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Councils should make more use of intranets in the face of austerity

Local authorities could make more use of intranets in response to funding cuts, according to Socitm.

The public service IT association has released a briefing paper, ‘Better connected intranets: is this now, at last, the time to engage?’, that suggests council intranets may finally come into their own as an important tool for employee productivity.

According to the briefing, senior management who have up to now managed to avoid ‘self-service’ may find themselves using the council intranet for the first time – and not being happy with the facilities it offers.

This may create the incentive needed for investing more in intranets: fixing them can be done quickly, says the briefing, by sharing best practice derived from an extensive body of evidence about what really does work.

Some of the common problems that intranet users find are not-working search functionality, navigation that is too organisation-centric, too much focus on news and events, and too much information published as ‘pdf’ documents.

The paper suggests that lack of governance, devolved publishing, a failure to measure effectiveness and above all, lack of engagement by senior management, are at the root of these problems.

The path to intranets that work is not complicated, it argues, organisations need to identify the most important tasks that staff carry out most often and measure how long it takes to complete them. Once this “time and motion” evidence is collected, it can be used to support improvement.

Research across sectors and across countries shows there to be four common groups of top tasks intranets need to support that apply to all organisations:

  • About me:tasks related to the personal experience of being in employment, such as applying for holidays, claiming travel expenses etc.
  • About the organisation:information about published strategies and plans, and details about the organisation size, operation and management.
  • Find people and collaboration:including directories, phone books, and search for people – especially expert colleagues sought for advice or collaboration.
  • News / current affairs:what the organisation is doing externally and internally. ‘Bottom up’ internal activity, such as recent posts on Yammer or blogs, as well as more traditional top-down news from the CEO or the central communications team, are included.

Alongside these are core tasks particular to an organisation, the things the organisation exists to do and that people are employed to produce or deliver. Socitm suggests this area is where the intranet can be seen to be really adding value and contributing to performance goals such as increased service delivery and reduced costs.

Martin Greenwood, author of the briefing, said: “One of the barriers to investment by councils in their intranets is that although savings from citizen self-service are now well recognised, the same is not true of employee self-service.

“Behind all this is the plain fact that the value of employee time continues to be insufficiently recognised by senior management. Additional drivers right now for investment in intranets are the increase in shared service developments and a rise in flexible working, both of which are supported by an effective intranet.”

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