Filed under: Intranets
In the last two days, I’ve given an intranet presentation to a hundred small-medium sized businesses in Sydney, and the same number again in Melbourne. These are all firms with 50-300 staff or thereabouts.
What this immediately highlighted is how many intranets there really are. 80% of the audience put up their hand to say that they had an existing intranet, and the vast majority were planning on redesigning it. Multiply that by the number of SMEs in Australia (and the world), and the figures are daunting.
They also have the same complex challenges that firms ten times their size have. Just a small sampling of some of the firms I talked to:
A 300 person manufacturing company, with 200 staff in Australia, 50 in the US, and the rest throughout S-E Asia. A micro business run on a global scale, with all the usual global challenges.
A 200 person firm, with half of their staff in Australia and the rest in New Zealand. Each country has a collection of separate intranet sites and systems, run on a variety of platforms. They’re wondering whether enterprise search will be of help.
A 50 person property management firm, with 20 staff in Melbourne, and the rest scattered throughout Australia. They’re trying to work out how to best keep the remote staff in the loop, to communicate to them, and to engage them with the rest of the business.
A small chain of private hotels, planning to deploy a new intranet to support knowledge sharing between staff in different properties. But many staff don’t have regular access to PC’s, and all are constantly busy.
Questions from the audience were the same as for any other group of intranet folk: how do I get management support? should I implement personalisation? how do I get business areas to update their content? should I use centralised or decentralised authoring? big-bang redesign or incremental improvements?
All of this makes for a lot of intranets needing help. These are also challenges that continue to baffle and overwhelm 1,000 person government agencies, or 10,000 person banks.
On the positive side, my observation is that small organisations often do much better than big ones when it comes to intranets. For a huge bank, there are many different needs, and a hundred competing opinions. This can easily lead to gridlock, where nothing beyond the basics are ever done.
In a small firm, the situation can be much more direct. The business has one key service or product. There is little spare money or staff, so if the intranet doesn’t directly support core business, then it won’t happen. When everything lines up, this can lead to a clarity of intranet purpose that is rarely seen in big organisations.
What are your experiences with intranets in small businesses?