Selling an Intranet Redesign

By Toby Ward — The choir has been singing for some time. Though many executives have yet bought into the gospel. They've heard the messages and are beginning to take notice: the intranet is a valuable business asset.

According to Jane McConnell's annual Global Intranet Trends 2009 report, 50% of the respondent companies that have a steering committee also have the support and involvement of c-level executives. One third of the respondent companies have a steering committee and roughly 17% of the total respondents therefore have a senior executive actively involved. While most of the remaining organizations do not have a senior executive actively engaged, these findings represent a marked increase over 2007. In 2007, only 33% of the intranet steering committees had the privilege of a c-level executive on the intranet steering committee.

While there is hope that more executives will realize the intranet's value to their organization, there is still a pause for concern. The study finds that only 14% of the respondents consider the intranet as "business critical." This is unfortunate because the intranet is a key business tool. Other organizations may not have allowed the intranet to become business critical, because senior management believes they should not invest in the intranet or a redesign.

The truth of the matter is that an intranet manger or consultant's number one job is sales – selling the value of the intranet. Most c-level executives are uninformed of the power of the intranet, and what it can do for their organization.

Consider the findings from last year's Global Intranet Trends Report finds:

  • 40% of respondents say the lack of senior management ownership (stewardship or championing) of the intranet is a serious obstacle
  • 44% of respondents say the intranet is not seen as a priority and is a “serious obstacle”

In nearly half the organizations, senior management is depicted as a “serious obstacle.” However, the blame is not always the fault of senior management because they often do not understand the intranet because they have bigger concerns. “Even when the intranet strategy is documented, which is the case in over 60% of respondents the percentages drop rapidly regarding senior management signoffs,” states the report.

Most organizations, even the above average organizations that participate in the annual intranet study, do not have a documented strategy. Executives can be excused for not supporting the intranet in those organizations, where the intranet doesn't have a strategy or even a simple business case in the form of a needs-benefits analysis. In those cases, senior management is not the obstacle, it’s the intranet team!

The Global Intranet Trends study has uncovered that 80% of “stage 3” intranets (the most advanced, valued intranets on Jane's 3-point scale) do have a strategy. The link between intranet value and strategy is becoming clear. Having said that, a strategy unto itself is not a strategy; the best intranets have strategies and senior management support. “When documented strategies and steering groups do exist, they often do not have sufficient involvement from business related people nor decision-makers in out-lying parts of their organizations,” concludes Jane. “This is part of the reason that senior managers are not always sufficiently aware of the intranet.”

The single-edged sword is not enough: a great intranet requires both a strategy and senior management support. Without senior management support, you need to find or buy a sales hat. Learn to sell the intranet – or hire an outside intranet consultant who can (see How to hire an intranet consultant).

Putting on a sales hat requires:

  • Case studies - Showcase to executives what a winning intranet looks like
  • Active commitment – Use case studies and needs analysis to secure an executive champion (or 2)
  • Business case – Work with your executive champion to determine the requirements for an effective business case 
  • Sales presentation – Including all of the above, hit the road and sell every executive that will listen
  • Proposal – Now you're ready to send your proposal to the funding committee or executive that will ultimately determine your budget

Unfortunately, the executive suite and senior management have proven that most companies care little for the intranet, and still in fact view it as a cost center. Unless intranet managers can find their sales hats then little will change the minds of executives who, by and large, will limit the investment in the intranet or enterprise portal.

The above findings and insight from this year's Global Intranet Trends 2009 report are just a fraction of a percentage of the insight and findings you need to know. Do yourself a favor and order the Global Intranet Trends 2009 report.

To read more about combating complacent executives read Building sustainable leadership support.

Join Jane McConnell and I at this year’s top intranet event in Europe, the IntraTeam Event on March 3-5, 2009 in Copenhagen, where we will present our insights and findings from our respective Intranet studies. Readers from and receive a discount of 15%. Just use price code: "Prescient15" when you reserve on the IntraTeam website.

Want to learn more about what others are doing? View the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey

Prescient Digital Media is a group of senior intranet consultants that provide strategic intranet consulting, planning and communications services. For more information on the Intranet 2.0 Blueprint service for clients please contact us directly for more information on how to transform your intranet into a high-value employee & business system.

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