When I hear about corporate intranets and how they are perceived by the users, it is clear that some do really well while some struggle. Most are somewhat successful and gradually improving which is good. I recently conducted an intranet survey in my company and much to my surprise our intranet was perceived as both ’useful’ and ’important’ while the overall satisfaction was below average. Why was that? I looked through the survey results and it made me think that we had to re-focus. Our challenges were not that people didn’t use it – they did, but seemingly in spite.
I got to think about Herzberg’s two-factor model for motivation where he speaks about hygiene factors and motivator factors and how you can’t create motivation if the hygiene factors aren’t satisfactory. This prompted me to come up with the following three-factor model which I think applies to all intranets since there is a rather big overlap between motivation theory and user satisfaction.
Primary factors: Speed, Stability, Consistency, Access
Employees generally have high expectations when it comes to web-based tools and this also applies to the intranet. If they are expected to use eg. an intranet they must not get the perception that it get’s in the way. It must always be available, it should be easy to access, it must be quick, and consistent. By consistent, I refer to the fact that it must be recognisable from one day to the other. Generally people are uncomfortable with change, and of things move around chances are that they get insecure and don’t know what to do.
Let’s turn the primary factors upside down for a minute: If your intranet takes forever to load and you only get in half the times you try, it doesn’t matter if you have the best tools and the most compelling content – people will see the intranet as a nuissance getting in the way of their work.
Secondary factors: Findability, Accuracy, Information Architecture, Tasks
Once you have addressed the primary factors and made them meet the employee’s expectations, you are ready to move on to start working on the intranet itself. The most important thing is that it’s easy to find the things that people need daily – quickly. A proper information architecture and a well functioning search facility is paramount. It doesn’t matter how it looks as long as it gets the job done!
Whether your intranet is based around tasks (which most successful intranet are) or something entirely different, it is also important that the tools and information is accurate and up-to-date. This is something that should be easy to identify in the context of the tool/information and usually the technology behind your intranet can help here.
Again, try to look at it from the opposite perspective: If you have lots of information but people can’t fint it – what’s the point? …and if you have lots of information AND it’s easy to find but everything is from 2005 – what’s the point? I’m sure you get the picture.
Tertiary factors: Graphic design, Personalised content, Participatory Features
Now it’s playtime! If you have succeded with the primary and secondary factors, you should find yourself in a situation where you have an intranet that people like! Now the focus shifts away from avoiding to get in the way to create a more compelling experience for the employees. A nice design is closely linked to the information architecture, but it’s a fact of life that people can put up with a whole lot of ugly as long as they get the job done!
The tertiary factors mentioned here are not a comprehensive, exhausting list – it should be seen as a few examples. The point is that you need to get the basics right before going ahead with the fun, ’modern’, stuff otherwise people still dont get it.
What do you think? Does this make sense? Remember this is about an intranet – not the www...