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