Question Mark
PHOTO: Seth Capitulo

How do you determine the success (or otherwise) of your intranet? It’s the million dollar question and there are many ways to answer it. 

Would you consider your intranet successful if:

  • 60 percent or more of your intranet target audience view content at least once a day (where the intranet is not the default organizational browser home page), or
  • 24 percent or more of the intranet target audience contribute content at least once a day (contributions can include posting a comment, updating a page, contributing to a discussion, uploading a document).

That is how 218 participants to a recent survey defined success in their organizations.

Note: Assume these numbers are for a normal working day. If your intranet software provides you with average unique daily visitors, don't forget to factor non-working days into your calculations. 

The Survey

The survey consisted of two intranet adoption questions and three demographic questions.

Adoption Questions and Results

The intranet adoption related questions asked were:

Q1. “In your opinion, what percentage of employees would need to VIEW content on the intranet at least ONCE A DAY for you to consider it to be successful? Note: Assume that the intranet is NOT the default organizational browser home page and that employees would need to explicitly go there to view content.”

Q2. “In your opinion, what percentage of employees would need to CONTRIBUTE content (e.g. post a comment, update a page, contribute to a discussion, upload a document) to the intranet at least ONCE A DAY for you to consider it to be successful?”

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To calculate the 60 percent and 24 percent figures, I multiplied the number of responses for each option by the midpoint of each percent range and then divided the total by the number of responses. The results are as follows:

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The three demographic questions were:

  • How do you define an intranet? An intranet includes... (select all that apply)
  • How large is your organization (number of employees)?
  • What is your role in relation to intranets?

We can use these demographics to further analyze the numbers to identify any variations based on how people define an intranet, the size of their organization and their role in relation to intranets.

Intranet Definition

How often an intranet is viewed and how often employees contribute content depends to a large extent on how an intranet is defined. For example, if co-authoring, document management and email is considered to be part of the intranet, you would expect content contribution to be much higher.

This survey question asked participants to define an intranet by selecting from a range of options. Based on these responses, we can analyze a variety of scenarios depending on what functionality is included. The results were as follows:

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So does it make a difference to the results if we exclude certain functions from the intranet?

Let’s say the "typical" intranet includes all the functions that received 50 percent or more of the vote. If we exclude all responses that include one or more of the options that fall below the 50 percent mark (e.g. Calendars, Co-authoring, etc), we are left with 30 responses. The results are as follows:

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While the sample size is relatively small, we could say a typical intranet requires only 50.7 percent of the target audience to view content at least once a day with 13.1 percent contributing.

Similarly, what if we excluded email and discussion groups from the response?

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Again, though it’s a small sample size, the results vary from the overall response.

It’s possible to perform many of these "what-if" type scenarios. To help people and organizations carry out their own analysis, I have created a Google sheet that contains all the survey responses:

Intranet Adoption Success - worksheet

Anyone can access this sheet, download to a spreadsheet and then filter various functions to gauge the impact on the benchmark percentage.

This makes it possible to exclude the functions that are not included in your own intranet and create a benchmark tailored specifically for your organization.

Size of Organization and Intranet Role

I used the same filtering approach above to see if the size of the organization and role in relation to the intranet had any impact.

The results indicate that expectations tend to decrease for larger organisations, with the percentages becoming lower as organisation size increases: from 68 percent of employees viewing content for organizations with 0 - 100 employees down to 55 percent for organizations with more than 10,000 employees.

The role of survey participants had virtually no influence on expectations.

What Does it All Mean?

So how do you define intranet success? What business value does it add? How does it contribute to the business? How important do end users think it is? How much time does it save? Are employees more engaged and more productive than they would be without the intranet?

This benchmark doesn’t provide the answers to all of these questions — it simply provides a rough idea for how much end user activity people perceive a “successful” intranet would generate. But perceptions count for a lot.

I have written before that a good case can be made for linking increased frequency of intranet use with increased value to the organization. So while a benchmark based on the opinion of 218 people is perhaps not the most scientific way to calculate intranet value or success, it’s not a bad place to start. And it’s a much better option than having nothing at all for the intranet team to aspire towards, which seems to be the case with many intranets.

What do people think? Is 60 percent of employees viewing content each day a reasonable measure of intranet success? Is it realistic? Achievable? Has anyone achieved it?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Seth Capitulo 

Title image by Seth Capitulo