Prince was wrong – it’s not the internet that’s dead, it’s the intranet. When I talk to clients about intranets as a collaboration hub they cock an eyebrow as if I’m speaking 2003 speak rather than 2010 speak. Some of it may be terminology tedium, but the sentiment is born out of a sense that the intranets of old no longer offer a compelling enough business proposition.
Of course, it’s not entirely true. There are millions of intranets embedded in organisations across the globe. People still sit in front of computers and they still need access to corporate information. It’s not that the intranet is dying, it’s just that it is changing.
The intranet of old was a place where corporates shared content with their staff. Today’s intranet also needs to be a place where employees engage each other. The intranet remains, the design imperative has changed.
Bringing the social web into the enterprise
What does it mean? Well – for one the baseline has shifted. It’s no longer enough to provide sophisticated content management platforms which allow document sharing, collaborative working and central repositories. Today’s intranet needs to have peer-to-peer engagement and multi-channel communications embedded at their very core.
In a post we published in February, we talked about how design patterns from the social web were making their way into the enterprise and this trend continues. The design approach needs to encourage people to engage and participate, to upload content and communicate more widely across their organisations.
Rolling out the new intranet
Vendors have identified the trend and social media functionality is becoming a key requirement for software such as MS SharePoint and Oracle WebCenter. Where the majors are not keeping pace, disruptive innovators such as SocialText, Yammer and salesforce.com (Chatter) are stepping up with full featured, social web inspired solutions. In the gap are products such as Google Wave and status.net which allow you to embed specific social functionality into your existing platform.
It is only a matter of time before these platforms will blend their collaboration services with existing corporate services. Your internal LinkedIn style profile will not only be the place to find out about your skills and experience, but also your leave profile, a list of documents you’ve worked on and your assignment history.
The intranet will remain as long as there remains a requirement for employees to collaborate and communicate. It’s death may be a long way off yet.