If you deleted your intranet would it have any impact?

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Silkeborg Kommune LogoLast week Silkeborg Kommune, the 11th largest municipality in Denmark,  had a very bad intranet day. Somebody in IT accidentally deleted their entire intranet and later discovered that they had no working backup.

Now, without an intranet, a press release was quickly issued (in Danish) on the municipality website. In the press release, the responsible manager is quoted saying that the incident will have absolutely no impact on either citizens or on any externally facing work.

When I first heard about this incident, I felt very sorry for the local intranet manager and the many intranet editors, with all their many hours of work completely lost. When I later heard about the quote in the press release, I was quite surprised. If it really has no impact that the intranet has gone missing, why do they have one?

If I were mayor in Silkeborg, I would not bother creating a new intranet; nor would I spend any money on it, at least not until some thought had been put into why the organisation needs an intranet. Also, I would suggest some criteria be defined for making the new intranet successful.

Is this just yet another case of a senior manager that does not get the intranet, or do we have a bigger issue here? Most intranets are very valuable, but if a senior manager really thinks that deleting the intranet has absolutely no impact, then there is a real problem! It could also be that the responsible manager took a political decision to try and talk things down.

If you’d like to learn from other organisations where the intranet is truly business critical, I’d encourage you to join our international intranet conference in Copenhagen on March 22 2011.

11 thoughts on “If you deleted your intranet would it have any impact?”

  1. I think this is a classic, and I agree completely that many companies probably wouldn’t miss their intranet. In fact, I wish some of our clients would accidentally brutally delete 4 of their 5 intranets!

  2. The city of Copenhagen are thinking very seriously about transferring the intranet to the internet. Since we have around 50.000 employees, most of the information on the intranet is sort of public knowledge anyway so we almost cant see the difference. almost.

  3. Good stuff Janus. You are more of a philosopher than I realized. In these economically troubled times, when being 100% transparent is more important than ever, perhaps its a good (Unix) philosphy to do:
    %mv intranet internet
    Instead of:
    %rm -rf intranet

  4. The thought of deleting the intranet has haunted my intranet-strategy presentations for a while. Slide 1: Why do you think you need an intranet? Slide 2: What would actually happen, if IT shut down the server?

    All of a sudden, it’s all to real. But at least I have more realistic slides now.

    I agree with Janus that there is a much bigger issue here. Maybe the IT, business, and communications managers should all start out by agreeing on the strategy of the intranet first, before they set up the next server?

    How is the new intranet actually going to help the citizens in Silkeborg?

  5. To put the question into perspective of the consequenses of losing a company intranet, I post this analogy: Would we be able to work if our mailsystems got removed? The answer for most people would likely be – YES, of-course! We still have other channels of engagement, like phone, pagers, MSN, personal meetings, writing letters or even Facebook. Running faster, we could with more people ensure ‘no impact on customers’. The answer to both ‘can we do without intranet or even without mail’, however, means that it would be greatly inconvenient and even slow down work pace and corporate efficiency in sharing the rigth information. In my view, companies without intranets would, in principle, be put back some 20-30 years on productivity efficiency – which makes the question truely hypothetical – as no company today can afford to go back to the organizational set-up that existed in the 70’s and 80’s. The cost of corporate efficiency of cummulative work-force, and for most companies in globally dispersed regions, is one those measures that are very hard to document, when looking at white-collar workers. This, in my oppinion, is why we need intranets and the web. My condolences to Silkeborg, who sounds like they need a new commmunications manager.

  6. I think that the relevance of creating a dynamic, useful and usable intranet is returning, due to the massive adoption of social networking applications, such as Facebook.

    A lot of our clients are finding that staff are now actively seeking ways of exchanging information dynamically within the organisation, and are getting increasingly vocal if the right tools are not provided.

  7. We often ask our clients that question in our workshops with them in redesigning intranets: what would happen if you deleted it? What would happen if it were turned off? Typically it’s a prompt for what they use the intranet for. They give us a list of things like employee news, policies, directories, etc. But don’t confuse the *what* with the *why* — “why have an intranet” is not the same question as “what do you use the intranet for” — subtle, but important difference.

    If you get a thing (employee directory) then ask why again. And then ask why a few more times to get to the real core of what’s going on.

  8. I absolutely agree with Kenneth. Life will go on but something is likely to give – efficiency and communication being the top bets.

    I think their intranet manager has been on a good wicket. Run the intranet with no measures, checks or balances? No wonder no-one missed it. Part of an intranet manager’s role is to maintain the efficiency of the intranet and to engage at all levels. It’s not easy, but it’s part of the role.

    I think it’s a great opportunity for the intranet manager to prove their worth and the worth of their intranet. Our intranets are here for a purpose and that’s to deliver value. If value can’t be established or measured, why should they continually invest in it?

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