Introducing a Social Intranet: How to Convince Management

Many companies introduced their own intranets years ago. Their goal was to make organizational communication more quickly and easily accessible. As intranets began to emerge in the workplace they were often stereotyped as pushing even more work and information onto employees. During brainstorming sessions, departments competed for the most prominent places on homepages, which then left employees with less information. In 1999, the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto already predicted this: "Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore." (Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls: The Cluetrain Manifesto).

Today, early adopters within companies still face challenges convincing leadership to fund intranet development. Due to the digital transformation and, thus, an increased network of people and information, there is great demand for next-generation internal communication. An intranet with more networking features - a social intranet - can meet this demand.

McKinsey Global Institute conducted a study of how knowledge workers used their time in the office. The numbers were striking: 28% of a work week was spent reading and replying to emails, and 19% of it was spent finding and gathering information. In the same study, McKinsey found that through the use of social technologies, knowledge workers' productivity increased by 20% to 25%. When gathering information, companies even saw productivity increases of 30% to 35%.

With those facts, you can begin formulating a solid argument for a social intranet. The following points are also important:

  1. Present from a corporate standpoint: How will a social intranet contribute to organizational goals?
  2. Get personal: What will social intranets actually do for leadership? What's in it for them?

Presenting from a corporate standpoint: Establishing a concrete relationship

Getting the funding to just make an intranet "more social" is unlikely. Companies want results, and management acts accordingly to make that happen. In other words, any new medium (such as a social intranet) should either reduce costs or increase profit. After that, all other company goals will be considered. You'll have to make a connection between the social intranet's effects and corporate objectives. It might look like this:

Organizational goal (highest priority) Effect of introducing a social intranet
Reduce costs Increased efficiency in finding information.

Increased efficiency in the completion of internal processes.

Replacement of existing IT systems, which will be handled by the social intranet in the future.

Reduction of existing costs such as travel expenses or support costs.

Earn profits More effectively turn leads into sales via networking.

More easily identify qualified employees.

More ideas and innovation.


These effects can be quantified in a business case. The sum of effects needs to be added to the investment (setup and running costs) of the social intranet.

Getting personal with leadership: What's in it for them?

Budget allocation doesn't just play a role in the overall corporate vision. Leadership wants to be convinced. This will mainly have to happen on a personal level: expanding the number of "official content creators" across the company puts pressure on leadership. Their reputation is no longer based on their position. They, like other employees, can influence their reputation through their own content and stand their ground under pressure.

Try to discuss and understand the leadership's stance on content creation. Could they see themselves writing their own input? How do they feel about this openness? Do they have the technological know-how, and are they comfortable creating such content? In which areas might they need training? This may not be what leadership wants to hear, which is why they might not be thrilled to talk about a social intranet. If you find this to be the case, you should remove any "show stoppers".

The presentation

Now you know what to talk about, but how do you present it? Corporate leaders watch several presentations each day; thus, they need to be as short as possible. There are often restrictions, such as a ten page maximum for documents in a steering committee. This results in a lot of information being crammed onto a single page, and crowded presentation slides that aren't visually appealing.

Try a different approach. Work with large pictures and radically simplify your slides to tell a story. This inspires curiosity among leadership, and you'll more effectively get your point across. A good method for this is Presentation Zen. You might also be inspired by the various TED talks and how each speaker explains complex subjects through the use of simple visual aids.

Steps for preparing a coherent argument

  • Use concrete organizational goals from corporate strategy.
  • Relate the role of a social intranet to organizational goals.
  • Provide a business case or statistics explaining the effects of a social intranet on organizational goals.
  • Compare these effects to the cost of a social intranet.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the leadership - address their needs and wants.
  • Present advantages of a social intranet for leadership (and employees) and be ready for naysayers.
  • Develop an effective storyline to present your results.

dfi_ed_logo_cmyk_pos_zwThis is a guest contribution by Robert Mangelmann. As a senior consultant in communications with die firma . experience design, he supports companies in the conception and software-neutral selection of intranets, as well as their introduction and accompanies the accompanying change processes. die firma is a Linchpin partner. Here you can find more information about die firma GmbH.

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