Intranets are still very much alive!

I read with interest the blog posts by Tony Byrne ‘Death of the Intranet‘ and by Martin White ‘Death of the Intranet: ‘The Times They are a-changin’‘.  They are both interesting posts with provocative titles to catch the attention.  It has caused some great discussions about intranets which is great.  The biggest and most negative reaction I found has been from intranet practitioners who feel it is an over reaction and not how they see things.

Having recently been an intranet practitioner as the BT Intranet manager before becoming a consultant, I can see the subject from both points of view.  I believe intranets are still live and kicking  To adapt the famous quotation by Mark Twain after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal “The reports of the death of the intranet are greatly exaggerated” in my opinion.

Continually evolving

I believe intranets are naturally evolving and maturing.  Over the past 15 years intranets have been called many different names.  Intranets have needed to adapt to changes in technology, different business requirements and climates.  But they are still here and thriving.  The digital workplace is a wider environment that intranets will be a vital component of.  Yet another evolution for intranets to absorb and adapt to.

Wikipedia says ‘Increasingly, intranets are being used to deliver tools and applications, e.g., collaboration (to facilitate working in groups and teleconferencing) or sophisticated corporate directories, sales and customer relationship management tools, project management etc., to advance productivity.  Intranets are also being used as corporate culture-change platforms. For example, large numbers of employees discussing key issues in an intranet forum application could lead to new ideas in management, productivity, quality, and other corporate issues.’  I agree with that from my experience of how intranets generally are being used.

Different tools to access intranets like mobiles won’t end the intranet.  It’s just another opportunity to show how adaptable intranet can be in providing the information people need while on the move from their smartphones.  Intranets are still the bloodstream for information and applications, properly managed and accessible any time, any place, any where and more and more using any device, that employees need to do their work each day.

Passionate practitioners

I am writing a report about how the passion showed by intranet practitioners about their organisation’s intranet that they manage can help accelerate improvements.  I believe it is the personality as well as the abilities of an intranet manager that can help achieve more.  Intranet practitioners know better now than ever before how to feel the pulse of their intranet and organisation it supports.

I recall in my previous role how I would champion again and again something I believed passionately about would improve BT by its adoption sometimes against sceptical line management as well as partners like IT and some stakeholders.  Of course, judgement is critical as your reputation will suffer if you keep getting it wrong.  My point is that passionate intranet role models are being created which other intranet practitioners can benefit from and will continue to help intranets improve in the years ahead, not die.

The development of the digital workplace will be seen not as a threat but more as an opportunity for two reasons:

  1. The intranet will fit well within the digital workplace and grow in influence on the back of it as more senior stakeholders see how the organisation will benefit from adoption.
  2. The digital workplace role will be another step an intranet practitioner can consider when looking for their next career move (more on this in a later post).

Increasing relevance

Intranet managers don’t feel intranets are dying – quite the opposite in fact.  They believe intranets are moving into a more critical role for the organisations they support.  More and more they are seen as providing a business critical role.  This is a long way from just being another communications channels.  While I see intranets that are struggling to show value and be taken seriously by their senior stakeholders, there are many intranets growing in value and championed by practitioners who have learnt how to seek support and sponsorship and can talk the language of the business not just the technology.

I believe senior stakeholders, as with intranets, have matured in the last few years.  They understand better how intranets have added value, shown benefits in the wider sense and don’t think in straitjacket terms of just ‘return on investment’ so loved by Finance for business case submissions.

For me intranets are a living organism at the heart of organisations, managed by passionate people and increasingly championed by senior stakeholders who ‘get it’ about intranets and can see how they will continue in the wider digital workplace that is unfolding now.

4 responses to “Intranets are still very much alive!

  1. Pingback: Intranet Lounge

  2. Pingback: Links for November 24, 2011 « Andrzej's Links

  3. Good article Mark! Tony stated at the outset of his article, “OK, this is partly an argument about labels.” I think it’s *completely* about labels, and as I argued in the spring, “intranet” is the most enduring, meaningful term we have to talk about companies’ evolving set of internal web-based applications:
    http://www.thoughtfarmer.com/blog/2011/05/18/what-is-an-intranet-definitive-explanation/. (See the comments section too — lots of debate!)

  4. Whatever the thinking, a web portal, however named and accessed, will be the central point to begin any Search based future options. However, I can’t see any point in only offering a Search Function? When you are looking for business related information you don’t want to Google Everything? Although to be honest some Intranets do leave you down that road.

    I can only see adoption going up as organisations ‘slowly’ start to realise just how valuable ‘well organised information is’, as opposed to information lying in chaos (as is seen across many web places). The internet is and will be one of mans greatest tools as we create and share information at previously unseen speeds. Information sharing is what an intranet is and if companies can benefit from the same information sharing as is seen on the intranet then they will adopt. We, the intranet consultant etc. need to make sure that we deliver information portals where people can find what they need. If not, then an intranet can die. Simplez?

    People need information. That won’t ever change. People either know it, how to find it or where to go to for help on finding it. As the volume of information grows there becomes a greater demand on that information being structured and managed. This will be the role for an ‘intranet/information manager’.

    As for going only Mobile? Come on. Not for another god knows how long and by then my fridge will be talking to me in the morning.

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