Time is not money – think ‘information’ and not just ‘intranet’

Over the years the research and advice from the Neilsen Norman Group has been of considerable benefit to the web and intranet communities as they strive to make a business case for improving usability. I was interested to see this recent comment from Jakob Neilsen about the work that the Neilsen Norman Group have been undertaking on intranet usability.

“Based on time-on-task metrics from our recent study, a company with 10,000 employees can save $4 million per year by going from bad intranet usability (defined as being among the worst 25% we tested) to average intranet usability. In contrast, improving an intranet with average usability to the usability level of the best 25% of intranets yields only about $1 million per year.”

In 2008 James Robertson wrote a blog post which listed 25 reasons why saving time on your intranet is a bad metric and that to me is the definitive statement on productivity measurements. Jakob goes on to suggest that for a company with 10,000 employees that might mean a saving of $4 million a year. That works out at $400 per employee, which is at the noise level and is never going to be the basis for an investment in intranet usability. Turning the office temperature down by 1 degree Centigrade would probably gain greater savings. I often run into the same problem with search productivity, which I commented on in a recent blog post.

Knowing the quality of the  NNGroup team I am sure that the $698 cover price for the latest version of the Intranet Usability Guidelines (which runs to 9 volumes and 782 guidelines!) will be money well invested, so it’s disappointing that the blog entry highlights these productivity measures. When a client asks me to help them develop a business case for investment in an intranet based on a productivity business case I ask them for a copy of the productivity business cases made for other enterprise applications so that I can use the same format and baseline calculations. It never arrives. I wonder why. The problem is that the focus is on ‘the intranet’ and not on the importance of information as a business asset. Oracle published a report on the impact of big data on companies earlier this year that reported that 93% of the executives  interviewed believed their organization is losing revenue – on average, 14% annually – as a result of not being able to fully leverage the information it collects. For a company with 10,000 employees 14% of revenue is going to be substantially more than $4 million!  Now that’s the sort of number that will catch the attention of the Board. 

Martin White