Recently we were talking to a prospective client, a senior comms manager in a large financial institution, about evolving their intranet. She explained that their intranet had become a dumping ground for communications and was now drowning in old, redundant and irrelevant information. Thousands and thousands of pages worth of useless stuff. This is something we hear a lot, and it made me wonder why this happens.
To me, an intranet is a fantastic tool for engaging and involving staff. A great resource for staff information about their employer, obviously, but also a great way to generate conversations about the company's major concerns and issues. The intranet should, in its content and tone, relfect the culture of the organisation, the type of place it is and the type people who work there.
But it seems that for many organisations, the intranet is treated like a library, or worse a dusty filing cabinet. In other words, a resource of last resort. So why does this happen?
My sense is that often, the role of an organisation's intranet is never clearly defined â€“ for its managers as well as it users. What it's for, how to use it, what it should feel like, its personality. The intranet has become merely a default channel, somewhere to stick things. But we don't treat staff magazines this way, and even staff rooms or canteens (for those lucky enough to have them) have some kind of coherent character to them. At the very least, they're regularly tidied up so that visitors (or readers) aren't comlpetely turned off by them.
In this way the intranet reminds a bit of the smokers "room" a nasty space that people only go to if they have to, where you spend as litle time as possible, with no redeeming features whatsoever.
But they could be so much more. I get (pathetically) excited when I visit an organisation that has put some thought and effort into its office layout, or where there's a comfortable, modern staffroom or canteen. These features reflect the humanity and character of the organisation and they make people feel good so staff like coming to work. An intranet should be the same: a desirable destination, where you want to spend time with like-minded people; somewhere that feels like home.