Today’s post is written by Julianna Davies, a contributing writer and researcher for the information-rich online resource, http://www.mbaonline.com. Here, Julianna emphasizes the power of the intranet as a tool to create and foster a successful and productive company culture, a tool that many MBA programs overlook. In this piece, Julianna picks up on an interesting Networlding post about how networking is like dating, and asserts that key to successful networking, through an intranet or another platform, is to engage employees in the company culture at large.
MBA Programs May Overlook the Intranet, but it Could be Integral When Building Company Culture
“To intranet or not to intranet?” may not be the question, but it is an important one to consider. This is particularly true given the increasing sophistication of social media and the growing number of firms, even significantly large organizations, that have found alternative means to fostering corporate culture.
According to Forbes contributor Fred Cavazza, “A social intranet is network that uses social software to securely share any part of an organization’s information within that organization.” This integration of social and informative benefits produces a wide range of benefits, without which most companies could not thrive, particularly those within highly competitive or volatile markets.
On the one hand, the vast amount of information that an organization should have at its fingertips – not only for executive decisions, but also for personnel lower on the chain of command – needs to be well organized and readily available. Intranets serve that function and facilitate lateral and vertical communication. Both coordination, as well as knowledge building can be accomplished via intranet, all without having to rely on external services. By facilitating exchange, intranets cultivate community development, which keeps employees engaged in their work.
In addition, intranets allow companies to receive valid and comprehensive feedback. With the right software support, business process analytics can be conducted efficiently and effectively to optimize production. Perhaps more importantly, intranets and communal engagement prods and sparks collaborative efforts, which is the main driver of innovation.
That is all well and seemingly good, but reality can present “unique challenges.” A BusinessWeek article aptly titled, “Is Your Company’s Intranet a Digital Landfill?” depicted some of the problems associated with intranets, particularly when the technology drives usage, instead of the other way around. The article cited a case of a 600,000 employee company, which re-strategized integration of its intranet around various employee groups, which would each use the tool in different ways. The presence of an intranet does not instigate its use; rather the right structure must be built in order for employees to be attracted to using it.
Not long ago, intranets were absolutely necessary to cover all aspects of data aggregation, social interaction and knowledge-building. This is not the case, anymore. Although enterprise software is still necessary to achieve some of the benefits, particularly in the way of business analytics, companies are now relying on multiple tools.
As reported by Forbes, Serena Software, a firm with approximately 800 employees, uses Facebook to govern much of the community-building and communication functions an intranet would provide. When the company aimed to restructure its intranet, it asked employees for some feedback regarding what they felt an intranet would need to become appealing. Even though the average age of employees was 46, the general response was “employee photos.” After considering several costly options – including hiring professional photographers – the company opted instead to throw a “campaign of parties,” asking for employees to wear clothing they felt portrayed a real sense of authentic character, take pictures, and start Facebook accounts. This occurred three years ago, and the initiative brought the number of employee Facebook users from 10 to 700. Serena Software continues to use an internal system to secure important data, but announces updates or changes to them via social media status updates.
Now, with the preponderance of freeware, social media, and other innovative cloud applications, businesses have a wide range of options to create an engaging digital community for their workforce, and asking employees what they want is the best place to start.