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Optimising Return On Investment With Intranets

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Mike Parsons

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User since: 02 Jun 2001

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An intranet is a private network that is contained within an enterprise.

It may consist of many interlinked local area networks and also use

leased lines in the Wide Area Network. An extranet is also a private

network, however it shares part of a business's information or operations

with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses.

Intranets can serve large international organisations and

small-to-medium enterprises (MKB). The functionalities within an

intranet can include information delivery, training, employee

self-service and human resources. A recent Forrester study that 67% of

Fortune 1000 companies have an intranet of some form.

There is no industry standard for the definition of 'Return on

Investment' (ROI) in eBusiness. A summary of most approaches is ROI a

measure of money collected to money spent adjusted over time. If you

spend $12,000 and collected $24,000 over one year the ROI is 100% for

a single year. More complicated factors such as interest and

depreciation must also be considered in the equation. The quality of

the metrics and accounting formulas are critical in developing

realistic and valuable numbers. Without quality metrics, the exercise

of determining ROI is pointless.

ROI is different to cost amortisation. Why? ROI is concerned with

improving a company's bottom line; not spreading costs over time and

throughout company divisions.

Intranet and Extranet ROI can be structured into two hard metrics and

soft metrics categories. Hard metrics are defined by clear financial

numbers and arrived at by formulas i.e. €200,000. A soft metric

is defined as a measurement of 'perceived' benefit i.e. 22%

improvement in staff attitudes.

The ownership of ROI figures within an orginisation should be equally

shared amongst sales, IT and Finance divisions. The result of shared

ownership has many advantages - realistic numbers, improved delivery

and better company-wide awareness.

ROI with intranets and extranets can be hard to determine. Many of

the benefits fall into the 'soft' category and therefore lack the

weight of clear revenue improvements. However, there is much evidence

to suggest the real impact intranets and extranets can have.

Intranet and Extranet environments can create value for organisations

in a number of ways. A company can increase sales, decrease costs,

improve productivity, improve customer service and build intellectual

capital. Understanding the ROI can inform organisations on the best

way to invest in their Intranets and Extranets.

The aim of this paper is to outline how companies improve ROI with

Intranets and Extranets. The case studies can be a starting point for

your company to understand its potential ROI with intranets and


Decreasing Costs

Intranets and extranets can simply reduce the expense of information

delivery within an orginisation. Printing and distribution costs can

reduce significantly via online delivery of information.

Polymerland Case Study

Polymerland was formed to offer engineering resins, commodities,

custom compounds and colorants from the industry's leading

manufacturers through a network of distribution centers and supporting

warehouses, strategically located to serve customers around the


The first web site to operate for Polymerland was its public web site

in 1997. This was a simple and static web site. However by 1999 a

transactional extranet was added. This enabled the connection between

the company and its customers. Despite initial sales of $10,000 per

week, sales within two years have reached $50 million to $60 million

each week - accounting for 60% of company orders.

Developing a new sales channel really had impact on the bottom-line.

The customer service division of Polymerland has reduced costs by 35%

and the company receives 200,000 fewer telephone calls from its


For information regarding Polymerland visit

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Cisco Systems Case Study

Cisco Systems, Inc. is the worldwide leader in networking for the

Internet. Cisco's Internet Protocol-based (IP) networking solutions

are the foundation of the Internet and most corporate, education, and

government networks around the world. Cisco provides the broadest line

of solutions for transporting data, voice and video within buildings,

across campuses, or around the world.

Cisco successfully implemented an employee self-service tool called

METRO. This employee tool enabled cost reduction but also improved

efficiency. All employees can submit their personal business expenses

via the intranet Cisco's METRO expense reporting application has

reduced the cost of processing expense reports (compared to the

traditional paper system) from US$50.69 in 1996 to $1.90 in 1999.

Beautiful in its simplicity and powerful in its benefits. METRO

translates into a 96% reduction in costs or US$77 million annually.

Also gained was the average processing time of expenses was reduced

from 21 days to only 4 days.

For information regarding Cisco visit target="_blank" name="Opens in a new window">

Productivity Increases

Information is an important tool in everyday business. The

company-wide access to information can determine the success of sales,

time-to-market, customer service and many other mission critical

operations. Intranets and Extranets can, when built with the users

needs in mind, improve this information delivery process. Productivity

can also be improved with faster and more efficient processing of

transactions and orders.

Eli Lilly Case Study

Eli Lilly and Company is a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. The

company employs more than 31,000 people worldwide and markets its

medicines in 179 countries.

The company launched myELVIS as a corporate portal to improve company

performance. Eli hopes to save $27 million a year as a result of

increased productivity. How? The benefits of their corporate portal

include improved efficiency in searching information and research,

extending knowledge company-wide and better tools for marketing and


For more information about Eli Lilly visit

name="Opens in a new window">

Mentor Graphics Case Study

Mentor Graphics® is a technology leader in electronic design

automation (EDA), providing software and hardware design solutions

that enable companies to send better electronic products to market

faster and more cost-effectively. The company has 3,500 employees,

Revenues approximately $600 million in 2001 and 66 locations


Solving high tech problems is a demanding task for the customer

engineers at Mentor. In the old days the quality and efficiency of

customer service was dependant on the memory of any given engineer.

Now all company knowledge and solutions are stored in a central

Web-based knowledge database. The customer's query can be run against

all company-wide knowledge so improving both quality and efficiency of

customer service.

The impact this is having on the staff is significant. Engineer

workload has been reduced by 15% and continues to fall. This enables

the engineers to service more customers over the same period.

For more information about Mentor visit

name="Opens in a new window">

Xerox Case Study

Xerox provides solutions to help you manage documents - paper,

electronic, online. Annual sales in 2001 of $16.5 billion

In 2000, Xerox saved more than $10 million with a browser-accessible

database called Eureka. Over 3,800 technicians worldwide input their

best practice maintenance and repair tips. Eureka now has over 30,000

logged tips, accessed by 20,000+ field customer service professionals.

Eureka helped technicians solve more customer problems faster. The

bottom line impact of Eureka in savings is more than $10 million prior

to 2001.

For more information about Xerox visit "" target="_blank" name="Opens in a new window">

Customer Service Improvement

Many facets of customer service are dependent on face-to-face

contact. This can never be replaced by any technology. However, there

are components of the customer relationship than can profit from

optimisation via intranets and extranets. The benefit of

extranet-based customer service can be mutually shared between both

the end customer and the company.

NOL Group Case Study

The NOL Group today provides services in more than 100 countries and

operates one of the largest containership and Aframax tanker fleets

worldwide. It is also the largest shipping company listed on the

Singapore Exchange with a market capitalization of S$1.24 billion as

of 7 June 2002.

In an effort to avoid large reproduction of paper work for their

clients, NOL moved a number of customer transactions online. These

include electronic bills of shipping, online versions of the letters

of credit required for insurance, and real-time rate quotes for

specialized cargoes.

Currently 38% of APL's customers conduct their business via online

transactions, up from 8% in 1999. Amazingly 25% of APL's North

American customers never see a paper bill of shipping. Over the past

two years volume of shipments has increased by nearly 10%.

Significantly a 20% reduction in the cost of processing bills of

shipping has occurred at the same time.

With the benefits passed on to customers, NOL Group enjoys more

efficiency and more profits and happy customers.

For more information on NOL Group visit "" target="_blank" name="Opens in a new window">

Mary Kay Case Study

Mark Kay is a manufacturer of beauty products in the USA. Revenues for

2001 were $2.6 billion.

Rather than casuing a channel conflict, Mark Kay decided to use the

Internet as a medium to support is sales representatives. By helping

its beauty consultants set up and improve their business the company

believed it could increase sales.

Anecdotes from the sales professionals showed how the intranet

enabled them to distribute sales information quickly to their

customers via email and faster sales cycles followed.

The total investment to date is $15 million during the past five

years. 24% of the sales force have their own web page and use the

intranet regularly. The sales force also now orders 70% of Mary Kay's

revenue online. Most importantly, huge efficiencies have been created.

The cost per order in the company used to be over $3, now it's below

$1 due to the intranet.

For more information about Mark Kay visit "" target="_blank" name=

"Opens in a new window">

Human Resources Improvement

As we saw previously with Cisco Systems, Human Resource services via

Intranets can have significant financial reward to a company. The

'self-service' concept with Human Resources has been very successful

to date. The concept empowers the employee to manage such items as

their holidays, insurance and pensions. This avoids costly and slow

paper work on the administration side of a company.

HP Case Study

The new HP is a leading technology solutions provider for consumers

and businesses with market leadership in fault-tolerant servers,

UNIX® servers, Linux servers, Windows® servers, storage

solutions, management software, imaging and printing and PCs.

In October 2000, HP launched @HP portal. Prior to this HP had a

number of internal web sites and it was HP's goal to reduce this by a

number of 2000. The broad functionalities in the portal meant HP could

eliminate benefits and payroll paperwork, streamline processes such as

travel bookings, eliminate the need for call centers, consolidate

websites, and reduce costs for printing, fax machines, copiers and


The ROI of @HP is $50 million annually based on the companies initial

$20 million investment.

For more information about HP visit target="_blank" name="Opens in a new window">

Increased Buying Profit

Any medium to large sized company understands the benefit of combined

buying power. However, the execution of combined buying is often the

challenge in large, decentralised and autonomous orginistaions.

Intranets can be the gathering point of company purchasers and the

extranet can quickly connect them to suppliers with the best price.

Case Study Unilever

Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch company producing washing powder, shampoo and

toothpaste, teas, ice cream, oils and spreads for consumers all over the


As $46 Billion company, potential buying is very high at the company.

Unilever's Global Buying Service developed an intranet application

that centralizes computer equipment purchases. The application let

Unilever consolidate all its contracts with vendors, giving the

company far greater purchasing power - and driving down the cost of

most equipment by 20% to 40%.

For more information about Unilever visit "" target="_blank" name=

"Opens in a new window">


Intranets and Extranets have undoubted impact on a company's bottom

line. From delivering simple contact information to sophisticated

group purchasing the evidence is clear.

However, companies must vigorously understand their business and the

manner in which eBusiness initiatives can benefit them. Many companies

have unique situations that require tailored solutions that really

integrate into the orginistaion. Many companies do not discover what

users goals are. Therefore, the final solution does not generate the

desired results.

The choice of technology has often been a leading factor within an

intranet or extranet. Issues such as security, compatibility and

vendor relationships often are considered when the full facts are not

known. How can a company make a technology/functionality decision on

an intranet without first determining what the users need are and the

financial return for solving this need?

An informed decision based on the business, user and technology goals

will balance the key disciplines within eBusiness. An optimisied ROI

is understanding of the disciplines with eBusiness and based on sound

metrics and formulas.

Research Note

Material from the following publications were used CIO Magazine,

Ganthead,, Business Week, Cisco Systems and

For more than ten years Mike has been working in media and internet related roles. Currently Mike is the Manager of MRM Partners (IPG:NYSE) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He provides services such as web design, internet marketing and online advertising. In short, creating digital experiences. For companies like Microsoft, General Motors, L'Oreal, Clearasil, Center Parcs, Getronics, Van der Most and others. In 2003 Mike co-authored his first book 'Practical Intranet Development' by Glasshaus Publishing. Specialties: Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, SMS Promotions, Web Games, Mobile Games and Tools, Rich Media Advertising, Content Syndication, Banners, Customer sales programs, Customer service programs, Customer marketing programs, Customer loyalty programs. For more information visit

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