Executives don’t respect the social intranet

Executives don’t respect the social intranet
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Grown-ups just don’t get it; the intranet was invented to support and grow the business, not to deny and cost it.

I received some disturbing news this week from a very talented and capable colleague and intranet manager who was laid off from his employer. Now, this is no ordinary manager, but an award winning intranet manager, with a superb, award winning intranet – created and managed on a shoestring budget, a minimal team, and no outside consulting or software support. In fact, the intranet is built completely in-house using no commercial or brand-name software. And the intranet has been particularly successful, especially so given the lack of budget and outside help. Ironically, the company makes billions, has been growing revenue consistently for the past three years, and has a stock price that close to its’ all-time high; a shocking juxtaposition of wealth and expense management.

Intranet ROI business caseWhat is one to conclude about such a rich, successful company with an incredibly successful an award-winning intranet, who lays off its only employee dedicated to managing the intranet? This company – like most – suffers from management that doesn’t truly respect the intranet, nor does it particularly have much respect for employees (in my opinion). Now I won’t be so crass as to reveal the players in this story nor wag my finger in one specific direction, but rest assure, this is not an isolated case.

The fact remains: executives view the intranet as a cost center, and employee costs as necessary evils. Don’t believe me? Compare the corporate website budget to that of the intranet, and nine times out of ten, I will show you a pathetic budget ratio of 10 or 20:1 (if not bigger). Similarly, compare a company’s marketing budget with that of its’ training budget and you will likely see an even grosser, inflated discrepancy.

As viewed from the ivory tower c-suite, the intranet is a cost center. And what do we do with cost centers? We reduce costs.

It’s high-time that executives smarten-up and view the intranet not as a cost center, but an innovation center. Some get it, many get it (otherwise I wouldn’t have a thriving business in intranet consulting), but most do not understand the value of an intranet. It’s not their fault, most executives are not smart enough; they’re promoted in their positions based on sales, revenue, profits, and interpersonal skills adept at traversing the confusing, and often daunting and dangerous personal politics that control most corporations. If you bring in money, or successfully win at corporate politics, you get promoted to the c-suite.

Therefore the impetus comes back to us, the intranet manager – or intranet consultant – to demonstrate and prove the value of the intranet. To track and measure the intranet’s business performance – be it in terms of user satisfaction, ROI, sales or employee engagement (but not HITS and page views) – and to continually improve it, as the company strives to improve, and demonstrate regular and increasing value. But first you have to add value to measure value, and that often requires an investment of money, which requires… you guessed it, executive support and funding. Show them the value, and they will show you the money.

How? It’s not easy, but it’s not difficult either; with careful planning and execution, you can convince nearly any executive of the value and potential value of the intranet, and dispel the fallacy that the intranet is a cost center. Show them the value, and they will show you the money.

How to Sell an Intranet Redesign to your Boss is a free webinar that tells you how to do this; and it’s not a sales pitch for our services (yes, it’s inherent in the examples and advice we show you, but there’s the webinar is a “how-to” build a compelling intranet business case). I’m hosting this learning session on January 15, at 12:30 EST.

Register now for How to Sell an Intranet Redesign to your Boss.

If you cannot attend the webinar, check out the white paper Finding ROI (Intranet ROI) which has nearly 70 pages on measuring and proving the value of the intranet in dollars and cents, and building a business case for an intranet redesign using dozens of examples and case studies.

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4 Comments

  1. Alex Manchester

    I think I know who you’re talking about Toby, and I have to say also find it equally amazing that this has happened. Demonstrating value and benefits is definitely necessary. Demonstrating cost savings should be less so if you do the former, but sometimes, a lot of times, logic flies out the window. 🙁

    Reply
  2. Russell Pearson

    If we do this right the value shouldn’t need proving, it will be self-evident. This is where I’m not over convinced by the sad story in the blog – no one owes us a living, we have to earn it & so does the intranet. It will therefore, remain in the hearts and minds of C-level, a cost centre until it starts earning money, i.e. when there’s a smoking-gun link between the site and the sale, between the $ spent and $ earned.

    Reply
  3. DrewO

    I have to disagree, Toby. Bitrix24 huge success in 2012 and Microsoft paying $1.2 billion for Yammer clearly demonstrates that social intranet is now a mainstream technology.

    Reply
    • Toby Ward

      … clearly demonstrates that technology companies involved in selling social intranets respect the social intranet. I said that already. Look, I said the average executive doesn’t respect the notion nor the cost of a social intranet. And only about 10% of intranets are social. The numbers don’t lie: executives (not all, but generally speaking) don’t respect the social intranet.

      Reply

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