As more and more people within a company get directly involved with intranet publishing, more and more pages get published. While the content strategy should direct the quality and location of pages, there are going to be times when messages conflict with each other.
Information overload is a real risk if your strategy is to allow anyone / everyone to publish pages, documents, wikis and blogs on your intranet.
And our modern, powerful search engines can dredge the most peculiar pages up from the depths of the intranet. How is a person supposed to identify the most valuable information?
If Paul in the Orange Department publishes a page or communiqué saying that everyone must use Form XYZ, but Peter in the Apple Department has published a page saying that everyone must use Form ABC, how is Shorna supposed to know what to do?
Well. Meta-data should help her. Shorna should be able to discern the most recent edict, and she may also be able to discover if Paul is more senior than Peter by checking out the People Directory / Org Chart.
But don’t we, as intranet owners, need to do more for Shorna to ensure she doesn’t feel frustrated at the obviously conflicting information?
Well, out-of-date information, especially instructions, can be dangerous; and yet, we can put some faith in Shorna as she searches the intranet and browses around.
Shorna, and everyone, is inundated with conflicting advice, information and reference material every day. We have all learnt to be discerning. We may only click on the first result of a search page, but we will hit the ‘back’ button in milliseconds if we find the page doesn’t meet our expectations.
I don’t mean to ignore the very real risks posed by out-of-date information and conflicting instructions, but we can trust our people, our surfers, to make their own decisions. Engaged, intelligent people may well turn to the intranet and self-serve systems to do things for themselves, but they will also distrust poor quality information and they’ll flag up conflicts.
Imagine if one director said the company should move into Bananas, and another director said they should move into Grapes – the audience would notice this conflict immediately and recognise the need for caution. Shorna wouldn’t enact a new Banana policy if she had heard the conflicting views from the directors.
Yes, our intranets may contain rubbish. We may have rogue pages published by inexperienced people who don’t know what the rest of the company knows, but then, the Internet is like that too.
I would personally prefer an intranet that I could trust 100%, but if we’re to empower people to work and collaborate with each other, that’s no longer possible.
Our people must and can discern the value in our published material for themselves, yet the intranet must be trustworthy. How are we to get the balance right, and ensure those responsible for errors or disagreements get things clear and correct?
Photo credit: tiddlywinker
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