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Continuing austerity in the public sector could be the making of local authority intranets, says Socitm briefing

As public sector cutbacks eat deeper into middle management, local authority intranets may finally come into their own as an important tool for employee productivity.

According to Socitm’s latest briefing, Better connected intranets: is this now, at last, the time to engage? 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 liking what they find.

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.

Better connected intranets reports on a recent workshop where common problems were aired. Because of their low priority (compared with the customer facing website) intranet functions including search do not always work, navigation is too organisation-centric, there is too much focus on news and events, and too much information published as ‘pdf’ documents. 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: orgnisations need to identify the most important tasks that staff carry out most often (the ‘top tasks’), 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, eg 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, in short the things the organisation exists to do and that people are employed to produce or deliver. It is in this area where the intranet can be seen to be really adding value and contributing to performance goals such as increased service delivery and reduced costs.

The briefing goes on to explore likely ‘core tasks’ for local authorities and suggests the time is now right for collaborative activity to convert disused, or under-used, council intranets into valuable tools for employee productivity, sharing and partnership working.

 ‘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’ says Martin Greenwood, author of the briefing. ‘ 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. ’

Better connected intranets: is this now, at last, the time to engage? is available free of charge to Socitm corporate members and Insight subscribers at our Knowledgehub Group.

Further Information

Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office

Tel: 07726 601 139  e-mail: vicky.sargent@socitm.net

Martin Greenwood, Programme Manager, Socitm Insight

Tel: 01926 498703  e-mail: martin.greenwood@socitm.net