Reinvent your intranet

Second-generation intranets are becoming mission-critical tools. Their interactivity can change the very nature of your business, boosting collaboration and improving the bottom line.


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Reinvent your intranet
Second-generation intranets are becoming mission-critical tools. Their interactivity can change the very nature of your business, boosting collaboration and improving the bottom line.
By Joe Mullich

June 1999

In this article:
RR Donnelley & Sons
Lessons learned about next-generation intranets
How Sunny shines
Picture this: You have just debuted a new corporate intranet, and yet less than 3% of the company's 37,000 employees actually use it. That's what Mike Riley faced back in 1997.

Reinvent your intranet
Mike Riley, of RR Donnelley & Sons

Riley, director of Internet application development for RR Donnelley & Sons, built an intranet called RRDnet, that was populated mostly with static content dissemination. However, in the past two years, the $4.9 billion Chicago-based printer has become something of a poster child for next-generation intranets. Riley has seen usage skyrocket as Donnelley has added cutting-edge applications, including streaming video, online training, and backend database integration for inventory.

AT A GLANCE: RR Donnelley & Sons
The company: Based in Chicago, RR Donnelley is a $4.9 billion printer with 37,000 employees.

The problem: How to make all information on the intranet accessible within a single mouse click.

The solution: Attention to design and daily sit-downs with users at all levels to see how they actually use the intranet.

The IT infrastructure: Ultimately the solution will be AI/agent-based personalization technology, which is a database-centric facility that maintains a "memory footprint" of a person's usage. The artificial intelligence (AI) analyzes the usage/request patterns and facilitates detection of highly relevant incoming information as well as predicts outgoing requests. In other words, the system knows who you are, what you're purpose is, and where you need to go to find what you're looking for. There are small steps being taken every day toward achieving that goal, says Mike Riley, the firm's director of Internet application development, "but it's at least another five years before the world will see something really successfully address this problem."

Today, most intranets are still little more than static repositories of information with some e-mail connectivity. But a handful of cutting-edge firms like RR Donnelley are turning their intranets into mission-critical tools to boost collaboration and improve the bottom line. These next-generation intranets are being used for education, internal recruiting, human-resources applications, and revamping workflow while using new technology, like streaming video, to reinvent the very nature of how they do business.

"Companies won't truly enjoy the benefits of intranet technology until they turn them into interaction entities that affect every aspect of their business," says Greg Howard, principle analyst with the HTRC Group, a consulting firm in San Jose, Calif.

At Donnelley, the most popular aspect of RRDnet has been human resource applications, such as internal job postings, which have evolved into a more dynamic system on the intranet. "Employees can be notified when a particular subset of data for a job meets their needs, such as a particular location or title," Riley says, making it more of a push model. "The intranet should give them the information they need without having to spend hours tracking it down." RRDnet provides the job and contact information that employees can follow up with via telephone or e-mail, but doesn't yet have a "post your resume to the jobs database" option.

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