Is it ever as it seems?

Albert Einstein with tongue out

Albert Einstein

How are reputations made and then kept?

In simple terms, reputations are usually earned over a significant time period, based on the delivery of promises and the constant re-inforcement and maintenance of said promises. The promises could be services, goods, facilities or all manner of things.

Reputations help brands become trusted; no matter what your personal view is, McDonalds and Coca~Cola have world renowned brands based on their reputation for delivering consistency. No matter where you consume a Big Mac or a glass of Coke in the world, it’s the same. You know what you’re going to get before you get it. There may be some regional variations to accommodate local tastes but the quality is always there.

Reputations exist in the intranet world too. I could give you ten examples of companies who excel at specific aspects of intranet delivery. Their reputations precede them in these aspects and when I want to find out more about how to improve the things that my organisation is focussing on, I approach an organisation who’s reputation goes before them.

But how are reputations gained in the first place within the intranet business? Some are earned through winning some award or other, whilst others seem to be merely smokescreens for the reality. Word of mouth has a lot to do with it, and if the tale is told often enough it will become fact.

I know of an organisation who has a reputation for being the leaders in one particular aspect of the intranet industry, but the reality is far different. The reputation was earned by two major factors;

1. identify emerging technology and introduce it because you can, with little regard to how it would be managed, supported, paid for or how it fits into any strategic approach. Play with the gadgets and by sheer will of the crowd they become an essential part of the business.

2. continually perpetuate the fallacy that because the organisation is “creative” then it’s ok to continue to do things independently of any other part of the business; just because you can. Then tell everyone and anyone who will listen, about this wonderful new gizmo that’s been around for ages on the internet and how great your organisation is by bringing it in house because it’s “just what the business needs.” This view is usually driven by personal interest.

Bingo! Reputation is formed. Other companies constantly pat you on the back and tell you how good you are and how lucky the organisation is to have such a forward thinking Intranet manager.

Then of course, you clear off to another company or go freelance and jet around the world esposing your innovative and maverick ways to the highest bidder and leave someone else to try and unpick the mess that has evolved around you. The poor soul who’s left has to then integrate, or rationalise, many disparate systems that don’t work together or talk to each other. Whilst also having to negotiate with the business to remove little used toys, that have now become the lifeblood of one small bunch of users, who would rather fight you on the beaches than give up their right to using something “you gave us in the first place.”

The same individual also has to produce numerous business cases to gain budget (because business users won’t stump up the cash) to pay third party suppliers for licences and ongoing support, which in the long term far outweighs any initial preconceived business benefits. Inevitably the more budget that’s used for exisiting technical solutions means less available for any new stuff.

But that’s ok. Because your reputation goes before you.

And for those who still work for the company, you can take reflected glory in the reputation that you’re part of a forward thinking organisation. It takes years before reputations are tarnished or lost; no matter the reality.

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3 comments on “Is it ever as it seems?

  1. Mark Tilbury says:

    Hi Phil,

    Love this piece and reflects what I fear happens in most organisations. Sometimes I feel like the main intranet is like the National Health Service – its has to treat and deliver for everyone. Some people want private care and consume large budget and resource for something launched in a fanfare but with no adoption programme and a poor business case in the first place. The intranet is then left to pick up the pieces and treat the problems caused with the limited resource it always has. However, like the NHS, people moan about it but it serves the whole rather than a priviledge few.

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