Staff overwhelmingly want a better organized intranet where they can quickly find people, policies and procedures, and forms.In July 2007 we carried out an intranet survey using our Customer Carewords approach. We gave people a list of intranet tasks and also a list of things they might like to see improved on their intranet.
Tasks included: annual leave/holidays; complete a timesheet; find people; organizational charts; etc. Improvements included: better content organization and classification; knowledge sharing; personalization; more open culture; etc.
242 people mainly from Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand participated in the survey. They were asked to choose their top five most important tasks out of a list of 58, giving 5 to the most important, 4 to the next most important, and so on. They were also asked to choose their top three most important improvements from a list of 40.
The results showed an overwhelming consensus about what really mattered. The task of finding people got a massive 18 percent of the vote, more than the bottom 35 tasks combined.
The top 5 percent of tasks (find people, find procedures/processes, find forms) received 33 percent of the vote. This is the concept of the Long Neck. The Long Neck states that in any environment, a very small set of tasks will always be disproportionately more important.
We have generally found that the Long Neck constitutes roughly 25 percent of the vote. However, with 33 percent of the vote in this particular survey, the Long Neck was very pronounced indeed. What this means is that there is an overwhelming consensus about what staff really want from an intranet.
In relation to the improvements, the Long Neck was not quite as evident but was still very substantial. The top three improvements (better content organization and classification; easier to find the information I need; and better search), which represented 7.5 percent of the total carewords, received 32 percent of the vote.
The results reinforce the many other Customer Carewords surveys we have completed on intranets over the years. First and foremost, staff see the intranet as a practical place that should make it easier for them to do their jobs. While things like wikis, blogs and personalization got some votes, they were way down on the list when compared to finding people and forms.
Intranets require better organization, but instead many of them are becoming dumping grounds for all sorts of content. They need much better search, but search is nearly always neglected.
The problem lies with the fact that most intranets have not articulated a clear purpose and business case. If an intranet is to get the investment and attention it requires, it must show that it can increase productivity and reduce costs.
Finding people is a substantial and increasing cost within most organizations today. The cornerstone of a quality intranet should thus be a fast and efficient find people facility. It is neglected because the cost of finding people has not been properly quantified and communicated to senior management.
The key measure of the success of your intranet is task completion. When John went looking for Mary from Accounts, how long did it take him to find her?
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.