Five reasons measuring intranets is essential
— February 16th, 2016
Intranet metrics. The very topic tends to bring intranet managers out in a rash or a cold sweat.
This is one area of intranet management that seems to not get any better. On one hand the tools are getting better and better, but on the other hand, intranets are getting so much more complicated.
If you hadn't noticed intranets have absorbed collaboration, social networks and applications into the mix of communications and information, and they don't care whether they are inside or outside the organization. As they have matured they have become intricate machines, with mechanisms and movements that we sometimes don't truly understand.
Not having effective systems of intranet measurement to understand this is crazy, but it is relatively common even within large organizations. I liken it to driving fast along a road without any instruments on your dashboard. With a fogged windscreen. In the dark. Without headlights.
But why do we measure? And why is measuring intranets so hard? Measurement is all about being able to objectively compare things in quantitative terms - what do the numbers tell us, rather than our opinions or values? There are a variety of things we do with that where intranets are concerned:
1. To judge whether something has been successful
You probably made a few promises in that big business case at the start of the project. Did you get there? You probably would like to know whether that 10-minute video of the CEO with the inspirational music that cost $$$s to produce actually got seen? You would like to know whether your social network that was put in for great cost actually got adopted into people's daily lives.
2. To understand how to do something better next time
How can we do what we do, but do it better. This is the essence of being a professional in this modern world. We must continually improve and evolve our practices over time. When we sent the email newsletter did it get read? When we provided a collaboration site did it get used? The numbers can tell us what happened and we can work out what to do better in the future. They can help us experiment.
3. To avoid biases, prejudices, dogma and self-interest
As it is safe to assume that all of the readers of this post are human, there are a load of cognitive biases you were born with. Then your experience threw in a load of opinions about how things work that might not be true, or might not be true anymore. On top of that we all have a tendency to push the world in certain directions that benefit us and many thousands of your colleagues might disagree with your personally driven decisions.
4. To discover new insight and ideas
You know how people like to appear really wise and wistfully say, "The only constant is change," and then do that thing in the same way they always have done? The numbers can help you know how people really are using the tools and information that organizations provide for them? The attitudes and habits of people within organizations can and do totally change, and you can change with them.
5. To model complexity that we can’t by observation alone
If a communicator goes into a townhall meeting, they can get a real sense of how it went: the number of people that turned up; the energy in the room and the questions that were asked. The intranet is experienced separately by thousands of people on PCs and devices in thousands in moments. It is a complicated system. We can't just have a feel for it, we need to look for ripples on the digital pond. The numbers, if we look at them correctly can summarize those splinters of experience.
But intranet measurement is hard
The problem a few years ago was not having any numbers, now the problem is numbers are coming from everywhere: Pageviews now muck in with likes and comments. Community managers fret about the differences between messages per month per user and comments per month per user. Lots of intranet people want to trust the numbers, but they don't trust the numbers they've got. Just having statistics doesn't automatically provide you with meaning and insight. The fundamental mistake is not measuring your intranet, but there are plenty of other mistakes to make. The promise of measurement to intranet professionals and internal communicators is huge but the reality is there is a lot of hard work and a mountain of maturity to climb to get there. The numbers aren't everything and they have limits, but they add so much more to what you are capable of.