taken from http://www.interact-intranet.com/, intranet analytics, social business
A lot of the big data noise revolves around how marketers use data analytics to improve marketing performance. But how do these tools and techniques effect what is going on behind the scenes?

If you read my articles you will already know that I have a more inward looking viewpoint so I thought I would instead take a look at using analytics tools and concepts to help you manage your intranet.

Conceptually there is nothing new here, nor is this rocket science, and yet the built in analytics of intranet CMS solutions are often lacking in features and functionality. However if you have the latest all singing all dancing version of Webtrends, or IBM's analytics suite, or some cool open source tool kit, do you have the in resources in the form of people, expertise and time to make the fullest use of these capabilities on the digital marketing front?

Simple Analytics Are Nothing without Context

In one of my previous roles, I used to take some data from the simple analytics built into SharePoint 2007, once a month updating a "dashboard" page, so that users of the global portal who did not have "Site Administrator" level permissions (required to get to the analytics functionality) could at least get some high level feeling for how the portal was being used.

Of course just throwing numbers or graphs onto a page would not be very useful without context, so I would write a little commentary. In other places I have worked or consulted, reports are generated, and sent to VP's on "how many hits" the intranet home page got last month. I am sure most those were immediately "filed", and even if they were read, what exactly is a hit, and if the home page got more hits this week than last, what does that mean, and what does it signify ?

No doubt there are also a lot of teams out there who are currently a lot more sophisticated in their use of statistical analysis of traffic on their intranets, and I do know a few of them too. Even a simple tool that provides simple data can help you develop useful, if not equally simplistic metrics.

If you are asked to put up a new page with certain information and the senior management wants a simple statement like "the page has had 10,000 hits and we are a 50,000 person company, so up to 20% of staff might have read the content" , then you're good. If the senior management want proof that 10,000 hits equals 10,000 unique user views, then you might need a more sophisticated software package, and if you want really complex breakdowns of those views by region or department, then analytics that capture user profile data is going to be required.

If we already have, or are going to upgrade to a more complete and sophisticated set of analytics capabilities, who is going to make use of them?

The Intranet Team

Obviously some good strong analytics and traffic analysis are key elements for an intranet team to understand the usage patterns of their sites. This data is useful in and of itself for many reasons; what content is popular, what pages or documents are not being read at all, what are the busiest days or times of day (and why ?), overall usage rates etc.

This information is highly useful when you need to "prove" usage to senior management, especially if you're going for budget for an upgrade or additional functionality -- "yes, people do actually use the intranet, here is the proof....." !

The more sophisticated use cases for analytics data can help in allocating your own resources to content creation, content management and search management. Good data can help when you want to refine your IA and change your navigation, for example.

We should treat search analytics as a separate but related discipline, but if you can get a holistic view of what is being searched for alongside what is being viewed and downloaded, you can start to build a rich picture of overall intranet use.

Analytics Driven Intranet Management

The next step is to use these analytics to gain an understanding of what content is popular, and why. Then you can engage with the business to create more popular content by providing examples of what your staff are finding useful. The analytics data alone can't suffice for this purpose. It will show you what is popular, but then you should use surveys and focus groups to determine why your employees find this particular content to be so useful.

The outcome is that you can help the business figure out what employees really need or want, and thus to provide more similarly useful content. Of course you can't always completely indulge in “management by analytics”; there might be some content that hardly gets read but needs to be posted for regulatory reasons, for example.

Also let's face it, who wants to tell the CEO that the analytics prove no one is reading his blog!

Speaking of blogs, your social collaboration content is going to need a little more analysis than just figuring out the number of likes an item has. It seems to have been accepted now that rating a piece of content with 1 to 5 stars does not always work so well in an enterprise environment.

For example, if two subject matter experts rate an article with 4 stars, and 20 other employees who know nothing about this subject area and can’t understand it, give it 1’s and 2’s, then the average score is going to make it look like it’s not a highly rated article. This might not matter (the people who need to understand it did) but then again it might if the rating is used to provide a weighting by your search algorithm. So once again, a bit more digging into the users behavior and motivation is going to be necessary.

If you are using analytics to drive your content management, or have any interesting experiences to pass on with respect to enterprise social collaboration, please leave a comment below.

Image courtesy of Interact-Intranet

Editor's Note: Read more of Jed's thoughts on intranets in Rethinking the Intranet - Where Does Search Fit In?