Concerned about your career as an intranet manager? Overwhelmed by the latest in social, collaboration and mobile software? Unsure how the ‘digital workplace’ will affect your job? One thing is certain: you’re not alone!

At J. Boye, we get our insights and inspiration mainly from talking to our 500+ customers in our many groups of web and intranet practitioners. I have recently spoken to several intranet managers from large and medium-sized organizations. Many of them share the same doubts, but are at the same time taking action and making investments to improve their existing intranets.

Let’s have a closer look at two areas where most intranet investments are being made, and discuss how you as an intranet manager can stay on top of things.

1.  Supporting the ‘New World of Work’

A lot has been said and written about the merits of the ‘New World of Work’ or ‘NWOW’ as Microsoft and others have called it. And while the final verdict may still be out on how much flexibility people and organizations can absorb (check the recent story of how Yahoo is cutting back on working from home), it’s clear that there is no turning back to the old days.

Intranets are growing and maturing in order to support this New World of Work. Yes, the traditional intranet with its official content and corporate news stories will still have a place, but a much smaller one than before. Investments are made elsewhere: Social, collaboration and especially mobile capabilities will ensure that the employees of 2015 will work together efficiently anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Introducing NWOW is quickly becoming a priority in many organizations, and so will be the transformation of their intranet. In an earlier blog post, I talked about Omron as a great example of how a social intranet can support this transformation and deliver tangible business benefits. In the coming months we’ll be showcasing more examples from our customer base. Stay tuned!

2.  Unlocking tacit knowledge

Many organizations are introducing social features on their intranet or are implementing a brand-new social business platform. When looking beyond the hype, the main business driver is often about unlocking the tacit knowledge that sits in the brains of the employees.

The importance of tacit knowledge in a corporate environment has been studied and popularized by Ikujiro Nonaka in his Harvard Business Review article and book titled ‘The Knowledge-Creating Company’. Tacit knowledge, as opposed to explicit knowledge, is difficult to capture and document in any formal way. Traditional knowledge management systems are of no help. But social business software can be a part of the solution: at a minimum, it makes the organization’s experts reachable by others and encourages them to share their expertise in online communities and discussion forums. A great example of this is Engage, the social intranet of Alcatel-Lucent, where a combination of communities, wikis and blogs is helping to break down silos and encourage innovation.

Companies increasingly realize the importance of making expert knowledge accessible, across physical locations and departmental silos, in support of business objectives such as product innovation, faster time-to-market and better customer service. In Jane McConnell’s recent digital workplace survey, ‘organizational intelligence’ came out as the top strategic driver for investing in an improved intranet / digital workplace (‘efficiency and cost savings’ was a close second). Clearly, the old management adage ‘people are our most important asset’ – in the past often just lip service – is now becoming a reality.

Lead, follow or get out of the way: Threats and opportunities for tomorrow’s intranet manager

What is the impact of these trends on the career prospects of intranet managers? As is often the case, there are two sides to the coin:

Threats: The traditional intranet is certainly under threat, and so is its manager. Intranet managers who cling to their familiar platform for top-down, controlled content are at risk of being marginalized. Some typical behaviors that I’ve seen and that are counterpoductive:

  • Don’t fight the well-meant initiatives of other departments. If IT has decided to launch a new SharePoint platform, or if the business units are experimenting with Yammer, then try to integrate these initiatives into your existing intranet plans. Embrace innovation, don’t sulk.
  • Don’t try to control all content. Accept that user-generated content is good and that people in general will be sensible and respectful. Provide guidelines and be a facilitator, don’t be the guardian of a dying breed of ‘official’ corporate-controlled intranets.

Opportunities: These clearly outweigh the threats. Intranet managers have a unique opportunity to show their vision, take the lead in the transformation process and build a new career for themselves. Some examples of how you can shine:

  • Build a 3-year roadmap (no more, as things move extremely fast) for the evolution of the intranet: This is a great exercise for you as an intranet manager. It gives you a reason to go and talk to people across the organization, build credibility and show senior management that you’re taking charge.
  • Think multi-disciplinary: New World of Work initiatives typically involve people from departments as diverse as HR, IT and Facilities Management. As intranet manager you are ideally placed to bring these people together in a common project.
  • ‘Ask for forgiveness, not for permission’: Leadership is about taking calculated risks and showing initiative, cutting through red tape when needed. Even if your official job description does not mention ‘social’ or ‘collaboration’, don’t let this stop you to do the right thing.

Do you see the same or different trends in your organization? Are you grasping the opportunities? Let us know!

Want to learn more?

Would you like to meet other intranet managers face to face and discuss these issues with them? Check out these opportunities: