Friday, June 8, 2007

Intranet Implementation and Improvement Part 2 of 3

Keyboard 3

This post is part of a series on intranet implementation and improvement. Please click on the links to read further:

Part 1
Part 3

Implementation

Intranet implementation must be viewed in the context of an organization’s culture and politics. Stemming from its democratic nature, intranets are not useful for organizations that work on a need-to-know basis. Sufficient funding and top-level commitment must be present to see the implementation process through to its conclusion. Management support and participation factor into the adoption of an intranet as the favored communication tool of the organization (Fichter, 2006).

Intranets are successful for a variety of reasons. An intranet is a cost reduction tool and lowers an organization’s paper usage significantly (Wen & Anandarajan, 1998). According to Pedley (1999), well-designed intranets are an inexpensive but powerful way to improve internal communication. (See Table 2 below for suggested intranet features.) Intranets also enable a range of programs to be linked by a single interface (Pedley, 1999).

Suggested Intranet Features (adapted from Garink, 2006)

Attractive, inviting homepage
Aesthetically and textually consistent with organization’s identity
Useful links and pages; no dead links
Easy navigation
Proficient search and browse tools
Clear language without jargon or legalese
Accurate, timely information, preferably dated and signed
Inclusive, precise information without need for other sources
Task support without need for other methods
A killer application that keep users returning
Feedback options, such as surveys or suggestion forms

Other factors should be considered when implementing an intranet. The fate of existing systems must be decided, and firewalls and desktop hardware that supports graphics and applications must be in place. Intranet connectivity increases traffic in the network, which can challenge the information management team. Although intranets are attractive to smaller organizations that cannot afford large network and IT investments, they also must be mindful of this problem (Lai, 2001). As it matures, an intranet needs to provide sufficient bandwidth to optimize its applications without delay or interruption.

Although intranets can assist an organization capably, some studies have documented implementation problems. Dan (2002) reported that the Navy’s seven billion dollar intranet has slowdowns, failed communications, and locked workstations. Sherwood (2001) studied a company whose intranet failed because its users were more comfortable with traditional means of communication, such as mailing, phoning, and faxing, than with email and other intranet applications. In a study by Cumming and Cutherbertson (2001), 60 percent of employees in United Kingdom government offices disagreed that the intranet improved their work production. These are a small sampling of the practical problems that arise with intranets that may not be suitable for their organizations or users.

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