Many intranets are only now beginning to show their true potential. However, many staff, having had unsatisfactory previous experiences of the Intranet, may need quite some convincing that the Intranet is now genuinely useful.I visit a lot of countries every year. I come down to breakfast and there is generally a newspaper waiting. Recently, I've been in New Zealand and Australia, and the newspapers-as usual-make sorry reading.
New Zealand is in the throes of chaos, according to the newspapers. Society is falling apart. Crime is rampant, political corruption is endemic, and talented young people are flooding out of the country every year, according to the newspapers.
The television news is scary too. The justice minister was trying to say that crime rates had actually decreased, when this frothing accuser poured hot boiling scorn on him. The facts are irrelevant; he was chastised. People perceive that they're not safe on the streets and that's all that matters.
Most Australians are terrified to walk the streets at night, according to Australian media. Politicians get as much respect as criminals; judges so berate witnesses that they attempt suicide; drugs and drought are rampant. It's a nightmarish place, Australia, according to the media.
I just hope that the Aussies and Kiwis don't think of visiting Ireland to escape these desperate times. Because when they read the Irish media they'll find out that Irish crime is rampant, politicians are all corrupt, and the health service is most definitely the worst in the world, universe, and beyond.
What's this got to do with Intranet management, you might be asking? Perception and reality are not the same thing, and it would seem that in this media-saturated world, they are diverging more and more.
A big gap that I find in Intranet management is the need to address staff's perception; the need to actively promote and market what is good about the Intranet. Most Intranet teams that I come across don't seem to think that marketing and promotion are part of their jobs. They also often see the very act of communication from a very narrow "it's up on the Intranet, job done" perspective.
Many intranets have evolved in a rough and tumble sort of way. There were lots of excellent initiatives but there were also lots of initiatives that didn't deliver value or were poorly implemented. The result is that many staff have a jaded-if not cynical view-of the Intranet. (There's only so many times you can try the search engine and staff directory and not get what you want.)
You may have fixed a lot of the problems on your Intranet but the perception may remain that the Intranet is a waste of time. If you want to change that perception you need to get out there and sell, sell, sell.
Get people in a room and show them how search has improved. Get out in the office and evangelise about the wonderful new HR section. Put posters up in the canteen about the revamped staff directory that is no longer a genealogical resource. Have competitions, create fun events, but whatever you do make sure you're actively managing the perception of your Intranet.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.