Fun-style intranet keeps staff keen and involved

If employee portals and corporate intranets are to be exploited to the full,
they need to become as important a bookmark to the employee as CricInfo is to
the cricket fan or to the share trader. After all, we know from the
dotcom crash of last year that it isn’t enough to put a website up and expect
people to use it.

And much like a B2C website, B2E sites must offer compelling content.

Global IT services company Wipro believes it has come up with a successful
formula by incorporating a fun element into its portal, Channel W, which aims
to be the single window through which its 9,500 "Wiproites", spread
across more than 10 countries (with headquarters in India), can interact and
bond with each other.

"We were redesigning our intranet and realised what we had was rather
flat. We wanted something that would mean that employees went to it of their
own volition," says George Joseph, manager of talent engagement and
development at Wipro.

The average age of Wipro employees is 26 and they are, typically,
"talented and fun-loving", spending most of their time in front of
the computer. With this in mind, Channel W has been designed to look more like
a youth portal and, in addition to self-service HR tools and a knowledge
management system, staff can use it to organise their social lives, buy and
sell items and set up interest groups.

Feedback is encouraging, with the majority of areas actively used. The buy
and sell section, for instance, is heavily populated because of all the
relocation going on within the company. "I’ve just moved to London from
India and used it to dispose of some of my possessions," says Joseph.
"You can sell whatever you like, and it doesn’t need administrating
because the buyers and sellers interact directly."

As well as helping to sort his home life out, the self-service HR side of
the portal has immeasurably helped in his working life too, says Joseph.
"It has let me concentrate on the more value-added and forward-thinking
areas of HR."

Those working on projects together can also brainstorm online and it give
employees on the shopfloor a chance to have a direct line to senior personnel.

The serious side to the portal is its role as a corporate communications
device and as a hub for the company’s collective knowledge. As a
knowledge-intensive company, which is growing at a rapid pace, it knows it must
use the technology to manage and share this knowledge. As Vivek Paul, Wipro’s
vice-chairman, explains, "Managing our intellectual capital efficiently
has become one of the most critical factors that will help create business
value and provide competitive advantage for Wipro as an organisation. Channel W
is a vehicle to achieve this."

Wipro has also opened the portal up to clients to act as a showcase for the
creativity in the company and this has led to customers expressing an interest
in having one of their own.

But they don’t come cheap: the cost of developing a full-functionality
portal like Channel W is $3-5m, while a scaled down version would cost about

"When we delivered Channel W, we did not do it with the intention of
having a saleable product," explains Paul.

"Sometimes you do something that you think is smart for yourself and
realise it can be sold to others."

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