Global & Local, x-Early Perspectives

Below the poverty line

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in August 2006 ……

During a couple of intranet audits this year, I came across situations where some users said they could not work properly if the intranet went down for even one hour, and in the same company others said they would not be bothered until the downtime reached at least several days or a week.

What is the difference?

The second group were based in countries where intranet conditions were “below the poverty line”.

These were places where intranet access conditions and intranet resources were very bad.  The first group of users were based either at head-quarters or in other countries where intranet access was fast and reliable.

People in the first case had become used to using the intranet as their reference point – the place to check in the morning, first place to look for documents, etc.

People in the second case actually expressed relief to me that they did not depend on the intranet. “It’s a good thing I don’t really need it because it’s very slow and when I am on it, it takes a long time to find what I want.”

Working around the intranet

Lesson to be learned? The “poverty line” is a combination of unfavorable technical environments (low bandwidth, slow machines), difficulties with content (language, questionable relevance, etc.) and low level of local human support (training, user help, etc.). People in business units working under these conditions will obviously not consider the intranet a business critical tool – they’re usually very good at finding ways to “work around the intranet”.

“The parallel intranet is the one we really use”

The local intranet team of one of my clients told me the story of when the intranet team from headquarters visited them. The HQ team asked if they could see the intranet. The local team looked at each other. One person turned to the local intranet team manager and said “Which one do we show them?” The answer: “The one we really use.”

The HQ team then discovered the “parallel intranet” – the place on the local network where people stored the important documents they found on the intranet. Why? To save time the next time they needed to use that document!