Good intranet managers are able to slice and dice their customers in many ways. Thanks to all the work they have done with personas, they may even have pictures of them up on the wall of their office, or more likely, desk divider. Each day they will be worrying about the user experience of these customers, and it’s difficult to tell them that their customers are actually not that concerned by the user experience.

These customers are captive and clever. They come to work each day knowing every twist and turn of the corporate intranet, together with a list of quick dial numbers they can use when they need information urgently and cannot find it. Even if they are performing multiple tasks and multiple roles I suspect that these customers will only be using a small percentage, may be only 0.5%, of the pages on the intranet. Don’t be too depressed -- that is still a lot of pages in most companies.

Meanwhile, at a desk not far away...

...there is a new member of staff. It is quite typical for companies to have a staff turnover of perhaps 12-15%, so if the company has 1000 employees, on average 3 new members of staff arrive each week. They are keen to make their mark on the company as soon as possible. Quite a number of them may not even have worked in the same industry sector before. To them "repro" is all about printing and not high finance. Almost certainly they will have used an intranet before, but never like the one they now find on their desktop.

I have no statistics to prove it, but my guess is that rather than try to unravel the information architecture to find the policy on corporate ethics they will search first. Almost certainly this will not be a good customer experience. The next application they will try will be the staff directory to see what they can find out about their manager, their manager’s manager and the people they will be working with. That will also not be a good experience. Not a good first hour at the office.

The point I want to make is that we tend to ignore the specific needs of new members of staff. In total they make up one of the largest single groups of customers for the intranet, and to them the intranet is mission-critical in making them feel at home in the shortest possible time.

It is not just about supporting the induction process but understanding the content they need in the first few weeks of their new job and presenting it to them as though they were valued customers. A good acronym dictionary is an important element of this content.

These customers are important in another way. If you assume that 150 join your organization each year, potentially that is experience of 150 intranets that you can harness.

At a desk a long way away...

...is someone who until recently was working in Sweden and now finds themselves in India as part of a career development program. They might just as well be new employees because this is when they find that the local intranet has a totally different approach to an information architecture, and when they search for something they find that the search application only works on local content. In banking terms they have moved branches.

They would probably have valued being able to work with the local intranet whilst still at their previous post but as it did not use the approved corporate CMS and the approved corporate IA, the intranet was invisible. I speak from experience of two recent clients! This is a second customer group that would benefit from training and support but rarely receive it.

In an office building a hundred miles away...

...four hundred employees have just been told that they have been acquired. They know of the company that has acquired them, as until today it was their major competitor. Now they have to make friends, and fast.

Opinions vary, but having a background in M&A myself, if you do not have close integration within three months then you have a problem on your hands. Cisco was superb at integrating the intranets of acquired companies.

There is a real opportunity here to contribute directly to corporate performance by setting up tailored home pages and training pages, and being involved directly with the implementation team in working out how to integrate the two intranets. If nothing else the enterprise search application should be indexing the acquired intranet, and that is much easier said than done.

When you walk into a new department store and someone comes up and not only asks you what you are looking for but takes you to the department and introduces you to the department manager you feel like a very important person. Is that how new employees feel about your intranet?

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