A Hambrecht & Quist study released by the San Francisco-based market research company in September 1996 indicates that 90 percent of Fortune 200 corporations surveyed are deploying intranets. A separate study conducted by Boston-based Advanced Manufacturing Research last August reveals that 50 percent of manufacturing companies use intranets to store HR data. Among hi-tech companies, the figure is close to 100 percent.
Unlike other trends that have swept through the corporate universe, this one is saving time and money, and helping transform HR into an organization that's, dare we say, strategic. A study by Bethesda, Maryland-based Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that approximately 80 percent of employee questions could be answered through an intranet or interactive voice response (IVR) system—without involvement from HR.
But intranets also are forcing everyone to take a step back and re-examine assumptions. Says Roger Lee, manager of Internet products for Edify Corp., a workflow software vendor based in Santa Clara, California: "Intranets have provided an easy and inexpensive tool that allows HR to streamline and automate a wide array of functions. The technology is cutting expenses and boosting profits. It's changing the way people work."
The lure of an intranet is that it doesn't require any large capital outlay, it's incredibly efficient, and it's simple to use. It's possible to point and click on graphical objects and text to navigate the network. Creating Web pages also is relatively easy. The latest Web-authoring programs have eliminated the need to understand complex programming code.
Intranets are allowing HR to use its personnel more effectively. David Link, principal consultant for The Hunter Group based in Baltimore, Maryland, says: "The challenge is to make an impact and drive change in the organization. That doesn't come from adopting technology for the sake of technology, or because others are using it successfully. The successful companies are the ones that figure out how the technology can make them more efficient and then create a plan for getting there."
Workforce, March 1997, Vol. 76, No. 3, pp. 88-90.