the service as well as some
demographic items to allow for analysis. The response rate by
organizational role is shown in Table 1.
Role in the Organization Respondents Response Rate
Overall user responses are shown in Table 2, and while measurement
of individual service quality dimensions varied, all rated above the
mid-point of the scale, but negative GAP scores revealed a general lack
of satisfaction in the service. Analysis on the five service dimensions
shows clearly that in all instances expectation (importance) exceeds
What this means to the Porter Motor Group
The negative service quality index results indicate that the
Intranet is under-performing across all service quality dimensions, and
suggests that the Intranet fails to meet expectations. While users
generally indicated that the Intranet is important they are
disappointed with its performance. Based on these results it is clear
that organisational user expectations and perceptions are significant
and consequently affect success and acceptability of the PMG
The results highlight a number of deficiencies that are negatively
affecting overall Intranet effectiveness. Furthermore, the low Intranet
performance index suggests that the executive management team needs to
become actively engaged in determining content strategy and in
formulating policy guidelines. As well, equal attention should be given
to the current and future role of IT as facilitator and content
provider. What is evident however is that an overwhelming majority of
users consider the intranet to be an important business tool and an
effective medium for sharing and publishing information.
Although corporate intranets are often cited in the literature,
there aren’t many studies of intranet performance and few
recommendations on how to manage and measure Intranet service quality.
This study represents real world insight into the implementation of a
reliable and valid survey instrument that may be beneficial in
assessing and measuring the service quality and performance of an
The questionnaire proved sufficiently usable since the number of
questions is relatively small and more likely to elicit response. The
long-term intention is to repeat this process to create comparisons as
a means of assessing the effectiveness of proposed developments. Who
better to ask than the user?
About the author
Ricky Miller is the IT Manager for Porter Motor Group and is
soon to graduate with Honours from the University of the Western Cape.
His research into Intranet Effectiveness provides a simple and
effective evaluation that can be applied in any organisation. For more
information email him at: email@example.com
About the Porter Motor Group (PMG)
2004 will be the 78th consecutive year that the Porter Motor Group
(PMG) (through F. Robb & Co.) has been in existence. In 1987 the
JSE listed transport and mobility group, Imperial Holdings acquired 40%
of the business, one year later in the summer of 1988 Imperial had full
control of the company. In December 2003 PMG was consolidated into
Premier Motor Holdings (PMH) under the leadership of group MD Trevor
McKenzie. PMH through its dealer network has dealerships located in the
Northern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Province, Free State and