I was listening to the UX podcast on Intranatverk, a conference held in Gothenberg they made a comment that struck me;

Intranets are like the poor younger brother; they get the least resources, the least research the least of everything and end up being years behind everything else.

(It’s at about 9.35 timestamp of the podcast).

It’s true; investment in intranets has been low compared to external sites, which is low compared to e-commerce sites. It makes sense, those e-commerce sites make money, they’re your company’s online revenue. In our company they have more traffic than non-transaction sites, which in turn have more traffic than intranet sites. Some years ago we encountered an intranet site with an average of six visits a day, it belonged to a department of 20 people, but I digress.

On the surface spending less on a site based on traffic makes sense, but not all visitors are created equal. When we start changing a site we often create personas, these are rough character sketches of visitor types complete with their reason for visiting. It’s pretty easy to see that the value of someone who has come to a site with the express intention of buying has more value than a random person who visited via clicking on a link by mistake.

But it’s a little more complex than that; for our corporate site we consider analysts and journalists as an important audience, even though it’s a small group, because they have a multiplyer effect. What they write and say about the company has a bigger impact – possibly even a direct impact on share price – than say, a university student research a project.

So what about intranets?

Traditionally intranets have been about publishing information; typically work policies and company news. Services were added; employees could now book meeting rooms, authorise invoice payments and request annual leave. Working tools were added; the infamous team sites of sharepoint, and later more collaborative tools.

Slowing intranets have moved from “read” to ” do”, and we’re starting to talk about “digital workplace” to mean the collection of tools that an employee finds within their company to enable them to work. So as it develops into a work tool employees using it to serve customers the intranet starts to show that “multiplyer effect”. It becomes business critical – without it customers cannot be served.

In theory it should start attracting greater investment, I think we’re starting to see this shift with many companies putting serious money into making their digital workplace something their employees can really use.

Image:  Cash Munny / CC BY-SA 2.0

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