I've been talking with a lot of people about their intranets and I'm seeing a trend. Most intranets suck.
Keep in mind I'm not talking about folks who run little mom and pop businesses. I'm talking about folks who run major businesses you all probably know.
One CTO told me “the place I just started working at didn't even have an intranet until I got there.” He only has been able to put up an Apache server with a few rudimentary pages. I've looked at it and that sucks. But he isn't alone. A lot of companies have intranets that suck.
Here's how to rate if your intranet sucks:
1) Can everyone publish on on your intranet? Really? Rate your system sucky if fewer than 80% of your employees regularly publish on your intranet (ie: at least once a week). If fewer are publishing, ask yourself why. I'll bet it's cause you're running on Apache or IIS (er, traditional Web servers or using FrontPage), which makes it too hard to put up pages for most people.
2) How many people are between the janitor and your intranet? Rate your system sucky if ANYONE needs to be involved for your janitor, or your CEO to publish on your intranet.
3) Does your intranet system require hard-to-learn (or expensive) client software like Macromedia's Dreamweaver or Microsoft's FrontPage? Rate your system sucky if any client software needs to be loaded for your employees to publish on your intranet.
4) Does your intranet require anyone who publishes to have an FTP application? Rate your system sucky if you require your users to get involved with arcane TCP/IP infrastructure models.
5) Does your intranet have interactive features like discussion boards? Rate your system sucky if your site is published only using static pages running on an Apache or IIS server.
6) Did your intranet software take your IT team more than one hour to setup? Rate your system sucky if it did. Your intranet should be easy to setup for your IT department. You want to spend your IT resources on improving your products and your customer-focused web sites.
7) Can your employees easily open a new URL for new projects or new divisions? Rate your intranet sucky if they need to get an IT guy involved to do that.
8) Does your intranet software cost more than $1000 for your entire company? Rate your intranet sucky if it does. (If you score this area sucky, it multiplies any other “sucky” answers on this quiz).
9) Does your intranet software work through firewalls and NAT's? Without getting your IT department involved? Rate your intranet sucky if it doesn't. All intranet software should work through port 80 with very few exceptions.
10) Does your intranet software publish to Palm devices without doing much, if any, extra work? Rate your intranet sucky if it takes more than an hour to set it up to publish all info to a Palm device.
11) When your CEO says “change the entire look and feel” of our intranet, how long does it take? Rate your intranet sucky if it takes more than 20 minutes for your entire site (after building a template). Do you need to change each page by hand?
I'll give you a little secret. I'm finding that IT directors and CTO's are getting pressure to improve their company's internal communications and Notes and Groove and Outlook and Apache just aren't cutting it (although those can certainly help).
I am incredulous that there are still companies out there who don't empower all their employees to publish for other employees. Consider what happens when you get your janitors to use the intranet. Let's say they notice that people are leaving their computers on at night. They might figure out that is costing the company hundreds of dollars per month. That might not sound like much, but in today's climate every bit helps (and, that hundred or so bucks a month would pay for your system in less than a year).
Oh, this one company I know has folks who are getting paid $60,000 to $100,000 a year to HTML and put content up on the intranet (er, an Apache server). Think about that. You are making it harder for employees to publish AND you're spending large sums of money to do it! What a rip off! Instead, spend that employee time on improving your products. Think about it, your competitors are.
Want to improve morale at your company? And keep your “A” employees? Give them good collaborative tools. Give them an intranet that doesn't fight them.
If you think I'm making a big deal out of a minor problem, I'm not. The problem of intranets that suck is a very real one and is costing our businesses big time — I've seen it first-hand at several companies in the past few weeks.
I'd love to know how to help get people to think about this stuff. If you're running an intranet on Apache or IIS your intranet sucks. It IS that simple.
I don't want to push it too hard here, but since joining UserLand Software a month ago, I've found an intranet system that doesn't suck in any of the above categories — it's built using Manila. [Scobleizer]