The DOW is in a free fall, your retirement plan is worthless and your dog has up and decided to fend for himself. Times are bleak and that means it's time to break out the one true no-nonsense money making machine. That's right, now is the moment to cash in on your company's intranet. Ok, we're sort of playing around. But many people think they are not when they trot out intranet productivity metrics and some fancy ROI formulas with impressive numbers to the right of the equals sign. One such popular formula that get lollied about is Productivity Savings. Many believe an organization can save massive amounts of money by helping their employees find things faster on the intranet. Right-o, that sounds reasonable. But not everyone agrees that this type of metric is viable, or even close to being realistic. James Robertson of Aussie firm Step Two Designs is one of these people. He recently trotted out his own pet logic, giving us "25 reasons why saving time on your intranet is a bad metric."

What are Productivity Metrics?

You probably know what metrics we are talking about. Like the one where you say that if Alice can save four minutes a day trying to find phone numbers on the intranet, then you can also save the 500 other employees four minutes a day as well. Take those numbers and do the calculation for the whole year and bingo! -- you've got a lot of productivity improvement. You get the dollar savings by multiplying the average employee salary with the time savings and the numbers can look pretty impressive to management. You can just see the intranet budget money flowing in. According to Robertson, these metrics are fatally flawed.

5 Reasons, Plus 20 More Why These Metrics are Bad

Robertson has five key issues with using these types of metrics to gain support for intranet improvements: # We’re not measuring end-to-end task completion: The measurement is only for the time looking for things on the intranet, not the complete task itself # Can we realize the value? If we are saving money, can we show it somewhere? Either in reduced headcount or more work for the employee? Unlikely you'll have any power to do that. # Time saving and productivity is complex: Are they really productivity savings? Can you prove the time saved is now spent on something else productive? Cause I hear that extra long smoke break calling. # We are multiplying a lot of assumptions: Assumptions multiplied by assumptions are simply wrong in so many ways # Many financial people won't accept it: Maybe your management team is crazy enough to believe it, but make sure the guy hiding behind the stack of expense reports and supplier bills does too. If those five issues aren't enough to show you the light, then there are 20 more you can read on Robertson's blog. We particularly like the one where you are trying to help people spend less time trying to find things while at the same time trying to get people to actually use it.

An Intranet Needs to Provide Business Value

The reality is your intranet should be supporting your business activities, not just storing information for HR and Marketing/Communications. Develop plans to move business functionality to the intranet and determine the savings you get then by decreasing the time to complete end-to-end tasks and you'll have a better chance at success.