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How to Recover from a Failed Intranet: Success Stories

Jade Carter

By Jade Carter

July 15, 2014

Since we started promoting for our Future of Intranets show I've been inundated with stories depicting the epidemic of failed intranets around the corporate world. As we mentioned in an earlier post, Gartner lambasted social intranet strategies (in a way) and predicted an 80% failure rate by 2015. From what we can see in the industry and from conversations with our service provider partners, this is a highly plausible outcome. That is, if we continue to implement solutions along the status quo highway that we so often find our selves stuck on (out of gas and with 2 flat tires).

Before I forget, this Whitepaper is extremely valuable here, it contains 7 crucial elements to consider 'before' building (or rebuilding) your intranet.
 

Reversing the Trend

So your intranet sucks. What are you going to do about it? Admitting this fact is step #1, it takes the most courage and often the hardest to come to terms with. This article will summarize a couple of high profile intranets that really sucked. Only they took the time to find a solution and so out of the ashes their new intranet emerged, better than ever and adored by all the stake holders. My hope is that their stories fuel your own initiative towards a fresh new start. Leave us a comment if any of their symptoms are familiar to you.

Repair Intranet Step 1 

Direct TV and Blind Faith

"It will go viral by itself"; and so their intranet doom was foreshadowed.

The Direct TV example shows how even a leading social community platform can fail based on attitude and deployment strategies. In 2011 (still very much relevant) Direct TV decided to set out to build a 'connected enterprise', and in their defense they selected Jive Software. Jive is a top tier collaboration solution so this should be a piece of cake right? Wrong.

Where Did Direct TV go wrong:

  • The decision makers assumed that it would 'just work' without addressing the true needs of the entire spectrum of stakeholders.
  • Initial deployment of the intranet in 2012 was offered only to the most corporate business units such as HR, IT, Marketing and some very specific resource groups. In doing so they ignored the other 39,000 members of their workforce.
  • A lack of leadership from senior staff their inability to push to use the technology coupled with a rudimentary training and communication plan saw very slow community growth and little to no 'social' collaboration.

How Did They Recover:

  • The first step is to acknowledge the fact that things aren't quite going as planned. They understood this and enlisted an agency with a proven track record of successful strategy and deployment.
  • They developed a comprehensive training and engagement plan to connect a much larger, more inclusive segment of the workforce.
  • They incentivized early adopters as part of the strategy to create 'ambassadors' with high level training and perks. In doing so they created true leadership which spurned strong growth within each of the many diverse business units. These 'champions' were routinely recognized in person at senior-staff level meetings, in blog posts and across the social 'chatter stream'.
  • They adopted a philosophy that would help their community members transition from closed, siloed working habits to open and collaborative communication on the social intranet.

By creating in house 'champions' Direct TV was able to build a core group of community leaders built up of the most active network contributors, who then became advocates in their respective unit. The agency also played an active roll before, during and after the deployment to ensure an appropriate adoption and growth trend, smoothing out any bumps as they appeared. In 6 months the community from from 1,000 to 8,000 across organizational and geographic boundaries.

A great success story stemming from a collective willingness to seek advice and to embrace and accept change which in turn seeks to engage the whole of the workforce.
 

IBM Eats a Little Bit of Crow

In this story, IBM commits a classic error with an 'I know what's best for my staff' philosophy. This will always end in failure.

A few years ago IBM elected to take a serious look at their intranet solution. They went all in with a new design that they modeled after an 'Apple Palette' with a mixture of trendy whites and greys. It didn't go all that well. It became obvious that the design wasn't generating the desired adoption. Further, they were unaware (because they didn't ask) that the issues went well beyond just a lousy design.

  • Global satisfaction with the overall solution was between 50% - 67%.
  • The homepage would crash more than was acceptable (even 1% of the time was very disruptive).
  • Slow load times with too much clutter on the homepage dragging down the site speed.
  • Terrible search planning and capabilities.
  • Little to no mobile awareness with a cumbersome and slow interface.

IBM threw out their playlist and 'we know best' philosophy and got their hands dirty digging into the real needs of the stakeholders; their staff. What a staggering thought. Funny how consulting the end user help you develop a superior product isn't it (end sarcasm). Fortunately for them, this new end user engagement uncovered a staggering number of searches originating from the homepage. By far the most sought after feature, and so lies the foundation of the new design.

After a great deal of end user dialogue and page level tracking, IBM launched again with the following priorities:

  • Speed; the solution is now crisp and responsive to accommodate nearly 400,000 potential users.
  • Search; the search features are adaptive and predictive based on compiled user data.
  • The design, centered around the search capabilities, is engaging and built to the audience's specific needs and tasks.
  • Fully responsive and adaptive framework embraces the mobile user now and in the future.
  • The Social Enterprise is baked in to the solution providing active collaboration when and where it is needed.
  • Personalization learns and predicts and delivers content that will be most meaningful to the end user.

What Did We Learn?

It should be brutally obvious from the examples above that failing to engage and consult the end user will devalue any intranet in short order. Whether or not the right technology was chosen was not part of the equation. When left to the whims of senior staff (decision makers) who feel that they have a pinpoint grasp on the needs of the 'people', history will repeat itself. However, in some cases failure is a necessary catalyst for positive change. If an organization has the courage to rebuild, so long as a change in philosophy is realized, great things can arise from failure. But it all starts with the people outside of the corporate offices.

We're running out of room in the intranet graveyard. Be one of the success stories. Head down a few floors and start asking questions. Those are the people that will build your intranet into something extraordinary.

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Jade Carter

Jade Carter

Jade is a content writer for CMS-Connected, facilitating the needs of the company blog. Bringing 10 years of Search and Digital Marketing to the table, he strives to build informative, relevant and fun editorial posts for the blog feed. Jade is an ultra distance (26.2 miles+) trail runner and lives to run trails in and around his home town of Victoria, BC.