To August 1st, over 6,500 intranet end users from 20 different organisations have responded to the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). From these responses, we can gain a good understanding of how end users currently perceive intranets and what they think makes them valuable.
What characteristics are important to a valuable intranet?
The following table shows the average response to the question about the characteristics that end users consider the most valuable to intranets.
We can see that 'Ease of finding information' is clearly what end users value the most in an intranet. It's nearly twice as important as 'Staff being able to contribute' and 'Look and feel'.
Interestingly 'Staff being able to contribute and interact with the intranet' is seen as the second least important quality of a valuable intranet by intranet end users. Interactive functionality such as wikis, blogs and discussion forums do not appear to be considered as important as the basics of an effective intranet, such as finding information and quality of content.
What areas need the most improvement?
The following table shows the average response to the question about areas that need the most improvement. Those areas with lowest score need the most improvement.
Besides improving the ease of finding information, this table is interesting because it shows that enabling staff to contribute & interact and help complete work tasks are two areas that end users feel need the most improvement.
So while the previous table indicated that these two areas were perhaps not as important to a valuable intranet as other characteristics, this may be because these functions are not yet mainstream and end user expectations are low (ie. they have no expectation that the intranet will enable them to complete work tasks or contribute content, so therefore they don't yet consider these to be as important as other qualities).
Use of the intranet
The following question asks end users how often they use the intranet to perform various tasks.
As can be seen from the table, use of interactive web tools by typical intranet end users appears to be limited, with only infrequent use (ie. less than 2-3 times per month) of these functions. Discussion forums are unfortunately running a poor last.
Intranet managers and advocates appear to have their work cut out for them convincing intranet end users to begin using these tools.
Effectiveness of intranet in providing content
The following chart shows the average responses to how well the intranet provides various content types.
Not surprisingly News is at the top of this list, closely followed by staff details, forms, policies and procedures. This is the type of content typically available on most intranets.
Some of the areas that have room for improvement include information about customers, information for new starters, reports and calendars.
To develop an effective intranet, it's important to get the basics right. Based on the above feedback, faciliating an effective way to locate content and documents will go a long way to making your intranet more valuable. There also appears to be a correlation between ease of finding information and the value the end users place on the intranet (the highest rated organisation that has participated in the WIC so far also rates number 1 in 3 of the 4 questions about finding information).
Some tasks you can do to make it easier for your end users to find information include:
- Develop a good information architecture that identifies not only the types of information that exist within an organisation (eg. Presentations, Forms, etc) but the attributes of those types (eg. Author, Department, Location, etc) and the relationships between the different information types (eg. A Task may consist of a Presentation, a Form, and a Website)
- Maintain the Information Architecture model as new information types, attributes and relationships are added
- Use your Information Architecture to build multiple navigation paths to the same content or document (for example, all Forms could appear in one location but may also be found in the relevant business area that owns the form)
- Ensure documents and content are properly tagged with meta data identified as part of your IA
- Ensure your search tool is properly configured to return the best results (this may include the manual configuration of 'best bets' )
- Develop procedures to ensure documents and content on the intranet are kept up-to-date (eg. many CMS/DMS programs will allow you to audit documents and content for date last modified)
- Monitor intranet use to identify areas that aren't being used so these can be removed and also to make it easier to find those areas that are popular
The above charts show feedback from about half the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) survey questions. I will publish charts from the remaining questions in around two weeks.
Interested in finding out how your intranet compares to the above results?
If you would like to benchmark your intranet against the above results, then think about participating in the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). There are just nine free memberships remaining and these will go quickly. The value of a 12 month WIC Membership is 395 US / 275 EUR / 475 AUD
WIC membership enables you to:
- Benchmark your intranet from an end user viewpoint at any time over the Web within 12 months
- View your organisation's feedback & compare this against other organisations at any time
- Receive the Annual WIC Report analysing the current state of intranets from an end user viewpoint (valued at $290 US)
- Receive a complimentary invitation to a best practice intranets seminar/webinar
- View a database of the best intranets (as judged by intranet end users) in a range of categories such as best home page, most interactive, best search, etc.
If you are interested in participating in the WIC, then complete the registration form on the CIBA Solutions web site. It takes just a few minutes.
What is your experience in terms adoption of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis by intranet users? Do you think your average intranet end user is using them? If not, why do you think this is the case, given that many organisations (nearly 50%) [ref] provide these tools?