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Top 10 Intranets: Creative, Mobile, Multinational

Financial services and insurance companies make a tech version of the "best-dressed" list. This year's top sites make good use of blogs and even those annoying overlay ads.

The companies with the world's best 10 intranets, ranked for the best in design and function, put blogging and advertising to good use inside their organizations.

"One of the most repellant advertising techniques on the Web, the use of overlay graphics on which an image appears on top of the content, works quite effectively on an intranet to highlight and explain new features," said Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, while releasing "Intranet Design Annual 2006: The Year's Ten Best Intranets" this week. "Offering an e-commerce system, complete with shopping cart, for ordering supplies is brilliant. Blogs provide just-in-time notes for crucial, shared tasks. And these Web-turned-intranet trends all serve to boost productivity."

And, more countries outside the United States than inside are coming out on top.

Nielsen Norman Group's researchers praised the United States' Capital One, IBM, Merrill Lynch and Staples, Germany's ALTANA Pharma and METRO Group, United Kingdom's O2 and Vodafone, Allianz Australia Insurance and Bank of Ireland for having the best intranet systems in the world.

For the first time, the majority of winners came from outside the United States.

Judges found that many winners share common strategies, such as: mobile access with intranets optimized for the Blackberry, multimedia systems making use of video to increase productivity, and special brand names for intranets.

IBM, the only information technology company to make the cut, calls its intranet "w3 On Demand Workplace."

Nielsen said IBM achieved consistency and personalization in its intranet, which facilitates collaboration between 329,000 employees in 75 countries. Employees there receive internal and external news based on self-created profiles outlining their jobs and interests. Those in finance, sales and management also have job-specific portlets providing all the tools and applications they need directly from their home page.

Big Blue's intranet also succeeds with what the report states is "probably the most robust intranet employee directory we have every encountered." IBM says its employees can search for each other in many ways, including particular areas of expertise.

"If the average employee directory is a hill, the IBM BluePages would be the Matterhorn," it states.

Other features noted in the report are: IBM's BlogCentral, RSS and accessibility for older users, those with motor-related disabilities, memory impairment and literacy challenges.

A complete report can be downloaded from: Nielsen Norman Group for $148.

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