Forrester recently released a report on What’s Holding Back Your Intranet? They were nice to share a copy with me. They found that 93% of employee respondents said they use an intranet or company portal (Forrester uses the terms interchangeably) at least weekly, and more than half reported daily use. However, they found that these intranets were mostly accessed for basic functions such as company directory, benefits information, and payroll. Access to collaborative tools, what some might called an enterprise 2.0 capability was ranked fourteenth.
At the same time studies have shown that a highly functional intranet can provide great value. A 2009 study at BT found that every £1 invested in the intranet produced £20 in exploited value. This certainly is consistent with my experience implementing such system in the late 90s. Despite this firms are underutilizing their intranets. They found several reasons.
Why don’t employees use an intranet? Particularly if it can return twenty times on its investment?
One of the reasons is that the intranet is simply not geared to what the employees want and need. A lot of effort is often spent on optimizing an external website but little is often spent on doing the same for an internal site.
Then there is this:
Most current intranets also do not reflect and support the specific roles and responsibilities of their users. The one size fits all approach is consistent with an IT centric intranet as it is easier and cheaper to maintain.
Too often IT buys an application that promises a strong and collaborative intranet. But this one size fits all makes it very hard to provide something that works in the culture of the organization. That is why I like Open Source approaches. The open nature of the software not only means that it can often stay current with fast moving trends (something a proprietary solution can often be far behind in implementing) but it also provides a much easier opportunity for internal employees or external consultants to craft a solution that works best.
However, the major barrier is simply that few people see why they should change their workflow to adopt new online approaches. The online approaches are optimized for IT, not the employees. And no one really works to facilitate adoption of new approaches.
That is something I constantly harp on when I work with organizations. Few people use social media because it is good for the community. They use it because it helps them personally. Someone needs to actually show them how Enterprise 2.0 will change their personal workflow. Then people will start really using it.
And then the emergent properties of Web 2.0 – that it enhances normal human interactions in ways to really leverage group workflow – will become visible.
All these things will happen eventually. But part of the way to increase the rate of diffusion of change in a company is to decrease the time it takes to adopt new approaches. This is just one example.
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