Last week, I wrote a blog post about how to sell an intranet to your organization and I quickly talked about who the customer of the Intranet should be.  The quick definition of customer is someone that buys or pays, for a product or service.  So, with that in mind, lets explore who the customer is for an Intranet.  There are three potential groups that make sense as customers in an organization.

  1. The End Users
  2. The Executives
  3. The Departments

The End User as Customer

When I talk to many customers about who the customer is for the Intranet, most people respond that it is the end users.  This makes a lot of sense.  After all, when we build websites, the users of those web sites are usually the customers of the site.  When you go to you are looking to buy a book and are obviously the customer.  We know that companies spend massive amounts of money designing the optimal buying experience to encourage those customers to come to the site and use it to buy things.  We also know from our experiences that the struggle for Intranets is user adoption and so by focusing on the end users just like we would customers we can drive up user adoption.

This makes total sense by the way, and I encourage every Intranet project to put the users first and foremost in their design process.  That is the way that Catapult operates and I have seen how it fundamentally changes the process for the better.  Go read my Co-worker Daneilla Matutes at Daniella Creates Blog to see how the User Centered Experience solves so many of our problems.

So, when then do I say that the end user isn’t the customer?  Well, if we go back to the definition, the end user does use our product or service, but they don’t pay for it.  To put this another way…how much budget do the end users have to fund our Intranet project?  Sure, we could do a GoFundMe campaign asking them to do a payroll deduction for a new Intranet…how much budget do you think we would get then?  And honestly, if you COULD fund your Intranet that way…it must be REALLY lousy.

The End User as Product

I maintain that the end users are actually…the PRODUCT!  What?  How could you say that?  Well, lets think about it like Facebook for a minute.  We all use Facebook, but we don’t pay for it.  Who does?  The answer is the advertisers pay for Facebook.  facebook provides a wonderful service that draws in a billion plus people who regularly share pictures, check in at stores and restaurants, share links, and tlak about their interests.  Let’s say that I am opening a new Italian-Mexican fusion restaurant in the sub-urb of a major city.  I want to advertise so that people know where I am and what I provide, but my budget is limited.  Facebook allows me to target my ads on a very select group of people.  Individuals who check in at Italian or Mexican restaurants in the area of the city that I will operate out of.  Or target towards people who like Italian or Mexican food and live in the area.  You see the pattern.  We, the users of Facebook are the product that Facebook is selling to its customers…those that are buying its ads.


Facebook, and Google, and Bing, and so many other “free” services are wonderful, but we are the product being sold to the advertisers.

How does this affect MY Intranet?

This, of course, is the $64,000 question (or $640,000, or $6.4M depending on the size of your Intranet).  If we think of the end users as customers, then we will focus on the end users, their wants, and their needs, We will build them an Intranet that allows them to accomplish their daily goals and that they want to use.  This is important.

So, what happens if we focus on them as the product?  Well, then we will focus on the end users, their wants, and their needs, We will build them an Intranet that allows them to accomplish their daily goals and that they want to use.

Wait a second…isn’t that exactly the same?  Yes it is.  Does Facebook scrimp on end user usability?  No, because the more people that use Facebook the more they can charge for advertising.  The more end users that use our network, the more we can charge our real customers to build and maintain it.

So, who are those real customers?  Well, if you read last weeks blog post, you know the answer, (hint, its the departments), but we will go into more on that soon.  Next week we will look at the Executive as the potential customer