On Collaboration and Recognition: Intranet Best Practices, Part 3

In part one of this blog series, we established how intranets standardize work processes and connect employees to others who can help them do their jobs. In part two, we looked at some of the best search, personalization, communications, training and support features of effective intranets. Another prime feature of great intranets is the opportunity for collaboration and recognition.

The Enterprise Value of Social Software

Tens of millions of employees around the world are using web-based tools to share information and expertise with co-workers, both within their offices and with remote users. A McKinsey research study on collaborative technologies in the workplace reported that many of these companies report significant organizational impact in increased information sharing, less hierarchical information flows, and collaboration across organization silos. But the way in which social mechanisms contribute to ROI is often indirect or unclear and therefore often undervalued.

A Harvard Business Review article, “The Enterprise Value of Social Software,” outlines the idea that social software is a “key enabler of the move from push to pull.” Social software creates the ability to access information in a clear, structured way. Tagging of content, content sharing, commenting/voting and creating stronger user profiles (via people continuously using the system) allows a person to use these mechanisms to attract the right content to them, for whatever their specific need.

To reap the benefits of a more socialized employee experience, it’s certainly important to point out that governance, change management, and ongoing community management and curation/pruning is necessary, and while it may be easy to add this functionality alongside the existing intranet, expecting the software alone to bring the result is not a good approach.

Collaboration via Quick Updates

Speaking of the easy approach to adding social functionality, a popular mechanism for collaboration is the asking of questions, having conversations and sharing of information through short updates with everyone, with a small group, or even with one other individual (replacing email), a la Twitter. Yammer and Salesforce Chatter are two systems designed to allow this, and are like Twitter, but with more and growing capabilities. A survey from November 2010 reported that companies using Chatter had promising results: 27% fewer meetings, 30% email reduction, 39% increase in collaboration, 52% finding information faster.

Team Work Spaces

The performance of a team is directly correlated to the ability of working together yet independently, while supporting each individual’s tasks at hand. Team spaces need to be dynamic and allow the integration of content/assets, group tasks, deadlines and milestones, along with the ability to attach asynchronous communication to content being worked on or stored. To support individuals, team spaces need knowledge of what each person is doing elsewhere, to manage overall resources and timelines. Encouraging contributions to enterprise content is critical, but don’t overlook that administration and effectiveness of a workspace solution is heavily tied to the ease of use for those who add content; this needs to be a primary consideration before selecting a specific technology.

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Idea Sharing and Innovation Management

The total organization’s performance must tap into the collective wisdom of all employees. No assumption should be made that those in a given team or department are the only experts on that topic. A form of knowledge sharing that is cross-company is the “crowdsourcing” everything from innovative new ideas to changes in companies.

PricewaterhouseCoopers launched “iPlace,” (WSJ subscription required to view the link) an idea-management site, in 2009. Employees can post and vote on ideas, and senior managers review all ideas within 30 days of submission and notify the employee of the idea status. As noted in October 2011, about 60% of the firm’s 32,000 U.S. employees have submitted, commented or voted on ideas. 140 of 3,300 new ideas have been implemented. The firm reports that one idea saved the company “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

Dell’s EmployeeStorm (on the same Salesforce platform as their IdeaStorm) has also shown positive outcomes, and is still in use after almost 5 years.

Recognition and Rewards

Huge opportunities exist to intranets and other digital systems to create a more connected and engaged workforce. One common form of recognition is publicly posting work anniversaries and touting notable achievements by employees. But there are many other methods of recognizing positive employee contributions and further increasing motivation. Rypple (Editor’s Note: now by SalesForce) is a “social performance management” platform designed for this purpose. Then there’s gamification. I’ll speak to the benefits of and considerations for that another day.


So collaboration and recognition are key opportunities for intranets. But, like the other features discussed in this series, the most effective intranets pay very close attention to governance. That will be the focus in the fourth and final installment of this series.

  • Josephine David

    Good article. I think ease-of-use is often overlooked, which results in ineffective and costly training. We tried many Intranet vendors, but settled on Centroy mainly because it was easy to use for the non-tech folks and didnt require formal training. They also made pricing simple by bundling all the features bundled in the core offering (things like document management, wiki, discussions, etc). I’m not the tech guy, but I am very much the revenue guy, and efficient collaboration is an absolute must-have. That said, unless it’s simply to use, all the other bells and whistles the technology guys push matter less if no one adopts. That’s the dirty little secret about most of collaboration offerings –many on your list–which disregard the end-user experience. In theory collaboration can pay big dividends in terms of increased employee productivity; however, an important point missing here is that these tools need to be adopted in order to be useful, which means they need to be easy to use..Anyways, we’ve been pretty happy with Centroy. I’m not tied to them at all. Just a happy customer.

    • Mike Osswald

      Thanks for the comments. I definitely agree that in this day and age, there should be nothing complex about using an intranet. It’s critical that people find the process of communicating and storing information not overtaxing, as everyone is pushed further to be productive – adoption is really a key success metric. And since every business needs something a different, customization of the platform is important too (if only to turn off features that get in the way, or aren’t yet needed). Glad you found something that works for your company!

  • Francois Pienaar

    It’s amazing how articles on intranet that are years old still have relevance today. Old habits die hard or people not moving on or the way we work together in the enterprise hasn’t changed much in the last few years?

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