Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cut costs by expanding your intranet

Cost cutting is a fact of life across public and private sectors.

At some point every few years (or every year in some cases) organisations decide that the most effective way to improve productivity or profits is to reduce expenditures.

Intranets are a common target of cost cutting, either by delaying improvements to infrastructure, cancelling new functionality, reducing author training or cutting intranet staff numbers.

In some cases these decisions are justified, however with intranets often lacking high-level representation and sponsorship, there are cases where these cuts have serious negative impacts on the entire organisation.

So are there ways to position an intranet to avoid damaging cost cuts, and even increase the budget to the area in order to generate savings elsewhere?

I believe there are - and ways to make the intranet a central tool in a cost savings approach.

It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but I often advocate increasing intranet funding during cost cutting exercises as a lower cost channel for engaging staff and sharing information.

However for this to get traction, there are some preventative steps I believe an intranet manager needs to take to position the intranet,

1) Quantify and promote usage and satisfaction with the intranet
The value of an intranet is largely measured on the amount of use it receives by staff. This measure is, however, often more driven by perception than by actual numbers.

This is because senior leadership is generally the group least likely to make extensive use of an intranet - they have staff to make use of it on their behalf. However this group may (mistakenly) believe that intranet usage reflects their own personal use of the channel.

Quantifying and promoting the actual levels of intranet usage and satisfaction (and what functions staff are using) helps senior management understand the true value of the channel to the organisation beyond their personal experience. This leads to according it a higher priority within organisational planning.

During cost cutting this knowledge can shift the discussion from the potential savings in cutting back on intranet services to the increased cost of shifting to less efficient (and more expensive) communications and information sharing channels.

2) Identify a senior-level sponsor

Given that an intranet can benefit all parts of an organisation, provided the intranet's benefits and usage are quantitified and promoted, it becomes easier to identify a senior-level sponsor.

The most useful sponsor (for an intranet manager) is the senior executive with most to gain from an effective intranet - normally from a group with a significant need to share information or communicate in the most efficient way possible.

It is also important that the sponsor's area is regarded as business critical by the organisation, thereby ensuring they are well listened to in senior meetings.

3) Take appropriate steps to increase intranet awareness and usage
This should be an ongoing activity for all intranet managers.

Find out what tools or information would aid staff, make them available via the intranet and promote their availability.

This progressively grows an intranet's presence within an organisation while providing cost-savings as people aggregate towards the channel rather than using less efficient ways of accessing the tools and information they need in their roles.

4) Identify business processes the intranet can perform more cost-effectively than via other channels
This is the 'meat' in the cost-cutting sandwich. Before, or during, cost-cutting initiatives, it is important to identify productivity gains and business process efficiencies that can be moved by shifting functions to the intranet channel from other channels.

Start by building a list of potential efficiencies based on areas of savings including;
  • Communication (savings versus travel, meeting time, printing, distribution, telecommunications and physical communities)

  • Information collection (forms, surveys)

  • Information velocity (increased information transmission speed = increased business efficiency)


With the above preventative measures in place, the next time your organisation needs to cut costs your intranet can be positioned as a tool to support cost savings rather than as a service to be trimmed.

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