Intranets Reimagined: “Look” Factors Impacting Your Intranet

04 Aug Intranets Reimagined: “Look” Factors Impacting Your Intranet

Co-Author Tyler Sauerteig

 

In partnership with the Worldwide Intranet Challenge, we’ve applied econometric principles to the results of over 200 intranet surveys and… statistically pinpointed which intranet attributes most impact a user’s perception of their intranet.

This first post in this seven week series is focused on the data analysis of  “look” factors — showing what employees prefer to look and find when they view their company’s intranet.

Two Things Employees Want Their Intranet To Do

        1. Help them understand the values and culture of their organization
        2. Have content labelled with an owner

These findings are based on Worldwide Intranet Challenge survey participants rating the importance of the following statements about the “Look and Feel” of their company’s intranet.

        • I like the intranet homepage
        • I like the look and feel of the intranet
        • Information on the intranet is easy to read
        • The intranet has a consistent page layout
        • Content is labelled with an owner
        • I can personalize the intranet
        • The intranet helps me understand our values & culture

I was actually kind of surprised by these findings. I personally would have placed “consistent page layout” and “ability to personalize” as having a bigger impact on how highly users rank their intranet. In fact, not only was I wrong about personalization having a positive impact, our study showed that:

What Your Employees Want From Your IntranetFree Download: What Your Employees Want From Your Intranet

In this download, you will find the following information:

  • Ways to increase your employees’ rating of your company’s intranet
  • How to invest your intranet redesign money to get the biggest return
  • Key intranet fundamentals to ensure employee engagement
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Being able to personalize the company intranet actually has a negative impact on the way that employees value their intranet.

On further reflection, this makes sense. “Too much choice” has been scientifically proven to create the neurological response of “unhappiness” in we humans. In fact, this was one of the research items I covered in my talk at the 2012 ThoughtFarmer Social Intranet Summit (please hold all comments on chosen hairstyle and attire that day, I promise it was appropriate).

Do you agree?

Are you surprised by these findings? Which attributes would you rank the highest? I genuinely look forward to your comments. I think there is a good discussion to be had here.

To see the details on how we came to the above conclusions, please grab a (strong) cup of coffee and read the following section.

Behind the Numbers

The econometric issues of specification error, serial correlation, and heteroskedasticity are all accounted for within our data set.

Understanding What The Coefficient & P-Value Tell Us

This chart below shows the coefficient and the p-value for each statement within the category “rate the following statements on the look of the intranet.” The coefficients tell us how much the rating of the intranet in the valuation question, “In general, I would rate the intranet as,” changes for a one ranking change in each question. The p-value tells us the confidence level that we could conclude that the sign on the coefficient is correct. In other words, if the coefficient was positive and the p-value was 0.10, we could conclude the question positively affects the valuation of your intranet with 90% confidence. As a general rule of thumb in statistics, a p-value of 0.10 or 90% confidence is generally where the cut off is for claiming a variable is statistically significant.

Statement
Coefficient
P-Value
 I like the intranet homepage 0.357 0.160
I like the look and feel of the intranet -0.105 0.720
Information on the intranet is easy to read -0.062 0.608
The intranet has a consistent page layout -0.019 0.890
Content is labelled with an owner 0.148 0.097
I can personalize the intranet -0.187 0.031
The intranet helps me understand our values and culture 0.259 0.018

Adjusted R2: 0.160

        • The adjusted-R2 value tells us that 16% of the variance in the valuation of the intranet is described by the questions within the category of statements on the look of the intranet.

P-Value Tests:

The questions that we found to be most important to your employees based on the look of your intranet were the statements of, content is labelled with an owner and the intranet helps me understand our values and culture. Also, the ability to personalize your intranet was found to actually decrease the rating that people place on their intranet through the study.

        • With 90% confidence we can conclude that having content on your intranet being labelled with an owner, increases the valuation ranking that your company’s intranet received.
        • With 98% confidence we can conclude that the intranet helping people understand the values and culture of the organization increases the valuation ranking that your company’s intranet received.
        • With 96.5% confidence we can conclude that being able to personalize the company intranet actually has a negative impact on the way that employees value their intranet.

Interpretation Of The Coefficients:

        • When looking at only the look and feel statements, given that your answer to the WIC statement “I like the intranet home page” was ranked one rating higher (better) in the WIC ranking system for that statement, the way that you were ranked in the rating of your intranet in the valuation question “In general, I would rate the intranet as” was, on average, .357 ranks higher (better), holding all other variables constant.
        • When looking at only the look and feel statements, given that your answer to the WIC statement “I can personalize the intranet” was ranked one rating higher (better) in the WIC ranking system for that statement, the way that you were ranked in the rating of your intranet in the valuation statement “In general, I would rate the intranet as” was, on average, 0.187 ranks lower (worse), holding all other variables constant.

For those that are not found statistically significant, you can still interpret their coefficients because the data sheds light on them being positive or negative for the given data set. However, this is with little confidence and makes it a very risky move to focus on something not statistically significant for your intranet re-build or creation.

We hope you gained insights about your intranet look and what really helps your employees become more engaged on your company intranet. Our next blog post will deal with the statements in the category of finding information on your intranet.

Andy Jankowski

Andy is a Social Business researcher, advisor and keynote speaker. During the last 19 years he has served as a trusted advisor for several leading organizations including Andersen, Ernst & Young, JP Morgan Chase and Oracle. He is a career long student of enterprise communication and collaboration. He has both written for, and been written about, in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Andy is a frequent conference speaker and an avid road cyclist. He enjoys connecting people and dots.

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14 Comments
  • Marian Moehren
    Posted at 11:02h, 15 August Reply

    Hi Andy & Tyler,
    very interersting article. I think one of the most interesting findings is that people don’t appreciate the possibility to personalize their intranet. This is actually something I’ve come across other times, that customization options are only used by a relatively small group of people. One could still argue that such functionalities are still worth it since even this small group of people can have a big importance for the company. But what I think is more important to say is that from my point of view the issue is having people to personalize themselves rather than automatically getting a personalized view on their intranet. I believe the latter is undoubtedly of very high value! So personalization is not “bad” in general, but it should (at least to some extent) come from the system automatically in the intranet.
    Regards, Marian

  • Andy Jankowski
    Posted at 20:08h, 18 August Reply

    Hi Marian,
    Thanks for your comment! I would agree. I too have found in practice that enabling users to “automatically” get a personalized view on their intranet is of high value. I think this nuance actually warrants a discussion with the WIC crowd. While no survey can (or should) account for every variable maybe there should be a question pertaining to both automatic and self personalization. I’ll tweet Andrew Wright and a few others, and see if we can get a discussion started.

  • Sam Marshall
    Posted at 20:59h, 18 August Reply

    Yes, I think automatic personalization is a different case and much more likely to be of value. Reading Andy’s excellent analysis, I took the ‘personalization’ here to be user-driven customization. I couldn’t tell if the question was only asked of users that had customizable intranets, however, or if some of them were speculating? The uptake is generally very poor – anecdotally 5-10% – but there are exceptions. Framestore, for example, reported over 80% (from memory).

    It would be hard to get reliable WIC data on personalization simply because I’m not sure if users would necessarily be aware of it. I’ve done user-testing with high fidelity wireframes, however, and found that success in task completion rose from 60-70% to over 90% for the automatically personalized option.

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 14:48h, 19 August Reply

      Sam, Thanks for the kind words! To further support your user-driven personalization update percentages, when I was at BEA Systems (before the Oracle acquisition), the % of customers that actually used the BEA portal user configuration features (it was highly customizable) was about 8%.

  • Marc Weeks
    Posted at 14:32h, 19 August Reply

    Great article, with a nice bit of math in there too! On the personalisation front, I think intranet managers should cater for a variety of user needs. Some users will state they simply do not have the time to get creative and personalise – others will tweak their layouts/styling regularly. With that in mind, a good balance would be to provide a small range of simple templates, accessible and ‘save-able’ within a couple of clicks, whilst also offering users to ‘explore’ and tweak settings on their chosen template a little further, should they feel the need.

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 14:50h, 19 August Reply

      Marc, Thanks for the kind words! I think you comment perfectly articulates the “art and science” aspects of intranet management. There is no “one size fits all” and you really have to be ready for anything and adaptable to your audience. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Andrew Wright
    Posted at 10:06h, 20 August Reply

    I would definitely agree that automatic personalization is a good thing, In fact, I would go further and say it will be of the cornerstones of successful intranet in the future..

    With the overwhelming amount of information employees are flooded with these days, automatic personlization will only become more important in helping them find what they need when they need it. In fact Gartner has predicted that “by 2017, 33 percent of Fortune 100 organizations will experience an information crisis, due to their inability to effectively value, govern and trust their enterprise information.” – http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2672515

    I already know of two organisations who have set the SharePoint MySites page as the default intranet home page. This provides employees with fully personalized home page. And when you think of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, theses pages are all highly personalized and I think this will be the future of intranets too.

    Unfortunately there isn’t a WIC question that specifically asks a question about automated personalization – perhaps I should add one!. Suggestions are welcome!

  • Mark Morrell
    Posted at 12:40h, 20 August Reply

    Great article Andy! My experience has been that users don’t want or haven’t the time to finetune what they see and use on their intranet. They expect their intranet to give them the most relevant information and tools they need for their role.

    That is possible with good profiling based on role, location, business area, etc. Providing you can do that so you meet the needs of most people while giving people the option to customise more if they wish to, you get staisfied people using your intranet.

    I agree that is ‘no one size fits all’ but it is possible ‘one size suits a lot of people’. 🙂

    Mark

  • Claudio Nichele
    Posted at 14:11h, 22 August Reply

    Very interesting article with surprising conclusions. But not too much when you think about it. Understanding the “Why” of your organisation and knowing who is behind each piece of information is very important. Values, culture and people, these things always come before technical features.
    About personalisation, my experience confirms the only 5-10% users who use the customisation options. These users are mainly IT and Comms guys. Main reasons given by the others are laziness, fear of technology, or ignorance of these options.
    Nevertheless I agree with the comments before me. An automatic customisation based on the user profile (function, business, location, etc) is a big advantage. It helps colleagues to filter the huge flow of daily information, it proposes them the documents and tools most relevant for them, etc. leaving the full content available behind a click.
    An intranet with embedded intelligence would be welcome. An intranet that can learn in the background how people work, the processes used, what they consult regularly, who are their contacts, etc and based on that learning being able to suggest them what they need to achieve their tasks at the moment. Waow.
    Thanks Andy for the great article and to the others for your great comments.

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 20:48h, 22 August Reply

      Claudio,
      Thank you for the kind words and your very insightful comments. I am intrigued by your comments related to “An intranet with embedded intelligence would be welcome. An intranet that can learn in the background how people work, the processes used, what they consult regularly, who are their contacts, etc and based on that learning being able to suggest them what they need to achieve their tasks at the moment.” … I think we are beginning to see this on some social intranet and ESN platforms in the form of “You may also like” or “You might want to also follow” suggestions, but this is an area imho where a lot more could be done. Especially when we think of the potential of learning from embedded (social enabled) business processes. I think we will see more of this as large business critical applications start to effectively embedded social network functionality (e.g., Oracle’s OSN) and intranets begin to gain more recognition from CMOs and COOs as a way of operationalizing sales and business processes respectively. I welcome additional thoughts…

  • Samuel Driessen
    Posted at 09:03h, 04 December Reply

    Thanks for this post and sharing the data, Andy. When I first read the post, I was really surprised. Especially about the personalization bit. I know there is research that says only 20% of the employees personalize their intranet when they can. But still when we do intranet strategy and design work for companies, almost all ask for some form of personalization. This doesn’t have to mean they will use it, I think. I think this says: the intranet is fundamentally mine, so I want to be able to tweak it in such a way that it fits my daily needs, not Communication’s or IT’s needs. For that reason I would think they would value it highly. But maybe not as high as other features when you have to chose between them.

    Is the personalization we’re talking about here comparable with iGoogle-type personalization?
    In my experience there are 3 levels of personalization:
    1. the system does it for you based on your profile, location, etc.
    In most organizations this has failed horribly. Employees hate it when the systems decide for them. But there seems to be a subtle balance here: some automatic personalization is good, but too much is irritating. In any case: users want to understand why they automatically get to see certain content and functionality (and they want to be able to correct the system if necessary)
    2. the homepage design is fixed but you can personalize the content of some of the widgets/boxes
    So the elements on a homepage are predefined, but employees can select 4 out of 10 news categories, they can decide who to follow, they decide which updates from projects or applications they want to see, etc.
    3. the homepage is not fixed, every user can ‘design’ his/her own homepage, no two homepages look alike
    This is usually a combination of 1 and 2 plus an iGoogle kind of interface. We have several customers with this type of intranet. About 80% personalize their intranet.

    A final thought: there are also design considerations here. The fact that some users don’t value personalization can also have to do with the way they’ve experienced it. I’ve seen many horribly complex implementations of personalization with ditto design…

    Hope this helps!

  • Samuel Driessen
    Posted at 21:48h, 05 December Reply

    Thanks for this post and sharing the data. When I first read the post, I was really surprised. Especially about the personalization bit. I know there is research that says only 20% of the employees personalize their intranet when they can. But still when we do intranet strategy and design work for companies, almost all ask for some form of personalization. This doesn’t have to mean they will use it, I think. I think this says: the intranet is fundamentally mine, so I want to be able to tweak it in such a way that it fits my daily needs, not Communication’s or IT’s needs.

    Is the personalization we’re talking about here comparable with iGoogle-type personalization?
    In my experience there are 3 levels of personalization:
    1. the system does it for you based on your profile, location, etc.
    In most organizations this has failed horribly. Employees hate when the systems decides for them. But there seems to be a subtle balance here: some automatic personalization is good, but too much is irritating. In any case: users want to understand why they automatically get to see certain content and functionality (to be able to correct the system if necessary)
    2. the homepage design is fixed but you can personalize the content of some of the widgets/boxes
    So the elements on a homepage are predefined, but employees can select 4 out of 10 news categories, they can decide who to follow, they decide which updates from projects they want to see, etc.
    3. the homepage is not fixed, every user can ‘design’ his/her own homepage, no two homepages look alike
    This is usually a combination of 1 and 2 plus an iGoogle kind of interface. We have several customers with this type of intranet. About 80% personalize in the iGoogle way.

    A final thought: there are also design considerations here. The fact that some users don’t value personalization can also have to do with the way they’ve experienced it. I’ve seen many horribly complex implementations of personalization with ditto design…

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 12:14h, 07 December Reply

      Samuel, Thank you for your comment! Excellent points. I tend to agree with you that “The fact that some users don’t value personalization can also have to do with the way they’ve experienced it.” I do think personalization done right is 1. Very powerful, 2. Expected by users based on their “external social media” experiences.

      • Samuel Driessen
        Posted at 19:55h, 08 December Reply

        It forgot to mention this in my previous reply, Even though the internet and intranet are different things, how we use the web teaches us that we love ‘pull’ and ‘personalization’. Just look at the way many built personalized feeds based on RSS, following, hashtags, etc. And also think about all the different apps we use. A quick peek at someone’s smartphone homescreen teaches us we personalize heavily. I’m sure this goes for internal as well.

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