Our intranet—six guiding principles, pt1

As we develop our intranet, we have six principles that we follow. If we live according to them, we think we are more likely to provide the right content, tools, news items, and services to the organization.


#1 Bottom-up
Our old intranet had one starting page. It was the page at the top of the structure, the page that was supposed to speak about and involve the entire organization. However, when you have an audience of 20,000 municipal employees and they do everything except funerals, “for everyone” tend to become “not for anyone”.

Our old top-down intranet.

We also had problems with hidden content. Struture based on the organization chart, services hidden under department names (let’s see… Which unit is responsible for walker maintenance?!) and a lot of navigation clicks to the content the employees were looking for.

Today, we always try to have a bottom-up perspective when structuring content on the intranet. It’s about turning the pyramid upside down, about delivering the pages that provide support for the work as quickly as possible. Anna employee should not have to cut through a variety of about-pages and transit pages to get the answers she look for.

Bottom-up thinking for our new intranet.

We do not believe in one starting page, the same content for all employees. We believe in several landing pages, one for every business unit and job role. And it is ok for an employee to choose one of these as the starting page. And we try to make these landing pages as effective “shop windows“.


#2 More than news
Initially our intranet focused on news. The intranet was run by the communications department and it was the electronic staff bulletin. This was how the organization saw the intranet 2003, the day I started as the intranet news editor. Statement 2003: “The intranet is all about news.” Sooo wrong.

Over time, the organization has changed how it thinks about the intranet. A few years after 2003 the discussion focused around the intranet perhaps being about all internal communication.

From the electronic staff bulletin to efficiency.

Today we see that the intranet, in order to earn its place in the organization, has to give support to the employees and, above all, make people more effective. An organization has a few core operating systems: the HR system, the finance system, the sales system. Then there is the operating system for general efficiency—the intranet! Statement 2012: “The intranet is all about efficiency.” YES!


#3 Fix the tool time
Efficiency is the key word, we stated in guiding principle #2. How can the intranet make employees effective? Enter Gerry McGovern and his thoughts on skill time and tool time.

We hire Anna employee because she has a profession, we want her to carry out a certain task. When she carry out her profession, e.g. caring for children in a kindergarten, she is in her skill time. The more skill time the better.

But as soon as we hire Anna the organization is also hit with some tool time. This tool time is the working time Anna is not taking care of children. Often there are a lot of laws and regulations that require different kinds of registration in operation systems, time Anna will spent in front of the computer, not in front of the children.

Actually you could say all the administration surrounding kindergarten, and the administration surrounding Annas own employment, are tool time. The time it takes to book a conference room, to fill in the expense form, to find how to apply for health care reimbursement (in Sweden, if we buy a gym membership, the employer pays half of the cost), the hours it takes to check and delete all CC mail every week—all this is tool time.

We want employees to be in skill time—therefore the intranet has to focus on minimizing the tool time.

The main task for the intranet is to reduce the collective tool time in the organization. Reduced tool time allows for more skill time. And every minute counts, because a tool time minute will cost quite a bit in the City of Malmö. If our organization has 20% tool time the costs of salary for this tool time is 1,680,000,000 SEK every year (180 million euro). That is a high price for us checking our e-mail.

This way of reasoning also provides us with the business case for the intranet. If an e-service we deploy cuts tool time by one minute compared to previous routine there is a time gain we can put a price on. The time gain is usually not possible to convert into money, but it is possible to convert the time gain into more skill time. And more skill time increase the quality of work, the quality of service to the citizens—something the City of Malmö wants.

How much is one minute per employee per day worth in the City of Malmö? 17.5 million SEK (1,9 million euro), the equivalent of more than 40 man-years! This means that even if a new internal e-service on the intranet costs a lot to develop (let’s say 500.000 SEK) but saves one minute per employee per day it is worth to build—because it has paid itself in ten days!

The moment you can prove your intranet saves one minute, your work as intranet manager is also worth something. Then the work you and your team do saves 40 man years every year. Time for a pay rise?


In the next blog post: #4 Work in iterations, #5 Four types of content, #6 Support employees’ communities.


6 thoughts on “Our intranet—six guiding principles, pt1

  1. Good principles. I especially like the idea of Tool time vs. Skill time. It may require a little more explaining when you present it to stakeholders, but once they get it, you have a great metaphor for the kind of efficiency you want to promote/achieve.

  2. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s
    new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

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