Few companies have good analytics tools for their intranet, and those that do struggle to use them effectively. 

Our recent research on intranet analytics identified three common pitfalls:

  1. Reporting on whatever data is readily available from the tool.
  2. No action plan in response to the data.
  3. Using the same tools as the web team.

“The value to the organization bears little relationship to the price or number of functions of the product. Those organizations getting the most value from intranet analytics are those that have digital workplace staff in place who actively use and ultimately master the tools they have at their fingertips." — Dorje McKinnon, director of Vajra

Will the Real Analytics Expert Please Stand Up?

One rarely discussed pitfall arose when we tried to identify the intranet analytics expert: everyone thought it was someone else. This was a surprise.  

Pinpointing who could best provide feedback on the analytics tools they use sent us more than once on a chain of enquiry, where the first person said “I’m only a basic user, talk to Harry, he’s the expert,” only for Harry to say, “I don’t really understand it, talk to Jenny,” who in turn said she didn’t have much insight either. 

Either the tools are too hard to use or people aren’t receiving the support to develop their skills. 

Intranet analytics serve a practical purpose when providing content owners feedback specific to their part of the intranet. Specific feedback gives owners motivation and incentive to maintain their area. A hard to configure tool tends to default to the company-wide view, losing this benefit.

Of the companies we looked at, WebTrends received good reports about its customer support: clients received detailed explanations about how to use the tool. However, people also noted the product's inherent complexity. 

Several of the analytics tools are configured by default to show "activity highlights," such as page views, most popular sections and search terms. While attractively presented and a sign that the intranet delivers some kind of value, this data doesn’t offer much insight into what to do next. After all, not every intranet page needs to be popular, it just needs to be useful to the right person at the right time.

Determining When and Where to Take Action

Beyond basic reporting, the real art of intranet analytics is knowing what to ask. You'll find inspiration for this in your intranet strategic goals and governance. Clarity on your objectives helps you avoid reporting 'noise’ and brings focus on which questions you need to answer (see the figure below). 

  • The ROI part tracks “Are we making progress towards our goals?” so tie any actions to KPIs
  • The monitor part tracks usage in support of governance — “Is the intranet being used as intended?” — so action need to be tied to a governance plan

intranet analytics questions to ask

We liked NGAGE for its very detailed insights into adoption and enagement levels, though all tools did reasonably well on the activity reporting side. For activity monitoring on SharePoint intranets, HarePoint offers good value, despite having a name that will infuriate your spell-checker. 

Web Analytics and Intranet Analytics: Similar, But Different

Intranet analytics provide a two-part picture:

  • What your content is doing
  • What your users are doing

While you can use web tools on your intranet, tools with web analytics roots tend to focus on the content side due to the challenges of qualifying all web users.

Intranets differ here because user logs in, allowing you to potentially learn a great deal about individual users. You also know the potential audience size because it is finite. In principle this allows for a different set of answers to be posed if the tools allow for it, for example:

  • How engaged are people in HR compared to Finance?
  • Do senior managers participate in social content as often as middle managers?
  • What percentage of field workers are frequent users?

The tools that make this kind of query easy tend to be the platform-specific tools such as NGAGE and CardioLog for SharePoint. CardioLog in particular goes a step further by also covering Yammer, giving a more complete view of social intranet activity.

Using web-driven tools also runs the risk of becoming too complex and often too expensive. Some intranet managers get a free ride because the marketing team already has the tool. If this isn’t the case and you’re making your first steps in analytics, try a free tool until you develop a sense of how you will use the data. Google Analytics or Piwik (which is very similar but can be installed on your own servers) are both good starting points. 

Learn more about how each tool rates in our comparative review of intranet analytics.

Acknowledgments: I’m grateful to Dorje McKinnon for his work on the report and his research insights which informed this article.