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There was a story not too long ago where a municipality in Denmark had lost it’s intranet. Somebody in IT managed to delete the entire intranet by accident and they couldn’t find a working backup copy. Talk about a bad day, right? Not really according to the public statement that was made after the incident. The responsible senior manager stated that the loss of the intranet will have absolutely no impact on the operations of the municipality, their
citizens, or any other external related work.
Now, if that is indeed the case – why did they have an intranet in the first place?
Do you really need an intranet? I’m sure this is not a question that would often pop into your mind, especially if you’re the person responsible for the development and day-to-day operations of your company’s intranet. You love
your baby, you’re fully devoted to it, and you’re ready to stand up and defend it in front of others.
It is entirely possible however that your boss and your boss’s boss are looking at this as just another line on their P&L sheet. And you know what that means in these difficult days. It means cost cuts, it means reductions, it means getting rid of everything which is not seen (or understood for that matter) as essential to your business or as adding value to the bottom line.
You might be one of the privileged intranet managers who have already benefited from the Digital Workplace Group’s recently released model for putting a financial value on your intranet. And that’s a good thing. You’ve probably seen which of your intranet assets and services bring most value, and where are the areas for improvement. You get it and you’re determined to put some of the suggestions on your boss’s
table and ask for more money to get them implemented.
The question is – does your boss get it and what can you do to make senior managers understand and believe that real financial value exists. What can you do to ensure they give you what you need?
In part one of ‘Deleting your intranet’ I’ll give you 10 reasons senior management doesn’t believe there is any real tangible money value of your intranet. In part two we’ll explore 5 fire-proof ways you can approach and explain the value to your management.
You’d have to understand that with management it is a very much about P.E.R.C.E.P.T.I.O.N.
The first P. is for PROFIT. For the average business person, the intranet is not only not seen as helping your company generate more profit – on the contrary – it is more of an “IT Thing” which sucks in a large portion of that hard generated company cash and any attempt to try to improve or redesign the intranet will be seen as another costly initiative and is very likely to be put aside. This is how these folks perceive the intranet and it will take some proactive steps to demonstrate to them the real case. But this is how they see it. Full stop. You need to get out there and educate them.
The E. is for EDUCATE. Even in large multinationals with global intranets, ownership of the intranet is often given to IT, Communications, or to HR in some cases. It is relatively low on your boss’
score card and he or she relies on YOU to run it. The problem here is that when tough times come (and they are still here), bosses tend to start cutting in the areas they least understand. I’ve been there myself. If your manager doesn’t
know what exactly are you doing, hasn’t been involved in your hard work, hasn’t been engaged and educated about your ‘thing’ – it is extremely easy for him to cut your initiatives first. You need to talk to them and engage them proactively.
The R. is for ROI. “What is our Return on Investment on the intranet” is a question often being asked. Of course you can immediately point to the Financial Value you’ve already established through the IBFs model, but this is not taken for granted by your management or your finance people. There are just too many intangibles and ‘saving time’-related benefits in there which are not seen as real value. So, do your homework, link your intranet efforts to the company’s business objectives, and educate senior management. This will make it much easier to answer the ROI question in a convincing manner.
C. is for Communication.
Often, internal communications owns the intranet. As such they do not have a mission or a remit to improve employee’s workplace or make their lives at work easier. It is very much about management pushing down messages to employees:
here’s our new strategy, here is a new policy for the water coolers, here’s an announcement that coffee corners will cease to exist due to cost cutting etc. “So you go put up that document I just gave you and people will come read it” -
says your upper line. You know this is not the case and the days of “Build it and they will come” are long gone. Think about the points we’ve already covered above. Link them to your communications objectives and lead the way for that intranet of yours to become your primary communications channel. And do that through collaboration, culture, social networking, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. And remember to educate that all those support the communications objectives.
E. is to remind you that you need to Engage! Same reasoning as for the Education point above. Your boss hasn’t been really engaged in your intranet work. He doesn’t feel part of the ‘stuff’ you’re creating and spending company money on. He’s got no real understanding and appreciation for your efforts. And nobody knows how he explains your work to his peers in management or to his boss. So, what are you waiting for: take his hand and engage him along the way.
P. is for Productivity. If you’re like me – then you’re convinced that a well designed and executed intranet can enormously increase the productivity of your workforce. I tried to debate that with a senior manager once, my argument being that we will save people 10 minutes a day by having them complete an electronic request form on the intranet. “So what? They will be using those extra 10 minutes to drink more coffee” was his response. Fair enough. Turning that argument however into a proposal to automate a business process, with an expected outcome to simplify and expedite requests being communicated to an external service provider was immediately understood and met absolutely no resistance. And it was also seen as a productivity increasing initiative. The very same thing I argued about in the beginning. Go figure.
T. is for Team Work. I’ve worked with many C-level executives and while they do think teamwork is important, they certainly do not always get how the intranet and it’s collaboration aspects can provide the necessary foundation for good teamwork to take place. Have you tried to talk to people in teams to understand what makes successful team work and what doesn’t. Think about turning those problems into an opportunity to help those teams. Whether it’s virtual team spaces, a capability to jointly work on documents, or a team calendar to help team members from across the globe to better manage engagements and meetings. And see how your efforts turn them into your advocates who will then go and defend your efforts in front of their bosses. And it’s always good to have somebody fighting on your side, isn’t it? T. here is also for making it tangible for the people on the ground and for providing means for an organizational transformation, assisted by your intranet efforts and services, and much needed in today’s challenging environment.
I. is for Improvement.
Process improvements are all time high on companies’ agendas. Improving a business process often requires a lot of changes in the organization. And people by default do not like change. Change is painful and management understands that. What they don’t realize is that the intranet can be a successful vehicle to carry that change in a way which is closer and more understandable to people. Whether that is a simple online contextual Help file to guide people through the new process, a forum where people can share experiences, or a full-fledged learning and development initiative delivered through the intranet – these are all ways in which you could demonstrate the value you’re adding to the company.
O. is for Ownership.
Ownership and Governance are fundamental elements to a successfully run an intranet. Too often unfortunately, they are not handled at the right levels of the organization, mainly due to lack of understanding. “If I don’t get it – then I
won’t own it – then it is somebody else’s problem”. Ownership and governance provide you with the necessary controls, help you deal with the politics, and lay down the modus operandi for you. Not having the right level of ownership is
guaranteed to cause a great deal of frustration trying to exercise the necessary controls and dealing with the inevitable politics in your organization.
N. is for New ways of working.
Long gone are the days of the “5-year Strategic Plans”. Or at least they should be long gone. In today’s fast-paced world and fragile economy it is critical for a company to be flexible and agile. This all requires changes and finding
new ways of working. It is about survival in the heads of your senior management. And if they have the wrong perception about your intranet – they will not see the value.
In part two we will look at value and how you can really sell the value of your intranet to your managers.
In the meantime however think about your organization and put the points above in the context of your environment. And don’t delete your intranet yet!
Do you think the points above are valid? How have you dealt with them in your organisation? What worked
and what didn’t for you? Do you think you can put a real number next to your intranet just as brands are being valued.
This is a guest blog post by Rossen Roussev. Rossen is an Exec-for-Rent on
intranets, competitive and business intelligence services, and talent management. During his 24 year professional career he was also the Enterprise Portal Manager for Royal Dutch Shell. Rossen currently lives in The Netherlands.