Intranets: A Reflection of your Corporate DNA

Before you join that next company, consider asking for a look at the corporate intranet first. Why? The intranet is a direct reflection of the ethos, soul, and culture of a company.

An intranet is important, it’s the collective knowledge of your employees, a collection of resources, and directories that should enable business to move forward faster (cost savings) and to grow and support customer focused teams (revenue generation). I’ve read research that indicates that 40% of the United States population will retire in the next few years, (Update: US Census reports that 26% of all Americans are baby boomers. 78M over US population of 298M, since youth and elderly are not working, 40% isn’t much of a stretch) and intranets are a key way to harvest the tacit knowledge from these information wealthy individuals.

[An Intranet is an accurate reflection of the inner workings and ‘Corporate DNA’ of a company]

My German uncle (I’ve a diverse family) runs the health department for a major county in California, his roots are with health inspection of restaurants. He told me one indicator of a cleanliness of a kitchen is to first check out the restroom, it’s often managed and cared for the same way. Intranets are often the same indicator for it’s internal culture. I know as I was an intranet manager, and have been involved with those programs in four previous roles.

You can tell a lot from the intranet, the way it’s designed, displayed, organized, the content all reflect how the corporation is run. Take a closer look at your intranet and compare it to the following attributes

What are the comparative attributes of a corporate intranet?

Structured Organization or Loosely organized
Is the architcture of your site tightly wound around the features of an existing CMS system, or loosely created by different collaborative groups? This is an indicator of how the company may be managed, either centralized or run by different factions.

Static or Dynamic
Is the content rarely updated, or is frequently changing with the speed of business? This could indicate how information is being shared (or not) within the enterprise.

Text based or Media Focused
Is the content primarily text and information geared, or are there uses of more ‘human’ mediums like images, maps, videos, audio? Is your company focused on delivering hard raw data, or sharing the human and ‘life’ stories among employees.

Disparate or Centralized
Is the user experience of your intranet different with every business group? or is it centralized within a single framework. This is a clear indicator of how your company is likely setup.

Product/Customer focused or Employee focused
Is your intranet focused on selling of products, or customers, or on the lifestyle of employees, and how they communicate. I’ve worked for a company where the sole purpose of the homepage was to push sales and marketing information to employees, nearly brainwashing. This indicates the true focus of a company. For example, Intuit is truly employee focused, and former employees tell me the intranet is setup this way.

Top down publishing or Bottom up publishing
perhaps the most telling attribute, if your intranet a publication of just a few key members with power, or are the voices and knowledge shared from across the enterprise? Does management lead with an iron fist, or are the suggestions from the employees on the ground floor (ones dealing with customers/products from day to day) taken into account?

Publishing from Business or Technology Group
Is the content published by a technology group, or is it in the hands of business? I’ve seen some intranets (a business tool) be controlled and owned by IT, which is clearly a mis-use of human tool to empower business units to communicate. This is a reflection of how business information is handled or respected, from a technology perspective or from a business perspective.

[By looking at the organization, content, and publishing of your intranet, will indicate how your company is managed, prioritized, and focused]

You can learn a lot from your enterprise intranet, it’s a telling mirror of the culture and ethos of your company. Now to hear from you: So how was/is your intranet organized? Does it reflect the corporate DNA of your company culture?