Intranet versus the Net

Intranet versus the Net

Intranet versus the Net

This week, I'd like to explore a very difficult area of intranet management - how do you drive traffic to your intranet site? There are a variety of strategies you could try, including the most obvious one - having materials online without a print analog. But to make your intranet an integral part of your company, you also need to integrate it into the company culture.

Plug people into the Internet, and you will instantly find all sorts of useful off-site resources. There's an amazing amount of useful information available on the Net itself, and that's why people keep coming back.

The challenge is to make your intranet a regular stop along the way for company employees.

That means you'll be competing with Internet sites for your employees' attention. Ultimately, your intranet's content is what counts in the battle.

Given the challenge of legacy systems -which in this case probably means printed documents distributed throughout the organisation - the first question to ask yourself is this: what unique, must-have information does our intranet provide? The obvious candidates are searchable online press releases, corporate financial and sales figures, human resource documents, and other documents that have historically existed only in print form. But there are more possibilities than that, including information that can be considerably more compelling online than it is in print.

Giving users the ability to access and update information about themselves is one of the shortest routes to making your intranet indispensable. Your company has a variety of information about you on file, from your business phone number to the names of the members of your family, insurance information, and payroll records. If there's an error in any of them, how do you fix it?

In my company, for example, I noticed on my last pay cheque that the digits of my street address had been transposed. To fix it, however, I had to copy the cheque, circle the error, write the correct value in, and give it to our bookkeeper, who then eventually will get around to fixing our database.

It would be much more convenient if I could simply log in to the corporate intranet, verify my identity through a security mechanism, and directly edit my own record in the database. Instead of it taking six to eight weeks for the update to appear on my cheque, it could be instantly fixed and remedied by the next pay period. In a very similar manner, when you move offices in your company and your extension changes, how long does it take for the company phone book to be updated? Indeed, a company phone directory is a terrific example of a data set that should be available in a dynamic, online format.

Not only that, but the phone directory should include a downloadable version for mobile employees' laptops. After all, when you're on the road, you can't log in to the server to get the number of your local sales engineer. And on the road is a perfect spot for an intranet.

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