What are intranets good for?

Posted: May 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Work | No Comments »

Interesting discussion kicked off by James over here: http://2020visions.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/intranets-huh-what-are-they-good-for

Having weighed in in the comments, here’s some more considered thinking that seemed too wordy for a comment.

Intranets matter and deliver when distributed service levels and scale are factors. One of the best examples I can cite is in a global consumer goods company that was driving a centralized procurement system. They could achieve millions of dollars of savings annually through this, but they weren’t getting the penetration and usage they needed because folks found the SAP system behind it hard to use, and the policies and procedures were…somewhere else. Here, the intranet integrated SAP transactions into step-by-step pages that explained the policies and process, leveraging personalization to deliver content for country-specific variations (i.e., different office supply vendors in each country, local procurement contacts) and in the local language.

Solutions like this are far from easy, and I believe this is why so many intranets are as you describe. This project cost a lot of money and took almost a year, but the savings were huge and ongoing. Thankfully the sponsor was a finance person and understood that this effort and cost were necessary to achieve her larger savings targets.

Intranets need to support business processes and reduce complexity and friction if they’re going to add value. It may well be that solutions like that one only work for global enterprises, not for organizations that have only a few thousands of folks.