Over the last few years, companies and public agencies have spent immense sums on various forms of internal communication technology. While vendors trot out occasional success stories, generally disappointing use figures mean that the more frequent refrain has been:
“We spent allllllllll this money on this (app/video platform/intranet/enterprise social network) and no one f*)#!+g uses it.”
The refrain can mean different things to its different speakers.
For the app producer, it often means “Crap, we are going to lose our contract.”
A business sponsor may infer “it’s time to pull the plug, and perhaps chop the IC folks who proposed this.”
And the standard IC response tends to be “we need to promote this harder.”
Questioning the mass use case
Harder? Or maybe, smarter?
The core of the problem facing Internal Communication technologies is not that they’ve failed to achieve mass acceptance.
It’s that they were installed on the basis of mass use cases – on the belief expressed by overeager IC folks, and in some cases overzealous vendors, that “if you built it, ‘they (the mass of employees)’ would come.”
So, when actual use figures fall well below expectations, owners and stakeholders are quick to hit the fail button, off-board the platform, and overboard the staff.
But is anyone paying attention to who actually is using these platforms, and what value they can still add?
Rebooting your technology investment
If 90% of your employees are not using your platform, you can probably assume that most will never use it without a good reason to. But without any knowledge of who the 10% are and where they fit in your organization, you have no idea of what value your platform is currently enabling and producing.
So, the first step is to learn about your 10%, what they are doing, and how they are doing it together.
Are they a motivated department, random but committed individuals, or even your hidden network of influencers? And would they become less effective if this tool they use suddenly disappears?
It may be worth some investment in research before getting rid of a much bigger investment in technology. User surveys, organizational network analysis, or influencer identification could provide some real insights about the actual impact your platform investment is having in your organization.
The second step is to look at your organizational agenda, your change agenda. Are there teams, projects or initiatives that can pursue their objectives more efficiently and effectively if connected through the platform you have at your disposal?
Once you know who is using the platform well, and how specific projects and teams can succeed by using it better, you now have a realistic use case.
Final thought – what most IC technology is actually best used for
In my view, most internal communication technology platforms are much better used as strategic tools to get the right messages to the right people, than as mass engagement/entertainment platforms. User value and ability to target high-value users is much more important than user numbers.