Did someone say Intranet?

Did someone say Intranet?

Are intranets still relevant?

With so many changes in the enterprise communication and collaboration, specifically regarding intranets, these are the questions that are starting to be asked. Our team recently reached out to Intranet thought leader and Enterprise Strategies’s benchmarking partner Andrew Wright to discuss his perspective.

When does it make sense to relaunch an existing intranet rather than launch something completely new?

Founder of Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC), a free global intranet benchmarking service, Andrew optimizes intranets, builds business cases for intranets, and implements intranet strategy. WIC is a global partnership of people who are passionate about helping organizations deliver better intranets and collaborative systems. Additionally, Andrew pioneered and manages two of the largest intranet groups on LinkedIn, The Worldwide Intranet Challenge and Intranet Professionals groups. With over 18,000 combined members, these are the groups where industry professionals and intranet managers go to share and collaborate.

Below are a few highlights from our conversation with Andrew:

Some people say intranets are no longer relevant–what would you say to that?

“It depends on how you define an intranet and there is no real agreement about this. For me, an intranet can consist of one or more of the following seven functions: 1) content (procedures, news, reports, online training, blogs, employee profiles, etc), 2) document management (version control, approvals, reviews, collaborative authoring), 3) collaboration spaces (project sites, team sites), 4) discussion forums, 5) automated processes (workflows, online forms), 6) advanced communication tools (video conferencing, messaging) and 7) as a portal to enterprise data and applications.

So if you consider all of these functions, it would take a brave person to say intranets are no longer relevant. However I can understand where people are coming from when they say that intranets aren’t relevant. I think they see intranets as little more than online newsletters, staff directories and out-of-date policy and procedure documents (which quite a few of them are unfortunately!) The word ‘intranet’ does conjure up these images with a lot of people which is a shame but I’m not sure if there is a better term out there. Digital workplace is very broad and no-one outside those who actually use the term really understand what it means, Enterprise Social Networks, Social Intranets, Enterprise 2.0… I’m not sure these terms are any better than ‘intranet’ either. So I’ll be sticking with ‘intranet’ for the time being.”

When does it make sense to relaunch an existing intranet rather than launch something completely new?

“When the existing intranet contains valuable content that is perhaps not ‘packaged’ or presented in the best way to be useful to employees. For example, useful content may be buried deep within a large PDF document which is then buried 4 or 5 layers deep in some kind of unwieldy and illogical information hierarchy, so that no-one can find it unless it has been made using the kind of software FilecenterDMS offers, which makes documents searchable. Most intranets are like this so I’d almost always look at a re-launch (or even what I would call an ‘enhancement’) – even when introducing new technology and functions. It makes sense to launch a new intranet when there is no previous intranet, or when the existing intranet is so bad it’s totally useless. I like the idea of intranet enhancements though– it reduces the scope of the project, people feel less threatened and intimidated, it’s not so overwhelming, I think it increases the chances of success and allows a more agile approach to development to be used.”

To learn more, read Andrew’s articles 3 Compelling Business Reasons For Having an Intranet and Intranet User Adoption: Why It’s Confusing. Look for more highlights with our discussion with Andrew in upcoming posts.

Intranets — A critical element of the future of enterprise communication and collaboration? … we think so.

Let us know what you think.