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The intranet isn’t dead -- it’s evolving

 

Rumors of the intranet’s death are greatly exaggerated; idol, foolhardy gossip.

No need to panic, your intranet won’t disappear. Just as the automobile, democracy under George W., and ‘bricks-and-mortar’ stores did not die despite the dire, prophetic predictions of many a fiery, false prophet, the intranet will continue to survive its current malaise, or rather, embattled evolution.

Yes, it is sickly, under-funded, under-used, under-appreciated, and perhaps even ‘mostly dead’ in many companies. As Miracle Max (The Princess Bride) so poignantly put it in terms that even children can appreciate, “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

More than a few pundits have recently and falsely prophesized the death of intranets (see “Whatever happened to intranets? http://www.sys-con.com/node/2292002). In fact, one of SocialText’s founders, a social media maven, was the first to adorn the pulpit with this death knell prediction more than ten years ago.

The fact of the matter: intranets are quite alive. Sure, their current state in the average organization is rather piss-poor, but the intranet is well-ensconced in its mediocre position behind the firewall. The theory goes that social media represents the death blow for intranets, and that social media will replace intranets. Laughable!

Social media merely represent another channel, another technology, to augment, or enhance the corporate intranet. To be clear: the intranet is defined as a closed internal network, using Internet Protocol technology, protected by a firewall (hosted or not) for an employee audience. Yes, a social media platform such as SocialText, SocialCast, or ThoughtFarmer, can certainly be the main technology platform that powers the intranet. It won’t kill the intranet but it can become the intranet. This transformation from standard, traditional intranet to a ‘social’ intranet merely represents an evolutionary leap.

 Image

 

(Source: intranet consultants Prescient Digital Media; see the full Social Intranet Infographic)

But the intranet doesn’t depend on technology – technology is merely an enabler. As depicted in the Social Intranet Infographic (above), an intranet’s success and performance is predominantly determined by people and process – authors, publishers, and managers and the rules, standards, and policies that govern their actions. Employees don’t go to the intranet to entertain themselves, or to play with a piece of technology, they’re after information and knowledge, which is technology neutral. The intranet is the platform to serve up this information and knowledge, and social media and other technologies don’t replace its service, but rather augment it.

No the intranet is not going anywhere – and employees will depend on it for corporate news, looking-up phone numbers, accessing pay and compensation statements, and sharing and collaborating with colleagues – regardless of the technology. Like social media, the technology will continue to evolve, as will the entire intranet, but the people and process that support it, will determine its performance and end state, not the technology itself.

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The IBM intranet, W3 (source: IBM, IBM's Galactic Web Presence Redesign)

Successful intranets rely on great content, and governance. In fact, employees don’t care about the technology at play, if the content is there, and they can find it quickly, employees are happy. IBM knows all too well the value of the intranet on employee retention. At IBM, HR services via the intranet (loosely called e-HR) are saving the company more than $500 million a year - $284 million in e-learning alone. But the benefits are far higher than just mere dollars. Since improving the intranet and adding e-HR services, employee satisfaction with human resources has risen from 40% to 90%. The financial impact of such an increase must be immeasurable.

  • As for the intranet as a whole, IBM has some other very important non-financial metrics:
  • Usage and value: 80% of IBM employees access the intranet daily
  • Workforce enablement: 68% view the intranet as crucial to their jobs
  • Employee retention: 52% are more satisfied to be an IBM employee because of information obtained on the intranet

 

Note the last statistic worth repeating: more than half of IBMers are more happy employees because of the intranet. At IBM, the intranet is delivering measurable ROI, and happier employees that are less likely to flee to other organizations. IBM will never kill their intranet; nor will the vast majority of organizations.

No the intranet is not going anywhere – and employees will depend on it for corporate news, looking-up phone numbers, accessing pay and compensation statements, and sharing and collaborating with colleagues – regardless of the technology. Like social media, the technology will continue to evolve, as will the entire intranet, but the people and process that support it, will determine its performance and end state, not the technology itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Join The Conversation

  • Jun 8 Posted 5 years ago pankajunk

    Good article. I think what people really mean when they say the "intranet" is dead that static page views or homepages or dashboards are dead. I don't that that is true by far - having dynamic feeds of enterprise activity is a great plus, but employees still need access to documents, schedules, and other enterprise applications. As you emphasize, the future intranet merely incorporates concept from social media.

    Pankaj

    HyperOffice

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