The most common question we get from communicators is how they can know that their intranet is working. After all, an intranet is an investment, and for any investment, you should know what your users are getting for the money and whether the new tool is worthwhile. Your gut will tell you if it’s going well. And, trust us, you’ll know if it’s gone bad. But in terms of proving communication transformation and community building, gut checks don’t really cut it. How can you know for sure? The answer is, of course, to collect metrics.
When you think about what you should be measuring, you need to decide:
- What is the question I’m trying to answer?
- What data points would answer the question?
- Where is the data stored/what is its source?
- How do I display the data?
A little while ago, we put together a blog post about the business case for SharePoint. In it, we discuss return on investment (ROI). The return includes actual dollars saved and then dollars saved in terms of time. For intranets, specifically, we recommend you consider measuring the effectiveness of the intranet as a communication channel to help prove your ROI.
These intranet metrics are a good start: usage and popularity. They tell a story about your intranet today and can help you make it more useful tomorrow.
Let’s talk about activity. This is a cool thing: SharePoint already collects usage data. It knows what users have hit a site and when. You just have to surface what’s already there. Here are two easy ways to understand intranet usage:
- Passive participation: How many users have logged in; how many users have merely hit the intranet homepage? This may seem like a useless metric, but think about it the same way that sales organizations measure the open rates of the emails they send. [Yes, they do that. Isn’t it creepy?] It doesn’t tell you who is really engaged, but it tells you whether employees are bothering with the intranet at all. There will be other symptoms of intranet rejection if this is happening… employees will continue to use email to hound HR directors for PTO policies and benefits sign-up, for instance. But anecdotal evidence such as, “I’m still seeing lots of emails asking the same questions,” is maybe less convincing than, “Our intranet activity increased 80% when we stopped sending blast emails.”
- Most active users: Who is using your intranet the most? Is it the guy who lobbied to get a corporate intranet, or is it Joe Blow on the third floor who reads the leadership blog every day? Over time, you should see a populist movement on the intranet, an ever-expanding group of stakeholders. At first, it is normal to see power users who are providing content and who are charged with socializing intranet adoption.
Evaluating the effectiveness of the intranet as a communication channel may seem like an abstraction, but you can make it concrete by measuring popularity. As with usage metrics, SharePoint already knows what users are clicking and what they are searching on, so the data is all there for you. Here are two ways to think about what’s popular on your intranet:
- Popular news/announcements and popular documents: These popularity metrics give you a read on push communications. Are users consuming the information you push out there for them? Is there a connection between your announcements (“Benefits enrollment begins Monday! Check out the FAQ!”) and your most popular docs (“Benefits FAQ”)? You can measure views and unique views over time to determine whether users are picking up what you’re throwing down.
- Popular search terms: This is my favorite metric for communication. The top 10 most searched-for terms on your intranet will tell you what users want out of their intranet experience. They are trying to pull this information from it. If you see a popular search term trend (“Holidays 2016”), it tells you that you need to restructure the presentation of this information so that it isn’t so nested or hidden from users. Your users are trying to tell you something with search term trends: Maybe you need a new and trending documents app front and center on the homepage, or maybe you need to add an announcement with a link, for example.
When it comes to displaying metrics, we are big fans of the dashboard approach. At a glance, understand the who/what/when/where/why of your intranet activity. And then you can make decisions about what to change and how to change it. Then measure the effect of the change. Dashboards are a cause-and-effect dreamscape.
SharePoint Online does a good job of showing usage metrics out of the box. And if those don’t cut it, dashboards can always be created with custom development. You know what comes next, right? Rogue is working on a series of dashboards that pair with our packaged intranet and snap-in solutions, so you can always know if they’re working.
It’s your intranet. You should know if it measures up.
Thanks for reading!
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