Intranets: How Organizations Use Web Technologies To Manage Internal Information And Communications

Kay W. Hinzman


Marshall University Graduate College



                                                                                                                      Abstract    i





Intranets have the potential to reshape organizations by shifting the control of information down the corporate ladder. The quintessence of an Intranet is people, not machines or management. Intranets have created an upheaval in the flow of information and communication within organizations. I.T. professionals, who are accustomed to working with inorganic technologies, are particularly challenged by the human aspects of Intranets. Corporate management, traditionally the controllers of information, is challenged to accept a technology that does not follow top-down rules. If implemented incorrectly, Intranets can be as disruptive as any technology ever introduced.


An Intranet is a network based on Internet technology that is placed on private servers within an organization — a site intended for the exclusive use of members of the organization. An organization that has a local area network in place can create an Intranet by implementing the TCP/IP protocol, adding a Webserver (a server that supports I-ITTP) and installing a browser on each member’s desktop. Intranets are distinguished from local area networks by the presence of Web technologies and a high degree of interactivity among users.


Intranets originally started in organizations as an outgrowth of the Internet. The earliest Intranets were unofficial, formed by small work groups for their own use, often without the sanction of management. In large organizations, it was common for a number of Intranets to exist with no common planning or standardization. That approach led to information chaos: a patched-together Intranet with clunky navigation, information gaps and redundant, conflicting, unreliable or outdated content. However, Intranets have such allure that all but the smallest organizations now have one. Intranet developers are challenged to harness their potential by implementing orderly, efficient systems that foster the organization’s missions while reflecting the personalities of its users.


To determine why and how organizations are deploying Intranets and to identify the attributes of successful implementations, several studies are examined. Three surveys conducted at the international level are included in this paper to provide insight into universal trends. Jim Canterucci, of Transitional Management Advisors, found that people favor Intranets over traditional information channels because information that is more timely and updated more frequently. He also found that an Intranet’s effectiveness is hindered when it is viewed as management propaganda.


Kathleen Kotwica, a researcher for CIO’s Cyber Behavior Research Center, found that people view Intranet structure as hierarchical, and navigate it as if they were exploring the branches of a tree. Her survey revealed that relatively few organizations allow members to freely post material to the Intranet; content approval by a review committee is most often required. Survey results indicate that users consider virtual communities to be a significant function of Intranets. Respondents to her survey indicate that the quantity and quality of communications increased within their organizations because of an Intranet.


A survey conducted by Kim, Chang and Yoo of Yonsei University in Korea confirms that information needs differ according to organizational level (top management, middle management and line workers) and Intranets should be designed according to which group(s) they will serve. All organizational levels agree upon the importance of some Intranet functions. These ‘unanimously preferred’ functions should be top priority for Intranet developers. The research team developed a tool called the Analytic Hierarchy of Intranet Functions to identify unanimously preferred functions.


The author of this report conducted a survey of 68 organizations in West Virginia and surrounding states. She found that nearly all middle-sized and large organizations, and about half of small organizations, have Intranets. Respondents to her survey reported that most members of their organization are satisfied with their Intranet, use it several times each day and feel that the Intranet has changed the way their organization communicates. Only one-third reported that their Intranet has been involved in office politics and/or power struggles. The most popular materials to be found on Intranets were Employee Directories, Policies and Procedures, commonly used forms, personnel information, newsletters, training, technical support, group calendars and job postings.


Additional information was gathered as the author implemented an Intranet in the company in which she is employed. During the Intranet’s development, two corporate reorganizations took place. Both times the Intranet was heavily affected. This indicates that the Intranet is a reflection of the people who use and maintain it and changes in unison with the composition of the organization’s members. Management within the author’s company displayed concern about losing control of the information that would be available to employees via the Intranet and were therefore hesitant to allow traffic on it until they could put stringent controls in place. For a short period, management permitted a prototype Intranet to be in operation. At the end of this period, users were then surveyed for their opinion of the Intranet’s value. Ninety percent felt that they would use an Intranet at least once each week. None found the prototype hard to navigate or find needed information. All material posted on the prototype was rated “useful”. Users freely contributed ideas for additions to the actual Intranet.


Intranet professionals must pay close attention to organizational dynamics. They must design Intranets to accommodate the management style, reflect the social structures, and enhance the communication systems of organizations. Failure to do so will result in resistance and possible failure of the Intranet project.




ABSTRACT                                                                                                                           1

CHAPTER I WHAT IS AN INTRANET’                                                                              1

Introduction                                                                                                                    1

Stages of Development                                                                                                   9


Jim Canterucci, The Organizational Impact of Intranets, 1997                                        14

Kathleen Kotwica, CIO Cyber Behavior Research Center Website Survey …15

Jinwoo Kim, Kee-keun Chang and Byunggon Yoo, A Survey Study on the

Relative Importance of Intranet Functions Using the Analytic Hierarchy

Process                                                                                                                 19

CHAPTER III REGIONAL SURVEY                                                                                 26

Survey Methodology                                                                                                     26

Survey Results                                                                                                              28

CHAPTER IV FIRST-HAND OBSERVATIONS                                        -                                                                34

Project Chronicle                                                                                                          34

Project Plan                                                                                                                  37

Survey of Prototype Users                                                                                            38

Study Conclusions                                                                                                        41

CHAPTER V CONCLUSION                                                                                            44
GLOSSARY                                                                                                                        46


Web Site Navigation Survey                                                                                         55

Control of Internet Content                                                                                           59

Virtual World Communities                                                                                           64

Internet Function and Communication Issues                                                                  68

Internet Implementation and Management                                                                      72

APPENDIX C KIM, CHANG AND YOO SURVEY RESULTS                                        75

The Analytic Hierarchy of the Intranet                                                                            75

Definition of Intranet Functions                                                                                      76

Survey Methodology                                                                                                     79

Unanimously Preferred Functions                                                                                  80

Differently Preferred Functions                                                                                      81


Table of Contents              vi

APPENDIX D REGIONAL SURVEY                                                                                 83

Cover Letter                                                                                                                 83
Questionnaire                                                                                                               84
Survey Score Sheet                                                                                                      87

APPENDIX E First-hand observations                                                                                112

Intranet Survey                                                                                                           112
The Intranet Project                                                                                                    124
The Project                                                                                                                129
Illustrations                                                                                                                 144
Policy                                                                                                                         149

REFERENCES                                                                                                                  160