One of the most difficult parts of any intranet renewal or intranet overhaul is proving the return on the investment for finished product. We demonstrate how nonlinear revamped an intranet to outstanding results.

One of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies engaged nonlinear to reinvent their intranet, but before we launched into that project, we insisted they create a framework for the business value of the renewal project.

The nonlinear intranet ROI methodology can be used by anyone embarking on an intranet renewal project but it’s crucial that you think about it at the beginning of the project. The concept is simple: the key source of return for most intranets is improvements in the efficiency with which employees can find the information they need. The nonlinear approach to quantifying this improvement has five steps:

  1. Analyze data on intranet use and the results of employee surveys to identify the most frequent tasks employees attempt to accomplish and the information they try to find. Select representative examples of the most common attempted actions
  2. Assemble a cohort of employees – ideally with a wide variety of tenure – and then watch them attempt to complete representative samples of these frequent activities. Determine if they can successfully complete the actions, and, if they can, how long they take.
  3. The intranet team and your selected partners go forth and build a new intranet using UX best practices and with an eye to the new social intranet. Return to this process once the 1.4 years required to build an exceptional intranet have elapsed.
  4. Assemble a cohort of employees – include the surviving members of the original cohort. Ask them to perform the same tasks on the new intranet. Time them and evaluate their success.
  5. Do the math to figure out how much faster they can complete their assigned tasks with the new intranet. Multiply this by how frequently each employee attempts these tasks (your intranet analytics can help here). Scale that up by total number of employees and multiply by fully loaded cost per person. If you’ve done your job right, the answer will be an exceedingly large number.

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A real world example

nonlinear used the methodology outlined above during our engagement with the telecommunications company we mentioned at the beginning of this post. We selected tasks that represented the most common uses of the original intranet, including:

  • Finding corporate forms
  • Finding HR forms
  • Access to corporate systems
  • Requesting facility services
  • Reading company news

In step two, we required a dozen representative intranet users – and we made sure they were not in any way involved in the intranet renewal project. We quantified how long it took to complete the representative tasks.

About 1.4 years later a new intranet was launched and we re-conducted the original usability test.  Then we multiplied the time savings by how frequently the task was attempted by an employee each week.

 Task Time to complete task
in seconds, original intranet
Time to complete task
in seconds, new intranet
Time savings per
attempt (seconds)
Number of attempts
per week
Time savings per
employee per week (seconds)
Find a corporate form 115  54.6 60 0.5 30
Find an HR form 103 48 55 0.25 14
Interact with a corporate system 142 27 115 5 573
Request facility services 101 19.8 81 0.5 41
Read company news 45 16.2 29 5 144


The result of the analysis is compelling – the average employee saved about 22 minutes each week.

Twenty-two minutes does not feel like an enormous time savings, but if we assume those minutes are put to productive use (and not spent on extended lunch breaks), the cumulative savings across the organization are astonishing.

When you scale the savings up to the 27,000 employees in the company, the total cost of the saved time is well in excess of $10,000,000 per year.

Sensitivity Analysis, ROI and Payback Period

The very best part about this methodology is that you can easily adjust the primary assumptions to develop a range within which you feel confident the real-world results will fall. In this case, using any reasonable range of assumptions, the total cost of the time saved dwarfs the investment made in the intranet renewal – the pay-back period is measured in weeks at best, or single digit months at worst. We can’t reveal the total dollars invested in the intranet improvement program, but suffice to say that the three return on investment runs is extraordinary.

Please reach out to us if you would like more information on this project or our approach to ensuring you obtain the return you anticipate from intranet expenditures, and most importantly that you can prove it to the decision makers in the C-Suite.

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