Recently, I had the chance to talk to Jane McConnell, intranet and portal strategy specialist, about how intranets can help organisations work smarter. It came as no surprise, that these days the biggest challenge is to know how to prioritise activities so that the intranet makes a positive difference to how business is done.
I asked Jane a series of questions about the state of the intranet today:
What is true intranet success and how do you achieve it?
“When it serves the purpose it is intended to serve for an organization, the people and the business. You can’t achieve it until you’ve defined it, which most organizations have not yet done. The purpose changes as the organization evolves.”
At the J. Boye conference in Philadelphia, you’ll talk about how intranets can help organisations work smarter. What are the biggest hurdles today for achieving that?
“The major obstacles are internal politics, lack of resources – primarily human! – and lack of overall strategy and intranet positioning, which means different parts of the organization go in different directions. Another hurdle is lack of trust. If organizations do not trust the users, it is unlikely the intranet will be helping people work smarter. User-generated content has a lot to do with working smarter.”
Is “intranet” an outdated term?
“The word “intranet” is often an obstacle itself because it has so much baggage associated with it. Lots of senior managers still think intranets are for internal communication. It does not cross their minds that intranets facilitate business – “real business”, I mean, with real external customers.
I recently triggered a fascinating debate on the internet about trying to find a new word. Out of the extensive collective brainstorming, I chose and suggested “web workplace”. That in itself set off another round of debates and in some cases very strong reactions.”
What surprised you most in the results from your 2009 Global Intranet Strategies & Trends Survey?
“Two findings really surprised me: First, that very large organizations (over 50,000 employees) are much further down the path of using social media internally than other organizations. Second,that companies with a high proportion of manufacturing-based employees are more likely to have a Stage 3 intranet than companies with lots of knowledge-workers.”
As you look forward, what are some major trends to look out for when it comes to intranets?
“Intranets will offer workplaces for teams and communities that are often made up of internal and external people. Today, this type of “mixed” team is often forced to create parallel workplaces in the cloud, out of sight and out of mind for the intranet managers. This is not a sustainable solution.
Intranets will offer services over smart phones, for example news and contacts. Those are the two main needs people have, especially people far from head-quarters. I’ve done a lot of work with very decentralized organizations with lots of staff “on the ground” carrying out critical and sometimes difficult or dangerous work. What those people often need is access to essential information – nothing more, nothing less.”
Have you defined your intranet success and moved towards helping your organisation work smarter in the future?