The most expensive PowerPoint slide you’ll ever buy …

I’ve just spent two days at the latest Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF) meeting on the 41st floor of HSBC‘s hugely impressive Canary Wharf tower offices. The IBF is a great organisation and sharing warts-and-all with peer organisations gives you really useful insights. I enjoy the IBF meetings but at most meetings there seems to comes a point where I find myself taking a stand against almost everyone else in the room over some topic of discussion or other. I guess as this is benchmarking and I’m in the presence of senior, industry-leading intranet managers, logic should tell me that if I’m the only one who holds a particular view then the chances are I must be wrong or don’t get it. The problem is I DO GET IT and I’M NOT WRONG!!🙂

Sure enough, my Custer’s-last-stand moment arrived on Wednesday. The IBF is working on a methodology to measure the financial value of an intranet. The idea is that you pay IBF tens of thousands of pounds; some consultants crawl all over your intranet annoying your intranet managers and some unlucky users for a few weeks; and then they send you a PowerPoint slide with a BIG number on it. You shove this slide under your Finance Director’s nose; he hands over shed loads of cash for future intranet development; doubles your salary; you change your job title from Vice President to President; and everyone suddenly treats you with a new found respect … OK, I’m paraphrasing here a bit but this was the gist of the presentation as it reached my ears!

My response was along the lines of: … even if this was possible, which I am deeply sceptical about, why would you want to waste tens of thousands of pounds on a PowerPoint slide with a big number on it simply to justify your existence and which might, at best, get you a pat on the back if you’re very lucky and have a benevolent FD who has just come in from a long boozy lunch. I fail to see how this slide will get you more money … stapling it to the back of your next business case isn’t going to have the bean counters reaching for their wallets.

Your intranet is as valuable to your organisation as your phone system – when did you last measure the business value of your phone system?? If it isn’t … then your expensive PowerPoint slide is going to have a very small number on it and you’ll probably get fired anyway!

While it is reasonable, and possible, to measure the business value of individual applications on your intranet, I fail to see the point in trying to measure the whole thing.

On the other hand, maybe I really am wrong and just don’t get it … nah!🙂

5 comments

  1. Ha.
    Intranets are *so* yesterday.
    Lars Ploughmann was talking a while back about replacing intranets with wikis. I blogged about it this afternoon, in fact.
    (I spotted this when I added you to my Facebook RSS feed with Simply RSS.)

    This just seems like an excuse to put more and more complexity (for which, often, read less and less function) into an intranet so some guys can get trebles all round.

    So, no you weren’t wrong – and they were all out of step. Did you point out the Emperor’s New Clothes? Bet you did.

  2. I think that I agree with you. I have always had to make individual business cases for each piece of development work performed for our intranet but the justification for the existence of the intranet as a whole (and for the existence of my job function) was made (and accepted) many years ago.

    I must admit that I know nothing of the IBF’s calculator as I have not yet been able to make a successful case to justify the IBF membership fee yet. If the calculator could help measure the likely ROI for proposed new, discrete, functions and was cost effective in doing so I feel it would be a winner.

    I discuss the cost/benefits of using a wiki as an intranet here: http://collectivecurrent.blogspot.com/2007/11/cost-effective-wiki-based-intranet.html

  3. In some ways I agree with you Richard. What is the point in generating a large and impressive number to wave in front of an FD or CTO?

    It may be that large organisations will continue for decades to happily invest whatever is requested in “online services behind the firewall” without knowing the value those investments. But I suspect that until this financial value question is answered adequately at senior levels, intranet managers and related colleagues will be weakened by their lack of reliable evidence and data.

    People often cite the phone system comparison but I would argue that phone systems have been around for 100 years and are “one trick ponies” while internal online services perform myriad roles and are pretty new assets and services.

    At some points in some organisations having answers to financial value questions will be useful. But in an organisation like yours, which is focused on technology, the need for financial data in this area is not seen as essential.

    In a manufacturing company making widgets or in a retail business, the climate for intranet related investment is much tougher because the question is “how will this help us sell more widgets?” Having answer to that question in terms the CTO and FD understand matters in my view.

  4. Thanks for the response Paul. I was being a bit flippant … the $million question is whether or not you can create a mechanism that will deliver the magic number in a way that is credible to FDs and CEOs. I still question the need for a mechanism that calculates financial value retrospectively … far more useful would be a tool that helps you define the value of future intranet developments … a kind of intranet business case calculator. Perhaps the work you are doing will cover this too …?

  5. In fact, what we plan is that the financial benchmarking tool will be a lever to generate increased future value – but to do that you need a departure point. As to whether this $trillion question can be answered, our work to date suggests it can. It is difficult but not impossible, just as brand valuations were in the early days. Do keep challenging the so-called “accepted wisdom” as only through vigorous debate can we move forward!

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