Intranet uses information to pull the company together
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #368 November 12, 1996 High Tech Office
that wants to improve the way information is shared among its
add easy-to-use Internet browsers, and what do you get? An Intranet--an
internal version of the Internet, and a technology that's becoming
increasingly popular for business networks.
pulp-and-paper company Fletcher Challenge Canada, building
an Intranet seemed to mesh with a shift in business focus from being
an integrated forest-products company to devoting itself solely to
the manufacture of printing papers. To achieve this, it needed to
have all employees actively involved, and for that to happen, employees
had to understand the company's strategy.
been up and running for over a year, connecting the Vancouver head
office with mills in Crofton, Elk Falls, and Mackenzie as well as
a sales office in San Francisco. Most of the content, including a
newspaper-style front page, is created by the company's communications
department, but each worksite is responsible for its own local content.
popular with employees, at least in part because it's easy to navigate,
using standard tools like Netscape Navigator. Favourite pages include
news summaries from the world outside the pulp-and-paper industry,
along with more focused industry news flashes. Jobs postings are more
easily accessed than on often-messy bulletin boards, and lively
forums provide a way for workers to comment on company issues,
recently announced plans to restructure the company.
own job listings, along with local management notes, departmental
issues, and even union news. In addition, there's a library of company
information where employees can easily find what they need. They can
start with a brief summary of a topic, and quickly move to further
detail as needed.
makes it possible
to quickly update changing information. Each day's production
are immediately available so that supervisors always have access to
current data. When president Doug Whitehead spoke to
recently at 2 p.m., his speech was available on FletcherNet by 4 p.m.:
it's easy to convert a standard word-processing document into a
but functional Web page, ready for posting.
resides in standard company databases, and Netscape and FletcherNet
make it easy for employees to get access to it. This quick access
to accurate information helps to calm the rumours that can spread
through companies. Similarly, the forums and discussion groups give
employees a chance to vent while allowing the company a chance to
monitor gossip and correct inaccuracies. Erin Driscoll, of the
company's communications department, oversees FletcherNet, and can
insert editorial comments or factual responses into the forums when
and eliminate mean-spirited comments aimed at specific individuals.
are easy to use, even for employees who aren't very comfortable with
computers. Mill supervisors were won over when they saw how useful
it could be to have immediate access to current information, and not
have to wait for a printed report to make the rounds. And it didn't
hurt that the company president found he could use it to directly
monitor the company's share prices.
fears that employees would waste company time "surfing," but as an
internal network, FletcherNet isn't connected to the Internet, and
it's impossible for users to log onto Internet sites (and equally
impossible for outside hackers to use FletcherNet via the Internet to
get into the company's computers). Beyond a Dilbert cartoon,
there's no entertainment content on the system. Users typically stay
on for about 20 minutes on their first visit, and on subsequent visits
quickly find what they need within two to 10 minutes. A "What's New"
page, updated weekly, helps ensure that they're made aware of new
features and content.
of the company, not all employees have access to FletcherNet. It's
available to those who have a computer on their desk, but unionized
employees have to get access via a PC in a control room, a lab, or
through their supervisor. Even with this limitation, FletcherNet has
played a role in taking the layers out of the communications hierarchy
within the company.
example of an Intranet lets employees at all levels of the enterprise
have access to as much information as they need, when they need it.
And by providing a forum for employee interaction and discussion,
it is helping the company through a sometimes difficult reorganization