Information silos

How information silos kill employee intranets

Most intranets fail to engage employees—participation rates under 10% are common. One of the leading reasons for this is the information silos that are caused by isolated intranet pages. In this article, we explain why these silos occur, how they cause a breakdown in intranet usage, and how to avoid them.

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Pages are the problem

Both traditional and social intranets use “pages” as their basic building block (these are also known as “spaces” or “groups”). The intranet is simply made up of a series of pages, and new ones get created all of the time. HR gets one. Sales gets one. Project X gets one. Project Y gets one. There is a page for everything. There are thousands of them.

This may seem like a great idea—everyone should be happy because each of their projects or initiatives gets its own page, which they can set up whenever they want, and use it to share whatever they want. But, the reality of the situation is that no-one ends up visiting these pages. Here’s why:

An example of how too many pages break an intranet

HR have their own page and they use it to share important HR information. They store essential documents here and they announce important updates. Recently, they uploaded a new dental program and associated form.

The problem is, employees need to proactively be reviewing the HR page to discover this update. This is an information silo—people have to navigate to it and look inside before they know if there’s anything of interest to them.

Nobody does this. They’re too busy doing their job to schedule in random checks of the HR page. They have the old dental form, they’ll just keep using that.

HR soon realizes that no-one has read their form since they keep receiving the old, incorrect one. So, they ask the IT team to put the link to the HR page a bit higher up on the intranet homepage, and they send out an all-company email about the enhancements to the benefits program, complete with a link back to their page.

Some people will read this email and find their way to the silo. Unfortunately, it often turns out that this wasn’t the right form for them anyway. It’s only for staff in the US, for example, and they’re based in the UK. They leave, a little confused and far less likely to trust one of these emails again.

Then there are those employees who don’t engage with these emails at all—they’re busy at work and their inboxes tend to fill up with these types of email announcements from every department. It seems unimportant when they’re in the middle of their own task, so they ignore or delete the email and keep using that old form.

Department pages, team pages, project pages…

One of the worst parts about the pages-based intranets, is that they continue to expand, becoming more complex and irrelevant.

Pages continue to be created all of the time; for new projects, for a new social committee event, or because a department wants a new page because the last one became irrelevant.

The pages proliferate. At best, the IT team is somehow supposed to mitigate and curate this mess. But how are they to know where duplicate and obsolete pages are? How are they to know if the project started three years ago is still relevant?

A real-life example or an intranet with thousands of pages

Earlier this year, Philips reported undertaking a big initiative to reduce its intranet page count from 123,000 pages to 5000 pages. How did they manage this process? They simply deleted pages that no-one visited. That’s right, there were just under 120,000 pages that no-one was even looking at.

Not only were these pages a waste of space, they were a burden. They meant that people couldn’t find what they actually needed to access:

“I always make the comparison with a messy room,” said Dennis Agusi, Director of Communication Channels at Philips, “you cannot find anything in it, and this was the exact same situation with our old intranet.”

The only way to avoid this problem and contain your information silos, is to employ a number of employees whose entire job is to police the architecture and content of your intranet. That’s not really a reasonable solution: not only is it expensive, but the act of policing actively discourages people from sharing and participating.

Even after the “big clean up”, employees still have thousands of pages to navigate, 5000 in the case of Philips. Not only does this create a massive hunt-and-peck exercise when you are looking for something, but most of the pages you encounter are not relevant to you. The unavoidable result? Dwindling intranet engagement.

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How Jostle overcame the pages problem

Jostle’s approach is different. By providing “go to” views (pages) and powerful information targeting, Jostle® intranets achieve employee participation rates of over 85% (as measured across all our customers).

How do we do it? Instead of hundreds of pages, there are just eight, which everyone uses. Each of these has a specific purpose, for example, NEWS provides the latest happenings and LIBRARY makes it easy to find key documents. Each view is the go-to place to quickly find what you need.

Continuing with the previous HR example: In the Jostle intranet, HR would announce their new benefits program in NEWS. As everyone visits NEWS often to keep up on all the company happenings, they won’t miss it. In the NEWS Article, HR would link to the LIBRARY folder where the detailed documentation for the new program is easy to find. Simple.

Something even more amazing: Each view can be filtered by the user, so they only see content that’s relevant to them. This flips the idea of hundreds of pages on its head: there are just eight pages, which can be made even more relevant by targeting content at specific groups.

Let’s go back to our HR example. When the UK employees look in their Jostle LIBRARY they see only the UK Benefits Volume, and the US team sees only the US Benefits Volume. No confusion. No clutter.

For employees to want to use their intranet, information needs to be relevant and easy to find. Forcing employees to hunt-and-peck across endless pages, most of which are not relevant to them, is an experience few will repeat. People are busy at work and don’t have time to sift through information—they need to quickly see current information that’s relevant to them. The Jostle intranet delivers this in a simple, work-relevant way.

Want an intranet your employees use? Check out Jostle