The Company Intranet, User Adoption and What's In a Name

Ann All

In May I shared details of Carphone Warehouse's award-winning business process management deployment, noting the IT organization "marketed" the initiative by creating a brand for it called How2. When it was launched to 1,000 call center agents, the lights were turned off and each agent got a plastic bag that said, "How2 Is in the Bag." When the lights were turned on, employees got t-shirts and other swag with a How2 logo. As I wrote, "IT organizations might scoff at handing out tchotkes. But those that try to inject some fun into projects are likely to enjoy a better rate of success."


While the "fun factor" can improve adoption for almost any enterprise software, I think it's especially important for systems for which usage is voluntary. I recently read two pieces that highlighted companies that experienced great success in getting employees to use their intranets, largely by making them fun to visit.


Writing for the Intranet Connections Blog, Carolyn Douglas shares how some companies create names for their intranets that offer clever takes on their company's business or culture. Among those she mentions are Mercedes Benz's Pitstop and Milkway for dairy company Fronterra. She also shares a snippet of a LinkedIn discussion in which one woman says an intranet at her former employer was known as Bob.


Turns out other organizations have encouraged employees to engage with the intranet by giving it an anthropomorphic name. A CMS Wire article written by Intranet Focus Ltd. Managing Director Martin White echoes my point that enterprise applications -- including intranets -- might find more favor with users if they include entertaining elements. Writes White:


The evidence is that some element of "fun" can be useful in an application that will be on everyone's desktops every day. Whether the fun element is some form of employee survey or a video of the organization's last charity fun-run has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. What is a mistake is to make a priority decision that the intranet is a business application and that there should be no "fun" element. So long as the organization also bans humor from business meetings, then that could be a justifiable approach!


White includes a link to a terrific case study of the City of Casey, Australia, which branded its intranet Boris (after holding a contest in which employees entered suggested names) and created an illustration vaguely resembling Mr. Spaceley from "The Jetsons." The illustration is used for items like posters and drink coasters and featured prominently in spots on the intranet, where Boris has appeared in a Santa costume, on a soup can a la Andy Warhol and in other fun situations. Intranet creator Michael Cleland says the site's front page changes at least twice a month, explaining:


If there's nothing all that important happening in Casey, we usually find a fun way to place Boris in a topical situation. The aim of this is threefold: Updating the front page of Boris gives the illusion that the intranet is never stale but is a "living document." To give staff a laugh at the start of their day. (Boris appears on all staff PCs at login.) To reinforce the positive image of the Boris brand.


Boris is so popular that the brand is now also used for new employee orientation and staff training. But even the best branding won't work if the site isn't useful. That obviously isn't the case with Boris, which took honors in the 2007 Intranet Innovation Awards.


White uses the case study to stress his six suggestions for effectively marketing an intranet:

  • Create a brand identity
  • Give the intranet a name
  • Develop a marketing and communications plan
  • Make the intranet team visible
  • Use swag to promote the brand
  • Find and publicize stories that illustrate the intranet's usefulness


I like all of his suggestions, but the one involving stories is my favorite. White offers the example of an employee who wins a major contract because of the way he could identify and contact company experts using the staff directory and looking through blogs. He says:


Intranet processes can be complicated, and it is important to get beyond the functionality and show how someone in the organization has made themselves into a hero through the use of the intranet.


I think such stories are a great tool for illustrating the value of applications for which it's tough to prove a hard ROI. When I interviewed Ed Moran, one of the authors of Deloitte's "Tribalization of Business" study, he suggested using stories to show how social initiatives can help achieve business objectives. One of his examples was a Deloitte client that linked a drop in call center volumes to an increase in online community participation. The communities also helped the company more readily solve issues through its call centers by more proactively identifying problems experienced by customers and developing strategies for agents to deal with them.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 15, 2011 2:49 AM datango AG datango AG  says:

'Selling' the change is crucial Ann and is too often neglected. Thanks for the post and case study references - interesting stuff!

Steve, datango

Sep 3, 2011 8:11 AM Newcastle Security Newcastle Security  says:

I agree that a picture speaks a thousand words, I wonder how many people have been passsed over for a job because in their photo they were ugly, or the wrong ethnicity.

Aug 11, 2016 7:46 PM Odessa Winston Odessa Winston  says:
This particular statement of yours (--getting employees to use their intranets, largely by making them fun to visit) sums it all. While building the intranet lies to those on the IT department or those who are considered "technologically capable", the "how it works and how to keep it going" mainly lies on the employees itself. It really is employee usage that keeps an intranet going. Here is an article that might help you get your employees engaged on your intranet: Give it a peek! Reply

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