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Intranet, Rants

Does your intranet launch when you log on to your work computer? (Poll)

Please can you vote in the poll on the right-hand side? I’m under pressure to make my intranet launch as soon as people sit down and log on to their computers, but I think it’s an incredibly poor decision to take.

shuttle-launchWe have thousands of employees; we have a diverse company (yes, we have ‘silos’) and we, here in our ivory tower, don’t really know how ‘everyone’ spends their time, or what programs they really need when they log on each time to their workstation. How can the few make such a personal decision for the many? Different departments work in different ways; some divisions rely on email to get everything done, others make use of automatic workflows and revised procedure documents. Different people like to work in different ways.

Launching the intranet at log in guarantees that people will see your front page headlines, right? So that’s a good thing, right? By forcing people to wait for their slow-as-death Internet Explorer 6 to launch on their low-powered laptop (while the anti-virus updates itself etc.) we ensure they read the stuff we want to force down their optic nerves don’t we? This is good communications yeah?

I don’t think so. If the first thing people do is close their browser in annoyance each and every morning, how do they sub-consciously feel about the intranet?

Front page hits don’t count; as the intranet manager, I care what use people are getting out of the intranet, what articles they have chosen to read – not if they’ve ‘seen’ a flash of the home page.

Benefits:

  • The intranet’s ‘hit statistics’ will go up. The stats will show that 100% of people have ‘seen’ the front page of your intranet – a fantastic (but utterly meaningless) statistic to wave around.
  • Faster access to those web apps and search functions that people might use
  • Lets the people in the ivory tower feel as if they’re in control regarding communication.
  • Reminds people that the intranet exists..
  • The IT Department get to ‘deliver’ a quick-win ‘solution’ to the company…

Concerns:

  • Email controls a lot of people’s office routine; by insisting on launching Internet Explorer, instead of letting your people choose what to launch, you’re robbing people of time and bending their ways of working.
  • No one cares about ‘home page hits’ they are meaningless for your intranet (unless they’re very low) as of course people have to open the home page to get to their applications and to the People Directory.
  • Not everyone works ‘online’ ‘in the browser’; many people do their work using the software on their computer – they open files, amend data, create and save through the day. Not everyone cares about the ‘web apps’ available on the intranet, and those of us who do will launch them when they’re needed – not as soon as we log on.
  • Many people log on multiple times per day. A person who logs on in the morning may well take their laptop on the road and into a meeting, logging on again. Then, after, they’re back to the main office where they log on for a third time. Launching the browser each time might be infuriating.
  • Many people switch their computer on when disconnected from the network. They are not ‘logging on’ they are simply ‘working on their computer’. Launching Internet Explorer automatically, even when a person can’t possibly connect to the web never mind your intranet is downright annoyingly stupid. Stupid, as in, ‘without intelligence or consideration’. Basically, I’m calling you a numbskull for not considering different people’s ways of working.

Sorry, sorry. I tried to keep this little article open and unbiased, but even trying to be zen-like and professional I find myself unable to create a ‘benefit’ that in any way helps people. All I can say is that if you have an office of 300 people who work at desktops and all do the same job (call centre perhaps) then by all means launch their required programs, databases, service screens and intranet for them. If you have a homogenous workforce, by all means treat them the same.

But if you have departments with different needs, if you have field workers, shift workers, senior managers, creatives, administrators, document managers, time schedulers, logistic planners, designers, technical writers, CAD users, project managers – a diverse heterogenous workforce in other words then don’t treat them like a big cog in your communications machine.

A not so far-fetched story

Imagine your boss is stood behind you. You’re fifteen minutes late to work because your car melted and the train doors fused shut; nobody cares why you’re late, they just want ‘that’ document you’ve been working on. You’ve told them where it’s stored on the shared area and on the intranet, but it’s no use, your boss hasn’t got time to care about your Document Control System, they just want the document printing now for the Board Review.

You log in as fast as you can – every second makes you cringe, every process seems to take an age – the computer whirs and clicks – hesitating at your password, begrudgingly blinking your desktop at you (finally!) before providing three ‘helpful’ warnings about your data being synced across the network, and the anti-virus files being updated. You click ‘OK’ ‘OK’ ‘OK’ – frantically just wanting to open your email and send the file onwards – maybe you can print it yourself too if you can get Word open. But wait up, the intranet launches its self and logs you in. You click ‘close’ but you’ve caught it while the window is too ‘young’ to notice you (it’s still loading so the controls ignore you) and before you can click click again it’s signed you in to your corporate Instant Messaging system and JayCee has already messaged you to say that your boss is looking for that document.

Only now are you allowed to launch your email program and Word and open the damn file you need.

Log on never seems such a trial when it’s 8:23am and you’re sipping your first latte while saying hello to your colleagues and asking if they’re also disappointed with “Harper’s Island” – but when you’re against the wall, log on can seem, and be, excruciatingly inexorably slow. Unless you work for a tech company, I doubt your computers are top of the range lightning fast.

I’m not saying ‘all those wasted seconds add up to valuable minutes’ (which I could, because they do) I’m saying that I don’t want other people deciding that they know how I work or what I need to do my job – I don’t expect to have to wait for a browser to open just so I can then close it so I can get on with my work.

As the intranet manager (which I am) you’d think that I’d be thrilled about anything that promotes the use of my intranet, but I see the intranet as a tool, an online workspace, to help people get things done. The intranet gets used when it’s useful, not just because we think it’s ‘interesting’.

What you’ve said already

tonysharp I dislike policies that make intranets launch on network login. That said, good use of the screen can help push key messages.

BenBlack It would annoy/ disappoint our users! But our new intranet is being launched soon and we will ask users then about auto launch.

LBaehrUSAA Yes, and it’s fine. One less step to take in the morning.

jonnop It does. Just arranging to have that changed as compulsion doesn’t work. If it’s good enough people will use.


Update

Am now wondering about a half-way house. What about launching email or a browser for those departments that want immediate access to such programs? What about giving ‘silos’ the option of having their browser launch at log in, if that’s what their people need to do their jobs? Can the IT department deliver a granular solution rather than an all-in-one blanket fix?

Please vote in the poll on the top-right of this article, and let me know in the comments below what currently happens when you log in at your company, and what you’d ideally like to happen (and why). Thank you

[Wedge]

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Photo credit: p c w

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

6 thoughts on “Does your intranet launch when you log on to your work computer? (Poll)

  • Hi Wedge – it’s simple really as far as I’m concerned.

    Treat people like grown ups and they’ll act like grown ups. Forcing people to go down a road they have no desire to is crazy.

    If you want people to read communications make it interesting and engaging. Sticking comminications channels on your homepage and expecting people to read it, because its there, will achieve very little.

    Give people choice and if the content is valuable then they’ll come to it.

    I’m with you on this one. Stick to your guns – you know you’re right.

  • What about a compromise? The majority of our clients push out a policy where the default browser on everyone’s machine loads with the intranet site as the browser home page.

    Carolyn
    @carolyndouglas

  • Thanks Phil.

    Hi Carolyn,

    I’m not sure I quite understand your idea – mostly because I assume that 100% of companies that use intranets (from 3 person operations upwards) set their browser home page as their intranet home page.

    What’s the alternative? Google? A company’s customer-facing website? BBC news?

    It is outside of my ability to imagine a company that says “yeah, we have an intranet, but we like our people to have to find it – and we know they really get a kick out of reading MSN…”.

    Maybe my ‘100%’ assumption is wrong, but I don’t mind saying that I’m baffled to think that a debate even exists about the default home page of a browser.

    I don’t have the ability to imagine a company that invests time and money into an intranet, and yet allows people to have Google as their home page, I just can’t!

    Still got lots to consider regarding auto-launching a person’s browser for them – thanks for all your thoughts here and on Twitter – please do vote on the top-right poll of this page.

  • Surprisingly, we do run across companies who don’t automatically think of pushing out the intranet as the browser home page for all users, however we deal with a lot of organizations who have never implemented an intranet so the concept is new to them. Good luck with debate, I hope you prevail!

  • I have set email and intranet to launch on my own PC on start-up, but am advised by our IT departmnet that it is not feasible to do across the whole organisation because it affects the speed (already quite slow) of start-up across the network. I would rather be able to push information/alerts directly in to people’s in-boxes (which I can’t do as effectively as I’d like at the moment). Interesting debate though!

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