Is there a business case for a charity 'social' intranet?

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John Newton
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While I want to look specifically at social intranets in this article, I should first point out that the business case for any intranet is in general poorly understood. While it's possible for Comms teams to go to senior management with a case for a new or revised intranet, it's unusual to see KPIs rigorously reviewed after the first year. Indeed, while evidence is hard to obtain, it's clear to anyone working in the sector that the overhwelming majority of intranets are not often measured against meaningful benchmarks.

I am an advocate of measuring and conitnuously assessing intranets, although I don't believe it's necessary to measure all aspects of your intranet. There is no need to justify the presence of a single point of access for an organisation that provides time saving links to important policies, or colleagues' contact details. So while hard pushed Comms teams get on with the business of trying to improve internal communication to support wider organisational objectives, the last thing they need to do is measure and report on every last aspect of the tool they are using.

By all means, set targets for intranets if you have well understood goals and are clear about how the measurements help drive your organisation forward. You can - and should - usefully take metrics to make sure people are able to find and make use of the information you are providing. How many people are accessing key policies? How many people are accessing important organisation announcements? Can you use 'likes' or 'time on page' stats to build a picture of employee engagement? Is your content well written and easy to understand?

From my experience with intranets in the charity sector, it's far more valuable to create a short list of sensible metrics than to get too caught up in the business case for full-scale social intranets. I'm sure there are plenty of instances where Yammer, for example, is working really well for a charity. But I bet there are more instances where Comms teams are having to fight a rear-guard action just to drive staff towards using their intranet to access a critical policy or form. In many cases, just getting the basics in place - which Absence & Leave Policy is actually current? - is far more important than delivering community-led 'social' staff engagement.

I don't yet see a stable common intranet base line where the essentials are all solidly in place. Think of an up-to-date staff directory, a well-organised and easy to use policy library, easy to access online forms, reliable single sign on, access to all internal apps, usable search - the list goes on. What is far more common, is a half-realised intranet that does some of these things but not all of them. As such, charity Comms teams often find themselves casting around for something that will get these core features in place so they can then build on these with more ambitious social tools.

Of course, some people would argue that social is a core requirement of any intranet and I don't have an argument with that. However, limited social tools can sit very nicely alongside a robust easy-to-use intranet that gets the basics in place first. There's no need to reivent the wheel here. Adding social media profiles, twitter streams, content rating or likes and so on should be straightforward to achieve with your intranet. If you want a really fully-featured social intranet, by all means bolt on Yammer (or perhaps better Slack). Get your core feature business case in place, buck the trend and measure what's sensible and what really matters. And worry about building business case for a your social intranet for a later date.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash