Your web site reaches people in multiple target markets as it conveys information about your products and services. Yet, when it comes to web sites, one important audience that is frequently overlooked is, in fact, your own employees! Employees typically don’t read their company’s marketing brochures, so why should they check out the web site? Because they do read internal newsletters and documents that aid in their job performance. And, it’s time to use the web to publish these materials.
One of the challenges addressed by creators of the web was the problem of making internal documents available electronically to project group members or to those within the entire organization. Although it wasn’t called an intranet in those early days, the web was used internally to eliminate publishing on paper and to improve productivity.
Now that the web has proven itself both as a commercial vehicle and as a marketing communications tool, many companies are coming full circle to create internal web sites for organizing the massive amount of data used within companies today.
The day-to-day operations generate much more information than the marketing department. This makes the Internet a potentially valuable tool to improve productivity within the company. A corporation’s information is stored in a variety of locations, applications, and databases, which makes it hard to use a web portal to link to legacy data. Many software companies that provide corporate software applications have been adding web interfaces, which makes it easier to include those sources of information in the corporate web portal.
The popularity of corporate portals is evident from a recent study by The Delphi Group. It found that 55 percent of the 300 “Fortune 500” companies surveyed were already in the deployment phase of a corporate portal, while another 25 percent would implement one within the next two years.
Several departments within a company provide information to all other departments, such as human resources and accounting, so there are a number of opportunities to provide up-to-date information within the organization. For example, companies are using an intranet for everything from publishing corporate telephone directories to preferred vendor listings and policy manuals. In addition, data is being collected from employees by using web forms to gather information such as time sheets, materials requisitions, and travel schedules. However, these are routine (some would say mundane) uses of the web to improve employee productivity.
In addition, there are portal application software products on the market that make it easy to create sites with the company’s stock price and company news. Many employees are looking for more specific tools to help them perform their job better, so they need the flexibility to customize at least a portion of the portal to make it their portal.
However, one of the difficulties in creating a company-wide web portal is including just the right links to information that each individual needs. Employees in different departments need different informational tools. Even employees within a department can require different information, links, and tools. Keeping employees in touch with what’s going on is taking on a new look as new trends in corporate portals develop.
The addition of a corporate portal is a great opportunity for the marketing department (especially public relations people) to tell the company’s story to employees in ways that helps inspire positive word of mouth (or these days it’s word of email) marketing. For example, the recent announcements of Yahoo’s corporate portal offering, as well as Oracle’s enhanced corporate portal, show that big players have spotted a big opportunity.
If you haven’t been involved in your company’s portal planning, take time to learn how to create a portal, including companies such as Intel that have researched and planned some of the largest web sites on the Internet.
We’re seeing the beginning of a trend to use personalized publishing techniques that allow each department to target messages to employees with certain profiles. For instance, some companies are required to have a licensed professional on staff at each facility around the world. They can use a personalized intranet publishing system to display recertification reminders on the home page, based on the individual’s profile and the company’s requirements at that location.
This use of personalized publishing requires a flexible intranet system that allows content personnel in several departments to enter content and to specify the rules that determine the target audience for that material.
Personalization companies are now recognizing that corporate portals need to deliver a unique combination of informational tools to individual employees just as much as a company’s marketing web site does. Now’s the time for marketing communications people to take a leading role in creating corporate portals.