Cuts ‘provide intranet improvement opportunities’

Continued austerity could spark improvements in local authority intranets, according to a new briefing paper.

Socitm, the representative body for public sector ICT workers, says that the time is ripe to engage senior management in using intranets to improve employee productivity.

Happily, fixing such systems can be done quickly by drawing on the body of best practice that exists across the sector.

According to Socitm: “Senior management who have up to now managed to avoid ‘self-service’ may find themselves using the council intranet for the first time – and not liking what they find. This may create the incentive needed for investing more in intranets.”

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A recent workship held by the organisation found that intranets have suffered from being prioritised lower than customer-facing websites.

Often, functions such as search do not always work, navigation is too organisation-centric, there is too much focus on news and events, and too much information published as ‘pdf’ documents, it said.

“Lack of governance, devolved publishing, a failure to measure effectiveness and above all, lack of engagement by senior management, are at the root of these problems,” according to the report.

Improving intranets should involve identifying the most important tasks staff carry out most often and measuring the length of time taken to complete them, according to Socitm.

Research shows that these top tasks often fall into four groups:

  • About me: tasks related to the personal experience of being in employment, eg applying for holidays, claiming travel expenses etc;
  • About the organisation: information about published strategies and plans, and details about the organisation size, operation and management;
  • Find people and collaboration: including directories, phone books, and search for people – especially expert colleagues sought for advice or collaboration;
  • News / current affairs: what the organisation is doing externally and internally. ‘Bottom up’ internal activity, such as recent posts on Yammer or blogs, as well as more traditional top-down news from the chief executive or the central communications team, are included.

“One of the barriers to investment by councils in their intranets is that although savings from citizen self-service are now well recognised, the same is not true of employee self-service,” said Martin Greenwood, author of the briefing.

“Behind all this is the plain fact that the value of employee time continues to be insufficiently recognised by senior management.

“Additional drivers right now for investment in intranets are the increase in shared service developments and a rise in flexible working, both of which are supported by an effective intranet. “

Colin Marrs

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