Gen-i: knowing where you stand

IT manager Tim Barnaby says the different sections of gen-i's intranet enjoy either success or disregard depending what is important to the systems integrator at any one time. During a period of rapid hiring, the How to Work at gen-i sections were popular.

IT manager Tim Barnaby says the different sections of gen-i’s intranet enjoy either success or disregard depending what is important to the systems integrator at any one time. During a period of rapid hiring, the How to Work at gen-i sections were popular.

During times of organisational change, the Ask the Exec section got “a real beating”, he says.

Barnaby says the company intranet, now a few years old, gives staff the opportunity to know exactly where they stand, as what appears online is considered the master document and overrides any piece of paper.

“All too often paper-based systems are modified, and in a large organisation this generates multiple versions and therefore multiple understandings of the same topic, policy or procedure.”

The company’s intranet allows new staff to find out about the company’s history, policies and procedures, helping to point out who’s who and alleviate their “newbie” unease. It’s also an entry point to automated HR processes, often with electronic authorisation, and standard company forms. Staff can update their personal details on the intranet, but only after requesting a change through the HR department. This process ensures uniformity across the information.

An electronic “cork board” operates as a company news broadcaster, a forum for gossip, a showcase for staff abilities — individuals showing particular skills, completed projects, company associations — and lets staff sell personal items. It also provides access to customer, competitor and partner information.

Discussion forums are sometimes staged, says Barnaby, “the most successful being an anonymous question/suggestion box answered by the executive”. Very little of the intranet is static data, with news items, for example, being automatically archived after 90 days, he says.

Company staff help compile the data across various departments and the content is put together by a webmaster. It requires probably less maintenance than equivalent paper-based systems, says Barnaby. The system, which is written in Visual Basic and Javascript, uses Windows 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000 enterprise edition.

The intranet’s biggest success, given the size and geographical spread to the company — it’s in six main centres in New Zealand and in Sydney and Melbourne — is consistency, says Barnaby. “First, it is the place to go for information, and, second, everyone has access regardless of location — client sites, different offices, home,” he says.

Barnaby says email is probably the only other system in the same category and the intranet works alongside this to encourage staff to the intranet by sending out emails with corresponding URLs. “The people in gen-i have no excuse for not being informed — a common scapegoat in a lot of companies,” he says.

Barnaby says the intranet helps staff do business better but are no substitute for the odd meeting.

“The intranet gives visibility and exposure to people’s skills, projects and intellectual property, but we still require meetings and/or emails to prompt people to look for new information,” he says.

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