Traditional managers often lack the skills required to understand if an intranet is successful or not.
I was once talking to a manager about how the intranet could save staff time and make things easier, when he shook his head dismissively. "It's not the job of management to make life easier for staff," he told me. "And the only time I'm interested in is firing time. If you say you can save me one man year, I want to know which man I can fire. Otherwise, I'm not interested."
Some time later, I was telling another manager that if we made a particular task easier we could save 5 minutes every time that task was completed, and that many thousands of staff members needed to complete that task every month. He shrugged. "5 minutes saved? They could be out smoking a cigarette."
Indeed they could be. But it is management's job to manage time effectively. Properly managed, those 5 minutes could help make another sale or help a customer solve a problem. But because of a poorly designed intranet this time was being lost every time a staff member needed to complete this task.
Organizations are simply not structured to allow for time management when that time runs across the organization. Managers manage within the framework of departments or units. They also tend to be obsessed with head count rather than efficiency.
Let's say that Organization A has 30,000 employees. Let's say each employee does a particular task on average 50 times a year. Let's say it takes 10 minutes longer than it should because it's badly managed. This is costing the organization 15 million minutes a year in lost productivity. That's 250,000 hours. Or 33,333 days. Or 150 person years. It's significant.
By improving this task you can save the entire organization 150 person years; but that doesn't necessarily mean firing anybody. What it does mean is making the entire workforce more efficient, more productive.
Most managers will not be very impressed. They want to know which 150 people they can fire. Otherwise it's not real savings, not real efficiency. But you can't fire everybody. Surely it is still logical and practical to make sure that those employees who are still left with the organization can do their jobs more efficiently. Shouldn't management also have a role there?
The origin of management, in the late Nineteenth Century, was about making the tasks factory workers carried out on a day-to-day basis more efficient. However, when management pioneer Frederick Taylor said that he could make the job of shovelling coal faster and easier, he was initially met with skepticism.
The intranet is the factory of the information worker. And it's not in a very good state at the moment. No organization would allow its physical factories to be managed with the level of messiness, carelessness, confusion, waste content, and general untidiness that occurs daily on most intranets.
There is a much better way; focus on time and efficiency.
About the Author
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.