If the intranet is to show genuine value to the organization, it must prove that it is increasing productivity and reducing costs.Intranets are still struggling. Senior management does not see them as being business critical. If the intranet is to get respect and proper funding, it must prove that it is improving productivity and efficiency.
The one thing that the intranet can truly deliver is time. It can make it quicker for staff to carry out basic tasks such as finding product information; finding experts; locating forms and processes.
In 10 years working on intranets, I have rarely found a senior manager who had anything but a passing interest in one. Why is that? Is the intranet really so trivial, so unimportant that senior management simply doesn't have time to get involved?
"Even though most of the organizations we analyzed have a developing intranet or portal supporting key business processes, we found that in most organizations there is often a lack of understanding about the strategic importance of the organization's intranet," writes Helen Day of Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF).
IBF has carried out a survey of 70 large organizations, as well as analyzing the benchmarking data of all its global members. Their conclusion: "Senior leaders struggle to see why they should be involved with intranet development, and this leads to little or no obvious senior level support."
This view is echoed by intranet expert, Jane McConnell. "The major perception of intranets is that they are information tools, only somewhat a collaboration tool and practically not at all a tool that brings business value to the organization."
The intranet has huge potential, but it is not being sold properly to senior management, and if senior management doesn't engage, then the intranet is going nowhere.
Don't talk to senior managers about IT projects. An IT project involves buying and installing some big software system, then leaving it to do its job. That's not how quality intranets work. They require constant care and attention.
Senior management doesn't have much respect for communications, so if the intranet is seen as being run by communications, then its role is diminished.
An intranet that is associated with data management will get little respect. At best, this is like having a giant rough-and-ready library where stuff gets stored. That's not business critical.
Your intranet can be a goldmine, so don't sell it like a coalmine. The gold-dust of the intranet is productivity. A great intranet will save time whenever a staff member carries out a common task. These time savings will lead to greater operational efficiency and a more competitive organization.
It's hard to sell intranet time to senior management because intranet time is five minutes saved here, two minutes saved there. But persevere, because time is the essence of the organization.
The less time an engineer spends finding a colleague and locating an engine diagram, the more time they can spend developing that new product. The less time a sales representative spends filling out an expense form and booking travel, the more time they can spend making the sale.
If you can prove that your intranet saves time, sooner or later you will get attention, respect and funding from senior management.
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.