Paul Wright’s article, “How Intranets Change the Way We Work” in Melcrum discusses how the corporate intranet can be a key ingredient in creating a comprehensive knowledge management strategy.
Wright quotes Susan Wiener of Cognitive Communications New York as saying that “knowledge management means putting into action the knowledge that exists in the company so it can meet your business goals.” Wiener and Patterson Shafer, also of Cognitive Communications, point out that a company should first define what it wants to achieve in building an intranet. This will determine structure and content.
The intranet, according to Wiener and Shafer, is not a static product but an ongoing interactive and evolutionary process. Policies and guidelines need to be carefully constructed to keep it dynamic, integrating feedback and content to ensure its value to end-users. Sound ergonomics and ease of use are also important.
Wiener and Shafer point out, however, that more important than infrastructure is the development of a mindset and culture that would maximize the potential of the network. Although the intranet can stimulate a “sense of collective resourcefulness,” it cannot transform a company’s culture to create collaboration if such a culture does not already exist. Companies are advised to accompany the stimuli for knowledge sharing with a compensation plan that rewards such behavior.
Wright presents how four companies maximized the use of the corporate intranet.
Platinum Technology, Inc. of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois was faced with rapid growth and rapid-fire acquisitions, making it difficult for the sales force to find up-to-date company products and information. The company intranet was created to capture data and make the same information available to sales members around the world at the same time, immediately improving productivity by six to seven percent. Weekly discussions are held online, connecting people who would not ordinarily be communicating. Content is monitored and frequently updated. The response time on users’ feedback is monitored as well.
USWest Communications of Denver, Colorado used the intranet to eliminate manual processing and to develop ways for employees to help themselves and each other. Training is now done through online self-paced tutorials; a unified help desk answers employee questions; and current data on company services is available. Work teams and project teams can create their own websites to mount and exchange information based on certain standards and guidelines, one of which is to have a feedback mechanism. Focus groups are held quarterly to gather input for user-friendly improvements.
The McGraw-Hill Companies of New York created an intranet to spur the creation of new products, cut costs, improve communication, expand internal and external relationships, and enhance work processes. It has 40 newsgroups providing “forums for employees to raise challenging problems, explore alternative solutions, and broach new ideas” getting “rapid validation online through their colleagues’ expertise.”
Xerox Corp. of Rochester, New York originally intended its intranet to be a publishing medium. Feedback, however, indicated the users’ desire to interact with content. Now, the Xerox intranet is fully interactive with questions, bulletin boards and some 8,000 team and individual websites. The goal, according to intranet program manager David Woodruff, is for everyone in the company to become a contributor.
People essentially want to bring out and share their capabilities, and appreciate learning from each other. They only need to be enabled. The corporate intranet can unlock a huge storehouse of knowledge and potentials within the organization. Done right, it can be the equivalent of the magic words, “Open sesame!”