User accounts or branch accounts on the intranet?

To save money on user licenses and administration of users, chains often choose to have one user account per branch instead of having one user account for each user on the intranet. This is a short term and dated way of thinking – here is why.

I, the individual in the branch

To participate and use a social intranet as e.g. “Branch 143” or some other generic internal term in a chain, and then ask questions, leads to the social intranet failing. The social intranet is heading more and more towards being a digital workspace. How exciting is it to be Branch 143 in this forum rather than being “John Johnson”? The user, or the individual, is put outside of the community as a generic name. The individual is less valued and has less purpose than those in the head office that have their own personal accounts.

If you can ask a question as a person and get a reply from another person, rather than an office number, the feeling of participation and community increases. It is almost impossible to initiate the will to help others when you do not know who is at the other end. The visibility and affirmation of helping does not come back to me as an individual and an employee.

When each individual gets their own account on the intranet it can even help reduce attrition as you feel closer to the company and as part of something important. It contributes to better employer branding and internal marketing.

Security on the intranet

If an account is distributed to 10 people in an organisation with 100 branches, the login details is likely to sit on post-its next to 100-200 computers. We do not know who is logged into to Branch 143, and the bespoke experience is deteriorated. We do not know who has left the company and might still use the login. A personal account is easy to deactivate. It has great value for the individual to contact a specific person and to see the contact details and login status of the individual.

If the branch login is used on a smartphone and the phone is handed in for repairs or is lost, we have no control of who might be logged in and gain access to more or less sensitive information.

Usage of the intranet

When you do not have a personal account on the intranet, it cannot notify and deliver relevant content in a context of where the user has been active. An example might be a discussion or article where the user has commented or asked a question in a social forum.

The user misses out on the personal interaction if they need to use the intranet as Branch 143 instead of John Johnson. The bespoke experience of my intranet deteriorates and this leads to less interaction and less use of the intranet. Fewer accounts = less activity on the intranet. Furthermore, the possibility to direct information to specific roles like “Head of Marketing” or “Communications” is lost.

If a user is anonymous and logs on as the branch account, the individual is no longer accountable for the content that is published. This might increase risk of “trash-talk” as they do not need to sign with their own name, especially in social forums and direct messaging. This can easily be avoided with personal accounts as the content is digitally signed with their personal account.

Accessibility of the intranet

The intranet and the digital workspace is significantly more accessible with a personal account. The employee can log in on their smartphone and get information and push notifications sent directly to their device, wherever they might be.

One account for a branch with 15 employees breaks the chain of personalised information, and a lot of usability and functionality in the social intranet is lost.

The Economy

As an organisation you might save some money by having shared user accounts. BUT, by having a social intranet you make information more available and adapted to the employee. This reduces circulation of e-mails in the organisation and it reduces the number of questions directed to the head office. In the greater scheme of things you save time and increase efficiency. And as we all know, time is money!

If the employee can get a feeling of participation in the organisation it can contribute towards reducing attrition, something that most organisations are struggling with.

So, we believe it is a better long term strategy for chains and satellite organisations to have individual user accounts, even though it might be a slightly increased cost in the short term.