During my internship at Kraft I was introduced to the use of intranets in big companies, what you want to achieve through using one and common problems that companies and their intranets are facing. As I’m spending a lot of time in social media (especially Facebook) intranets feels like a refreshing and maybe more wholesome thing to focus on for a change. An intranet that works well can be like using Facebook when you get the best parts out of it without having to deal with the bad parts – you know what everybody is up to, you know what goals you have in common and you and your friends motivate and inspire each other. A good intranet is also a place where you can find all information you need about the company – to compare it with social media it would be like the perfect way to store your bookmarks. I don’t know if you have the same problem as me but I’m still looking for the perfect way to save links, neither Bookmarks nor Delicious feels like the ultimate solution. It is too hard to find the links later but for now they are the quickest ways to save them while you are browsing other things. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post on how I save my favorite links if you are interested in my solution to this problem. You could almost say that my digital universe (my sites and profiles) is my intranet :p Now back to intranets!
Many intranets today are very old and often create more problems than they solve. Maybe you recognize one or more of these problems: they are confusing to use, there is too much information which makes it impossible to find anything, they are not inspiring, it doesn’t seem like anyone are using them, there is no space for discussion within the intranet or it doesn’t take place in the right space.
There are many good new intranets out there today, but a good product also cost a lot of money. Is it worth the money to try it out or is there another way to see if your company would benefit from having an intranet?
A couple of days ago I watched an interview on YouTube with the market and information director of Helsingborgs Harbour AB, Andreas Eriksson (interview made by Joakim Jardenberg, a swedish social media journalist). When Andrea’s wanted the company to start using an intranet to improve the communication within the company, he choose Facebook as the platform. What do you use an intranet for? Why did they choose Facebook as their intranet? Does it work?
Since the video is in Swedish, but still very interesting, I will share a short summary in English here!
1 What do you use an intranet for?
An intranet is used to spread news to everyone who works in the company. For many people today, Facebook is the place where they first get to know about news. It is very easy to share information through Facebook – just post a link or a short comment – and it is very easy to get an overview on what’s happening. If you compare your life before and after Facebook you would probably agree with me that it through Facebook is easier to keep up with what’s happening in your friends lives. You could see Facebook as an intranet for you and your friends.
2 Why did they choose Facebook as their intranet?
Since the Helsingborg’s Harbour hadn’t used an intranet before the first intranet would be a test to see if their organization would benefit from having one. Since they didn’t want to spend a lot of money on implementing an intranet if it wouldn’t be successful they sat down to think about what minimum of functions they would need and where they could find a platform providing those for an as low cost as possible. This is how they came up with the idea of using Facebook. It is free and met their most important needs such as share and receive information, increase communication and to start discussions.
3 Does it work?
The intranet exists in a closed group on Facebook. Here the employees can share and take part of news, leave comments and bring up things they would like to discuss.
A common problem in forums and comments online is that people tend to post things without thinking because no one knows who they are. Many employees where afraid that this would happen if they started using Facebook as an intranet. One thing that has proven to make people think twice before posting something is if their name and picture will appear next to the post. Facebook already have a built in function for this and therefore the company haven’t experienced many problems like this.
Another common problem with intranets is that the news that are posted are too long so that no one has time to read it. At Facebook you have to communicate your message with one status update or comment. This makes people think about what is the most important point to communicate and only communicate this.
More and more intranets today are implementing better ways to interact and comment within the intranet. At Facebook everybody can interact with each other in a very spontaneous and casual way, even with the boss! This way Facebook can also help flatten hierarchy structures and help bring up topics for discussion that wouldn’t be heard or recognized otherwise.
Another objection that came up for why the company shouldn’t use Facebook as an intranet was that all employers didn’t want to have one or share their profile on Facebook. Many where worried that they would have to give away part of their privacy by doing this. Not even Andreas used Facebook before he implemented it as an intranet, how could he even consider using it for his company? The very least you have to share on Facebook is your name and picture, you choose yourself if you want to share more than this or not. A lot of important news are daily shared through Facebook and the Andreas believe that it is a shame that some people miss this information because they are not on Facebook. Therefore they encouraged people to get accounts, show that they don’t have to give up their privacy and also provide support for those who where new to Facebook to help them set up their accounts.
Other issues that where discussed where the risk of secret information about the company leaking out, since the closed group exists on Facebook it is very easy to copy and paste a link from the group to your own Facebook wall where all your friends can see it. Anders says that they are aware of this risk, but this far it hasn’t been an issue and they are also open to become more transparent – if they are ready to share a piece of information with their employees they should also be able to share it with the public.
What I like about the concept of using Facebook as an intranet is that they are using a platform that provides them with the minimum number of functions they need for free. Instead of investing a lot of time and money implementing a dedicated platform they where able to start experimenting and learn more about how they could use an intranet in best possible way for their company immediately. I like how this do-it-yourself and learn-by-doing way of acting can be used by a corporate company and deliver good results. Andreas is very happy of the way he sees the intranet being used. Facebook as an intranet is successful because the employees are already used to share and find information there, they can easily start discussions and it is easy to stay up to date without being overwhelmed with content.
I have been interested in how social media changes our relationships and how we take part of information for a long time. Intranets have for a long time earned a reputation of being boring and dysfunctional. The last years increased use of social media have showed us what we can achieve if we manage to connect a group of people online and it is interesting to see how this has spilled over on the world of intranets. The following weeks I will take a closer look at how intranets work and hopefully find some interesting new products to share with you. Stay put.