Jakob Nielsen makes the claim in his 10 Best Intranets of 2012 article that 'Smaller Companies Still Have Better Intranets'. He says 'Smaller organizations are designing better intranets this year, and have been for the past 3 years. Of this year's 10 winning intranets, 6 support fewer than 15,000 employees' (4 with 11,000 or less).
Research from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) indicates that this may not be the case.
Sharon O'Dea in her excellent article, Are these really the 10 best intranets of 2012? makes the point that this is an area for further study and would be interested to compare the findings of the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). Taking Sharon's advice, I decided to analyse the feedback, by organisational size, of the 87 organisations that have participated in the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) to date.
The WIC is a free online intranet benchmarking service completed by actual intranet end users. End users answer a number of generic questions about their intranet such as ease of finding information and the value of the intranet. Based on this feedback, it is possible to compare intranets and identify those which are successful in the areas identifed by the WIC. Over 25,000 people have completed the WIC survey (note: anyone can register for the WIC).
The size and number of the 87 organisations that have participated to-date is as follows:
- 0 - 1000 employees (35 organisations)
- 1001 - 10,000 (36)
- 10,001 - 50,000 (11)
- Over 50,000 (5)
Intranet end user satisfaction graphs, based on size of organisation
The following graphs show what intranet end users think about their intranets in a range of areas:
- Q1. I like the intranet homepage
- Q2. Information is easy to read
- Q3. Consistency of pages
The above graph indicates larger organisations have higher levels of satisfaction with the home page, ease of reading information and the consistency of page layouts. This could be explained by larger organisations having a greater number of content developers and therefore a greater need for standards and governance. Smaller organisations on the other hand may not see the need for the same level of detail.
- Q1.I can find the information I need on the intranet
- Q2.The intranet menus help me find the information I need
- Q3.The intranet search helps me find the information I need
Again this graph indicates the larger organisations are having more success in this area, although the 0 - 1,000 group of organisations ranks second. Also interesting to note that intranet menus are a more effective way of finding information than seach. This is true for organisations of all sizes.
- Q1.Staff details (eg. phone, title, etc)
- Q2.News about our organisation/industry
- Q3.Information about our products/services
Content quality appears to be even across the board, with the exception of product/service information. Again this appears to be more effective for larger organisations.
- Q1.Complete online forms
- Q2.Publish content
- Q3.Find instructions for completing work tasks
Smaller organisations fair well in terms or enabling more of their staff to publish content. Organisations with 10-50K staff appear to be most effective at providing online forms and instructions for completing work tasks. This may be due to smaller organisations having fewer number of people completing tasks. For example, if only a handful of people are responsible for invoicing customers, it may not be worthwhile to automate or document this activity.
- Q1.Content on the intranet is up-to-date
- Q2.I receive alerts, emails or RSS feeds when content on the intranet changes
- Q3.I have received training on using the intranet
Surprisingly, given that you would expect more content to exist, larger organisations appear to be better at maintaining content on the intranet and letting staff know about changes.
- Q1.Pages on the intranet load quickly
- Q2.I can access the intranet off-site.
- Q3.I can access the intranet using a mobile device.
Performance of the intranet appears to be even across the board, with the exception of off-site access. This is more effective as organisations become larger. This would make sense, as larger organisations are perhaps more likely to have a geographically diverse workforce requiring intranet access from off-site and various office locations
The above graph provides the average response to the following question:
- Q1.Overall value of the intranet
Clearly employees from organisations with 10-50K people feel that their intranets add more value than intranets of other organisations. Based on the response to this question, it would seem smaller organisations do not necessarily provide better intranets after all.
Based on the above data, it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions about the impact of organisational size on an intranet's effectiveness. It's possible to make a case either way as to why the size of an organisations may have a positive or negative impact on the intranet.
For example, Neilsen says a possible reason for smaller organisations succeeding with intranets is that "Technology offerings might contribute to the success of our current, smaller winners: as a very long-term trend, it's getting easier to implement designs with good usability, bringing quality user experience within the reach of ever-smaller companies."
However, you could just as easily argue that larger organisations should have better intranets because they have greater resources and a more urgent requirement to deliver an effective intranet. They have more employees depending on the intranet and greater economies of scale to be obtained.
Whether the size of an organisation increases the chances of providing a more effective intranet or not is beside the point to some extent. There are other more important factors to consider ahead of organisational size, when deciding what contributes to a successful intranet. These include:
- Level of executive buy-in and support - is there an executive sponsor that can see the value of an effective intranet?
- Budget and resources - how many staff support the intranet?
- Quality of intranet team - are they passionate and skilled? Can they get the buy-in and support needed, at both the end user and senior management levels?
- Change management, communication and training - are staff aware of how to use the intranet? what functionality is available? what content is available?
- Organisational culture - is it receptive to technology, online communication and sharing of information?
- Employee engagement - are employees committed to the organisation? Are they likely to embrace the intranet?
- Technology - is the intranet platform easy to use? Does it support the organisation's needs?
- Vision - does the intranet support the organisation's vision?
- Industry - some industries will be embrace the intranet and technology more than others (a topic for another article I think)
- Intranet governance - is it in place? do people support the governance model?