Social media has evolved from distracting fun to hype to significant mainstream adoption over the last 18 months or so. Will the intranet remain unaffected by this? Or are there any emerging signs from intranets in social businesses that could provide some clues to what the future is likely to bring?
Consumer organisations such as BMW, BT, Coca Cola, Red Bull, Virgin and WWF have invited their customers to participate in conversations and taken their usage of social media tools, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and wikis very far. They have, in effect, become what analysts now call “successful social businesses”.
Social media has undeniably become a dominant phenomenon everywhere; yet most intranet experts continue to discount it as simply a collection of interesting features and emerging technologies with little relevance. Social media is indeed much more. Notably, some progressive social businesses are going out of their way to facilitate culture change through increased employee participation using mature, “enterprise-friendly” technologies. Notable examples of this includes the world's largest pump manufacturer Grundfos, pharma giant Novo Nordisk and financial network operators SWIFT.
This is causing disruptive intranet changes, which are happening in government administration, large enterprise as well as NGO's. It would appear that social media is destined to have a huge impact on the work of intranet professionals. Here are just a few signs from existing “social businesses” indicating how your intranet will be affected:
- Collaboration has been an integrated part of the intranet for many organisations for years. With collaboration spaces increasingly being opened to external partners, collaboration might be becoming too important to be left with an intranet manager alone. Collaboration continues to be pushed, mainly through the demands of an increasingly dispersed workforce. Moreover, it is one of the few actual strengths of Microsoft SharePoint.
- Content: once considered a centrally controlled and approved information asset. The amount of online content is exploding in social businesses. When the majority of employees embark on creating and commenting on content it easily causes chaos and places new requirements on governance and monitoring.
- Intranet as a term has disappeared altogether in some organisations. Many successful social businesses effectively don’t even have a corporate intranet. In a social business this development goes far beyond a simple name change: It makes little sense to have a dedicated intranet team, when what you have is an increasingly scattered collection of social media that nobody refers to as the “intranet”. Some social businesses still have their “legacy” intranet around, but this is not something that new employees are told to worry about.
- IT departments remain responsible for the intranet in many organisations, but rarely so in social businesses. Social businesses tend to have tiny IT departments that are busy enough keeping the IT infrastructure (e.g. remaining servers, desktop apps) running. While once infamous for their obsession with security and lack of communication skills, in social businesses the IT departments are softening their firm grip to allow experiments such as cloud computing (e.g. Google Apps) for business critical (traditional intranet) tasks.
- Management have, with few notable exceptions, been very hard to persuade about the importance of intranets. They take a different position in a social business. Their expectations are constantly increasing and they see internal communications and employee applications as a part of a much bigger picture. The intranet silo has gone and been replaced by a networked set of tools.
- Mobile has been hyped up for many years, but now it is happening at an extremely fast rate. When employees can put the office in their pockets, e.g. e-mail and Office, they also expect their killer applications to work when they are on the move. Facebook is very popular, in particular on mobiles, in social businesses.
- Technology, in terms of intranets has so far been plagued by inflexible content management systems or enterprise portals. With a byzantine user experience and long implementation times (think Interwoven, Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Portal or SAP), social businesses have taken alternative approaches. Blogs and wikis may have lost some of their sexiness, but are being deployed massively, also beyond technology-happy IT users. Social businesses tend to find the right tool for the job and are not afraid to put more than one tool in place.
- Become a group member: Social intranets is a regular theme in our many J. Boye groups across Europe and North America. Not yet a group member? Find out which one is right for you.
- How does your intranet measure up? Get an intranet benchmark!
- Join us at a J. Boye conference in 2012: Our next conference will take place in Philadelphia from 8 to 10 May 2012. There will be a full-day intranet conference track and another SharePoint conference track.