The People Factor: Three Ways People Affect a Portal’s Success
Intranet strategist Martin White said, “As intranet managers, we need to be skilled in the techniques of organizational learning and social networks,” stressing the importance of “people, culture, relationships and leadership.” At i-Squared, we agree. This issue continues our countdown with #4, #3 and #2 in the list of Top Ten Portal Mistakes with a look at the critical people factor.
#4 Lack of Organized, Relevant Content
Next month, young students will be writing reports about summer vacation that might look something like this: I went swimming a lot. I found a toad. Camp was fun. As adults, we know you can hardly summarize vacation in three sentences. A reader would need to locate this author and talk with him to hear the good details. A portal without organized, relevant content looks very much like this grade-school report, with only bits and pieces of data. It sounds scary, but consider for a moment how often you have opened a document only to find partial information. When employees experience this, they must use valuable time to track down a co-worker or missing documentation, all in an effort to find answers that could have been included from the start.
To begin organizing content, Anthony Satyadas, a knowledge discovery business leader at IBM Lotus Software, suggests “organizing, locating and reusing actionable information. The same concept that you would apply to a collection of recipes applies to knowledge management solutions of a much more complex and organizational level–ensuring that relevant and necessary data and experiences are readily available to help solve problems.”
At i-Squared, we work with subject matter experts to capture knowledge, but they are only part of the equation for obtaining and organizing relevant content. Additionally, we talk with the end users about what information they require. Somewhere between the subject matter experts’ knowledge and the end users’ needs, we reveal the critical information that must be documented and shared.
#3 Lack of Buy-in by Corporate Culture and Internal Champions
Even the most carefully designed portal can falter if the staff does not perceive its value. How can you measure a portal’s usefulness? Tally a point against your portal each time a project manager emails meeting minutes to the team instead of posting them, and whenever an engineer saves a design strategy to his local hard drive without sharing it.
“No matter how many PhDs and patents go into building a technology, the job is never done just because you’ve stuck the CD into a machine and completed the installation wizard. The value is in usage,” writes Udai Shekawat, CEO of AskMe Corporation.
When employees do not use a portal–or are not even aware of it–you should take it as a warning sign. Companies may consider strategies to increase awareness of the portal, tactics to ensure employees are not intimidated by the technology and special incentives that encourage employees to use it. Don’t overlook the importance of simple recognition as a means to increase its usage.
At grocer Giant Eagle, departments such as meat and produce were rewarded for using their portal to share best practices among Giant Eagle stores. Discussion groups talked about the “best way to stock a shelf, special offers for drawing customers into the store, caring for perishable food during the heat of summer, and how best to serve customers during peak times and long weekend holidays,” according to Jack Flanagan, Executive Vice President of Giant Eagle Business Systems.
“We have been able to increase any revenue generated as a result of improved operations and sales by all our 130 corporate stores,” said Flanagan. “For example, one store implements a best practice that increases its revenue by only $100 per day. When that practice is shared across all 130 corporate stores, Giant Eagle has the potential to increase its revenue by $13,000 per day, or $91,000 per week.”
#2 Lack of Commitment by Management
As we near #1 on our list of portal mistakes, we climb closer to the top of an organization. Portal teams often move too quickly through the planning stage and into development. The planning stage should include an executive-level discussion that defines a case for the portal’s use. Solid reasoning behind a portal helps the portal team to underscore its importance to managers and others. Without hearing a good case for its use, managers introduce the portal into an organization with disinterest or skepticism, or do not introduce it at all.
“It’s hard to blame senior executives entirely when they aren’t presented with solid, ongoing business plans that connect the intranet to business results or adequately trace the current and future ROI associated with the portals,” says Michael Rudnick, National Intranet and Employee Portal Leader, Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
For employees to adopt a portal into their daily routines, its purpose must be clearly connected to broader business goals. Managers must be able to believe a portal will benefit their day-to-day operations and long-term objectives, such as having a positive effect on productivity, teamwork and consistency. Leaders accept and promote a portal once they understand its benefits.
And Mistake #1 is…
We’re nearly to the end of our countdown! In September, look to our website for our article about Mistake #1. The next issue of i-Wise News will cover a new topic about how to wisely manage your company’s information.
To be continued...