Intranet case study by the numbers: H&R Block

Intranet case study by the numbers: H&R Block
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H&R Block is the world’s largest tax services firm. Established in the 1950s, H&R Block is the largest non-food franchiser in the world. It has an equally impressive intranet case study.

A fascinating business given there are some 90,000 people who work for the company every year, most in franchise-owned locations, and more than 80,000 leave each year before returning once again during tax season. And, according to the intranet plan presented at this year’s Intranet Global Forum conference, all have intranet access.

Here’s a look at the numbers behind a fascinating company enterprise intranet, called DNA, which is the hub of the digital workplace at this tax services giant:

  • 90,000+ intranet users
  •  80,000 onboard and offboard changes per year
  • 12,000 retail offices
  • 680 million tax returns prepared
  • 200 Content Contributors
  • 7 FTE intranet staff
  • 1.5 million page views per day during tax season
  • 14 news articles per week
  • 17 forms
  • 68 applications
  • 500 (static) pages
  • 15,800 documents
  • 4 principal technologies: Lithium for social; Liferay for portal; OpenText for enterprise content management;
  • Google appliance for search
  • $25 dollars: the reward for participating in the annual intranet survey
Worldwide Intranet Challenge ranking: #4 (out of 232 companies)



The most popular feature on the home page: alerts (e.g. IT outage, IS outage, etc.).

“We use Alerts to instantly notify all associates when we have any technology outages or IRS outages, and we also use this space to communicate “All Clear” once these issues are resolved,” says Karen Downs, Intranet Program Manager, H&R Block. “Posting notifications in this space can really help cut down call traffic to our internal help desk in times when one or more systems is temporarily unavailable for any reason – this gives our IT staff the time and space they need to work on the issue rather than responding to calls, and it lets our associates in the field know what work-arounds we have in place.”


The intranet search engine is of particular interest and focus to the H&R Block intranet team. Though it ranks extremely high in the overall Worldwide Intranet Challenge benchmark ranking — 6th out of 232 companies — the search engine continues to be, as it is at most companies, a source of frustration for some at H&R Block.

“People generally say… “I can’t find anything on DNA – the search doesn’t work!”  — but this kind of “feedback” is totally useless,” says Downs. “But not one of our search problems relate to the technology.”

So we started asking, “Why doesn’t it work? Is the search engine broken? Do you just not know how to search?”

The problem, they found, was content. Among the most common issues:

  • Content is not on the intranet – 40% of the search feedback related to content not on the main intranet (elsewhere)
  • Vocabulary problems – employees using search keywords different from the actual content itself
  • Just missed – the result is in the top three results, but user just didn’t understand the link
  • Content does not exist – the knowledge may exist inside the corporation, but not in web form


“The search engine didn’t fail,” adds Downs, when referring to their enterprise search technology, the Google Search Appliance. “Not once have I found a situation where the content exists where it is supposed to, using the language that our front line folks are using, but the search engine didn’t find it. My IT (technology) partners LOVED it when I was able to say this to our executives, because it puts the focus in the right place to fix the ongoing issues, and it frees them up to do things I need them to do (like fixing the search results display and turning on key matches and scoping functionality, etc.).”


H&R Block’s intranet team solution was to create a search feedback mechanism to identify and resolve issues with search:

  • Users submit questions, comments or complaints via a search feedback link form at the bottom of results page.
  • The intranet teams receives an email notification and responds within two business days
  • Employees are thanked for their feedback
  • The team identifies and catalogs all the reasons behind the search challenge
  • Finally, it initiates changes, often requiring changes to the target content itself

Among the many solutions, part of their intranet plan, initiated by the search team was a ‘refresh’ of the search results display with a nicer design (including iconography, bold headings for quick scan-ability, adding a “last-modified” date, etc.). “Making this change has significantly reduced the number of search feedback messages,” adds Downs.

H&R Block is but one of a dozen key presenters, including Google, Coca-Cola, Bayer, and others, with detailed case studies at this year’s Digital Workplace & Intranet Global Forum conference in New York (Oct. 25 – 26). Early-bird registration is only $890 for the full conference.

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