Intranet personalisation: good or bad?

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If you have web apps like travel booking systems or services like discussion forums running on your intranet you already have personalisation. Whether it’s any good is down to how well it’s designed and presented and how it feels to use.

For company intranet homepages I don’t think there’s any question that personalisation will become increasingly common. The likes of Netvibes, iGoogle, MyYahoo and even Facebook have raised people’s expectations in this area.

The risk is that companies confuse personalisation with customisation and jump on the bandwagon, rushing to provide all the latest functionality before considering what people really need.

So here are three definitions that should help when thinking about this:

Top-down content
Content that’s there because you work for Company X. Examples include share price information and company-wide announcements.
Personalised content
Content that is there because you’re you. You are in a particular role, in a particular department, at a particular level. How? Either the system knows who you are, or you’ve told it about yourself or a combination of the two.
Customised content
Content (and sometimes positioning and formatting) that you’ve chosen based on a particular set of options. You have subscribed to the latest news about design and have chosen to have the headlines appear in a list on the right hand side of the page. You’ve chosen a particular look and feel for the page.

There is absolutely no reason why the three types of content can’t share the same space. Good interaction and visual design is essential to ensure people can clearly distinguish between them.

If the content is relevant and well presented, intranet personalisation can help make the digital workspace more joined up and navigable, and it can help employees have a better understanding of their overall work environment.

See also: Gerry McGovern’s recent article Intranet personalization: does it work?

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