Intranets Reimagined: Have Intranets Become Like Electricity?

04 Sep Intranets Reimagined: Have Intranets Become Like Electricity?

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 fourth post in a seven week series is focused on the data analysis of “intranet performance” factors – showing which intranet performance metrics have the biggest impact on how employees view their company’s intranet.

No One Is Talking About Intranets!


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  • 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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How often do you talk about your electric company? Not that often right? That is until the power goes out. At which point your beloved electricity provider becomes all you talk about. As it turns out, intranets (and the teams that provide them) might not be that different. Based on our ongoing econometric analysis of intranet survey data from more than 200 companies, with 99+% confidence we can conclude that:  

The intranet always being available increases your employees’ overall valuation of their intranet. 

In other words, they value the intranet being always on. For years, I have been hearing (not all, but a fair number of) executives and enterprise sales professionals say that intranets are not that important. On go the rants, “intranets are not at the top of our agenda”, “no one is talking about intranets”, “no one would really know if our intranet went away” … Are you sure? Just because not everyone is talking about it all the time does not mean it’s not “important”, “critical”, “valuable”, etc. Is being able to find the people and information you need to do your job important? Yes. Just as important as that electric-powered hot water heater, right before you take your shower in the morning.

Intranets Everywhere!

When was the last time you found yourself in a location without electricity? Unless you’ve been camping recently, chances are it has been awhile. And that is exactly what we have come to expect. We expect electricity to be available where we are — whether at work or at home, whether in a restaurant or an airport. Again it appears we feel the same way about our company’s intranet. With 97.5% confidence we can conclude that:

Being able to access the intranet off-site increases your employees’ overall valuation of their intranet.

In other words, they value being able to access the intranet from wherever they are working. Is this justification for a mobile intranet? Yes, we think so, but the numbers do not make the case based on the data we have. The statement that WIC survey participants rated related to mobile was “I can access the intranet using a mobile device”. According to the data, our econometric analysis showed this statement was not statistically significant, or positive. Why? Well, one reason could be that not many mobile intranets existed during the time period for which we have data. From a statistical perspective, we also see that being able to “access the intranet offsite” and “accessing the intranet using a mobile device” is likely picking up a lot of the same influence based on employees ratings. That said, we believe that as mobile intranets become more common the data will exist to support employees materially valuing the mobile aspect of their company’s intranet.

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

All econometric issues including specification error, serial correlation, and heteroskedasticity are accounted for.

Statement                                                                                      Coefficient           P-Value 

The intranet is always available                               0.326                 0.000

Pages on the intranet load quickly                           0.027                 0.739

I can access the intranet offsite                               0.208                  0.024

I can access the intranet using a mobile device     -0.14                   0.134

Adjusted R²: 0.111 

The adjusted R² tells us that this category of statements about the performance of the intranet explains 11.1% of the variance in the valuation of the intranet by your employees.

The two statements that your employees value the highest within your intranet performance are that The intranet is always available and I can access the intranet offsite. The two variables accounting for the availability and accessibility from places other than your desktop really show that your employees want your intranet to be available at all times through multiple mediums and places.

  • With 99+% confidence we can conclude that the intranet always being available to your employees increases the value that your employees place on the intranet.
  • With 97.5% confidence we can conclude that being able to access the intranet off-site results in an increased employee valuation of your intranet.

Interpretation Of The Coefficient:

  • When looking only at the performance of the intranet, given your answer to the WIC statement “the intranet is always available” was ranked one rating higher (better) in the WIC ranking system for that statement, the way that you were ranked in the valuation question “In general, I would rate the intranet as” was on average 0.326 ranks higher (better), holding all other variables constant.

Through this data we see that mobile is not significant and actually not positive within the data that we have. We see that being able to access the intranet offsite and accessing the intranet using a mobile device is likely picking up a lot of the same influence based on employees’ ratings. Also, we believe that as mobile apps for your intranet become easier to use that your employees will value the mobile aspect of your intranet more than they ultimately do today.

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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10 Comments
  • Andrew Wright
    Posted at 03:06h, 05 September Reply

    Mobile access to the intranet is an interesting topic. Should it be a priority or not? I was surprised to see a slide recently from the famous SharePoint evangelist, Joel Oleson, which showed that while mobile phones were indeed exploding at a phenomenal rate, actual usage of mobile phones for productive work is very small. If you check out slide #10 from the following presentation – SharePoint 2013 Mobile Strategy and Design – http://www.slideshare.net/joeloleson/sharepoint-2013-mobile-strategy, you’ll see that for WW iOS & Android smart devices, the time spent on productivity is just 2%. (with games, social networking and entertainment being the most popular types of apps)..

    This is consistent with my intranet project work where organisations don’t seem to be that interested in committing time and energy to mobile, responsive or adaptive intranet solutions. The reasoning being that most employees, when they are at work, sit in front of a desktop or laptop, so the business case for a mobile intranet is not that strong. That’s not to say organisations shouldn’t be looking at mobile opportunities but it seems to be a hard ‘sell’ at the moment.

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 10:52h, 08 September Reply

      Andrew, This is a very interesting observation. And one that resonates with me personally. While I do like to be able to work from where I want and when I want, there are “types” of things that I prefer to do seated in front of a laptop and when I am in “work mode”. How this relates to the type of content found on intranets (oversimplified) … I expect to be able to look up and interact with people from anywhere and on any device (e.g., mobile access to a social-enabled people directory). I also like to read news on the go (e.g., company announcements, general news, etc.). However, if I need to fill out a form, perform critical analysis, or see the big picture (e.g., navigate many areas of the site quickly), I will skip trying to “make it work” on my phone and wait for some alone time with my MacBook Air 😉

  • Ellen van Aken
    Posted at 07:59h, 07 September Reply

    Hi Andy, Interesting data and conclusions. Good to see that there are now indeed data to sustain the assumption that intranets are starting to be a (essential) commodity. I made the comparison with electricity earlier, but I had just a hunch – no data. In case you are interested: http://wp.me/p1s5qM-c3

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 10:59h, 08 September Reply

      Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for sharing! I like your post. I did not know about it prior or I would have cited you. Here is my question though … are all aspects of an intranet a commodity? Or are there ways to make your company intranet a competitive advantage? (I welcome anyone’s thoughts)

      • Ellen van Aken
        Posted at 09:35h, 10 September Reply

        Hi Andy, I definitely think that an intranet (or whatever you want to call it -“intranet” is short and means the same thing in many languages – quite a useful word) is essential and can help a company to become better, leaner, more innovative, more sharing etc. The platform will be a commodity, but not the content or the other things you do with it. Like email and your ERP and your document software, the intranet is there to be used. There will be formal and informal content, branded and plain OOB, hierarchically structured and unstructured content, and that is all fine. But just as there is no “email manager” I expect there may be also no more “intranet manager” over time.

  • Corey Lyons
    Posted at 21:19h, 08 September Reply

    I think, perhaps, a broader question is whether an “intranet,” as a word, is no longer that relevant? The name implies the early days of the Web and, as a result, the intranet continues to fight off a poor brand perception (as well as some routinely poor management practices that contributes to that perception). Is an enterprise social network an intranet? If no, why not? How do we reframe what an intranet is, when we all know there’s great value to it?

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 21:10h, 09 September Reply

      Corey, You make a fair point. I struggle with this one a bit. I have seen several names bandied about; Digital Workplace, Social Enterprise, etc.. The difference with the term intranet (and the reason I think it has staying power) is that it is a physical, tangible, well-defined thing. It is a term used much the same way that internet is used to describe the external network we all know and love. I agree, however, that the term is not inspiring or the least bit sexy. Do you think it is possible to reframe intranets without changing the term?

  • Martin White
    Posted at 22:28h, 08 September Reply

    It’s worth having a look at the section in Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace report for a contrasting view of mobile. In my experience field workers are not using the intranet on mobile because no one has taken any account of the differences between desktop and mobile access requirements. I recently had an engineer call to fix a problem with a domestic appliance He had mobile access to product info, tech manuals and a knowledge-base and could plug his handset in to run diagnostics on an app. It also had a great people finder which knew which other engineers were around the area if he needed a second option. I asked him if he ever used his firm’s intranet. “They live in a different world and I’m not sure where it is” was all that he would say, with a raise of an eyebrow!

    I suspect that the WIC data (which is brilliant in other respects) does not reach out to field force and so their views are not registered in the survey. It would be worth asking WIC clients to provide a rough split of field/floor vs desktop employees and what percentage of each responded to the survey

    “The reasoning being that most employees, when they are at work, sit in front of a desktop or laptop” . Really? That is just not the case for any company with a sales force or a tech engineering requirement. One of my pharma clients had 6000 field staff using iPads. They are never in the office. And of course in R&D research scientists are using lab notebooks, a form of mobile access which is never taken into account by intranet managers. Take a look at https://www.slas.org/default/assets/File/2012_JALA_Readers_Choice_Award.pdf and see the capabilities that these notebooks offer.

    • Andy Jankowski
      Posted at 01:56h, 10 September Reply

      Martin, It is my understanding that it is up to the companies participating in the WIC with regards to whom they send the survey. I suspect that some send it only to desk employees and some send it to both desk and field employees. I am not, however, sure how or if the WIC captures this breakout. I defer to Andrew for more detail. I will tweet him and see if he can weigh in. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Andrew Wright
    Posted at 03:17h, 10 September Reply

    I don’t have the relevant demographics about the survey participants – whether they are office based or not (perhaps a good question to include!) – but I suspect there would probably be a difference between the importance of mobile access for the two target audiences. ie. those in the field would most likely value it more highly.

    However, I guess to confuse things slightly, there is a potential blurred line around the definition of a ‘mobile device’. You could argue that tablets (and laptops for that matter) provide ‘mobile’ access and therefore they provide ‘access to the intranet using a mobile device’ (though the WIC question was originally meant to mean mobile phone access).

    In this case, I would say that mobile access ie. access via a tablet – is indeed an important requirement (regardless of the type of employee). In fact, my current project certainly has a requirement to design for tablets (all the senior execs have them and they are constantly travelling) but this same client was not interested in ‘mobile phone’ access to the intranet (though, like many of the projects I seem to have worked on, they don’t have large percentage of workers out in the field). The 2% productivity figure I quoted from Joel’s slide was also specifically for mobile phone access. Would be interesting to see how people use tablets if anyone’s got some data??

    So perhaps when evaluating the importance of mobile access to employees, it’s important to identify the device as well – ie. whether it’s ‘mobile phone’ access or ‘tablet’ access. I suspect there would be a significant difference in the importance of these two questions. Also important to consider the working conditions of employees. Maybe it’s time to revisit these WIC questions!

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