Measuring your efforts

by Toby Ward — Why are unique visitors more valuable than visits or page views? Well it all depends on your perspective and what measures resonate best within your organization (particularly with management).
I have decried on more than one occasion those who would flaunt HITS as a measure of success. How Idiots Track Success – my tongue in cheek definition of HITS (though I was not the first to use it when I first heard it about 9 years ago, I’ve certainly used this in enough speeches, workshops and articles to help popularize it) is certainly appropriate given the lack of proper business metrics for measuring success.
So without being too cute, here are some worthwhile metrics for measuring the performance of your intranet, portal or website:
  • Unique visitors
  • Cost per visit
  • User satisfaction
  • Return on investment

Unique visitors

If I visit the intranet and view 20 pages, registering 140 hits, my visit counts as a single visit regardless of the page views or hits. If I leave the site and return that’s a second visit – but I still am only counted as one unique visitor for the period in question (most companies track statistics monthly or weekly).
Why are unique visitors more valuable than visits or page views? Well it all depends on your perspective and what measures resonate best within your organization (particularly with management). The reason I like unique visitors is because it is easiest to determine your reach (% of total employees that access the intranet within a given period). If in one month you have 4,400 unique visitors and you have 5,000 employees then your reach is 88% (very good).
Divide the total number of visits by the number of unique visitors and you get another valuable metric: average number of visits per employee.

Cost per visit

Cost per visit, like ROI, sells well with management. Most executives still view the intranet as a cost center. As such, it is incumbent on us managers and consultants to help change that mindset. While ROI packs more punch, cost per visit helps soften the blow. What resonates better if your CFO asks you how much the intranet costs to operate?
  • Answer A: $300,000 per year
  • Answer B: 3 cents per visit
Solid intranets firing at above average value for employees garner three to four visits per day per employee. Multiplied by 10,000 employees and you’re looking at about 10 million visits per year or 3 cents per visit.
The answer to my question as to what resonates best with your CFO...? Well, it depends on how tight his suspenders or her shoulder pads are but I wager that nine out of 10 are far more likely to smile when you say “only 3 cents per user!”

User satisfaction

Don’t just track what your users do. Find out what they want and prefer. Log analysis metrics don’t any qualitative insight into what employees ‘want’ and ‘expect’.
I like to measure employee user satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 because people intuitively are more use to ranking movies, etc. on a scale of 1-10. However, many professional researchers would decry this approach and point out the inefficiencies versus a 5-point scale with Good and Very Good being the optimal scores. You need to find out what employees will respond to best, and what ‘sells’ best to those decision makers funding the intranet.
For an example of other user satisfaction data you might glean from your employees, here are some sample results from a recent intranet client survey (online survey by invitation to 3,000 employees with a 25% response rate):

How often do you use the intranet?

  • 100% of employees have used the intranet; only 5% don’t use it regularly
  • 83% of employees use the intranet every day or multiple times per week
The following is a list of the major content categories currently available on the intranet. In your opinion, please rate the IMPORTANCE of each on a scale of 1-10 (10=Extremely Important; 1=Completely Irrelevant).
The most important content categories in order include:
  • Forms (cited by 86% as somewhat important or greater)
  • Policies & Procedures (83%)
  • News (83%)
  • What’s New (81%)

Return on investment

While few organizations are spending significant time accurately measuring ROI, it is important to 76% of the respondent companies in the Prescient Digital Media Intranet ROI Survey (see ROI Remains Guesswork At Most Companies).
Those that have measured ROI are finding significant value. Of those that measure or offer ‘rough estimates’ of their organization’s intranet, answers varied from $0 to $20M. The average annual ROI of respondent intranets fell just shy of $1 million ($979,775.58). The average company size had between 4,000 to 5,000 employee users. However, 40% of respondents had less than 1000 employees while 20% had more than 10,000 employees.
I’ve identified more than 130 line item benefits that can be measured for dollar value ROI (see my white paper Finding ROI) so there really is no excuse – there’s plenty to be measured.
Measurable ROI from hard benefits including cost savings and revenue from:
  • less paper
  • less hardware
  • fewer headcount
  • increased sales
Soft benefits include:
  • increased employee productivity
  • better customer satisfaction
  • faster time to market
  • improved employee retention
IBM, Oracle and Cisco all measure the impact and benefits of their intranet. And all of them have measured the value to be greater than US$1 billion. In fact, IBM has realized benefits from e-learning via the intranet to alone be more than US$284 million.
Of all the above measurements, perhaps the single most important is ROI. To maximize the intranet’s value and potential, you must secure the support of senior management. If you want their attention and support, you better talk their talk. Nothing gets their attention more than ROI. If executives view the intranet as a cost center, then it’s incumbent of the managers to prove and measure the value. Only through measurement will the intranet become a measured quantity and a proven asset.
This article was original posted as an intranet blog February 22, 2006.

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Toby Ward, a former journalist and a regular e-business columnist and speaker, is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media. For more information on Prescient’s CMS Blueprint service, or for a free copy of the white paper “Finding ROI”, please contact us.