Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Remarks on 'Global Intranet Trends for 2009'

Where to start after you've read a 100+ page report loaded with interesting information? Just finished reading Jane McConnell/Netjmc's report on 'Global Intranet Trends for 2009'.

Highlights

Again, the report has a nice layout and is well-written. Here's a short post by Jane on the highlights of the report. In this post I'll share my highlights with you. Of course, much more can be and should be said about this report. My highlights are definitely biased by the issues we're running into with and the hopes we have for our intranet.

Way of working?

Is your intranet the way of working for your company? The survey gave an ambivalent answer. Generally speaking senior management is not really on board yet. 14% of the respondents say their senior management considers the intranet to be "business critical". And on the other hand, employees need the intranet up-and-ready to do their work. "60% of the participating organizations reported that employees would be disrupted in their daily work if the intranet "went down for 1 or 2 hours"." It even went up to 85% if the intranet went down for a day. Anyway, "the proportion of organizations who consider the intranet to be the "way of working" doubled since the previous year's survey."

Intranet Maturity Model

I really liked the "three stages of [intranet] maturity". Jane wrote about them before on her blog. They also follow nicely from the survey results. What I like about this model and the report in general is that it gives company intranet teams a standard, a norm to measure the maturity, success, etc. of their intranet. In this case, shouldn't an extra question be added to next year's survey: Did you explicitly discuss the trend report in your intranet steering committee? :-) I'm really curious how many intranet teams use the report in this way.

What surprised me about the maturity model is 'Stage 3' intranets don't necessarily relate to knowledge-based workforces. A 'stage 3' intranet has a high degree of maturity and purpose. Many business apps and processes are integrated into the intranet. Lots of collaboration spaces are used. Etc. Simply stated: in a company with a 'stage 3' intranet, the intranet is the 'way of working', it's the main portal to company people, info, tools and processes.

Defining Intranet

A small remarks here though: maybe it would be wise to add a definition of an intranet to next year's report. I was wondering what an intranet comprises. As the report shows, the intranet can become a large, diffuse beast consisting of (portal to) email, collaboration tooling as Sharepoint, web 2.0 tools, etc. So, is the intranet basically all the web-based tooling used inside the organization? I'd be happy with that definition.

Central vs. Decentral

The report shows companies are trying to find a way between centralization and decentralization w.r.t. content and intranet apps. I think using wiki's in the enterprise will help us find the right balance between these two w.r.t. content. In the company I work for we haven't found it yet but we do see we need some centralization to encourage decentralization.

Collaboration

I was also surprised by the fact that many companies are still working hard on "facilitating collaboration and horizontal flows". You would say facilitating collaboration is so basic to organizations, it would have it rightful place for years now, but this does not seem to be the place. Don't worry, I can relate to that too...

Customization

Furthermore not many intranets are offering implicit customization. So based on your username, credentials, role, the intranet adapts. I've been wondering for some time now: Do we really need this customization? Most people hate this, because it's done for you by the system and it's almost always done in the wrong way.

Search

Intranet Search is still a major pain. This pain is felt even more due to the fact we have Google on the Internet. 'Why can't we have that kind of search inside the company?' Good question. (Love the idea about 'fixed search results', by the way.)

Social Media Adoption

This intranet survey also gives nice insight in the adoption of social media. I would think wiki's would be used much more, than the survey showed. Basically the adoption of social media is limited to blogs, wiki's and instant messaging (- I wouldn't call the last one web 2.0). Lot's of work to do! According to the report much social media stuff is still in guerrilla mode (- with respect to blog and wiki regulation not much was known).

I was wondering though. If you see that lots of companies are struggling to make the intranet the way of working and to attract high-level management buy-in, should we then already proceed to use social media? It seems kind of strange to introduce something new, when the old stuff still hasn't really been accepted. Anyway, I'm continuing to push social media anyway. Maybe social media should become the new intranet. I sure hope so.

Who-is-Who

I enjoyed the part about the employee directories. We haven't come far with these... Still the old, closed YellowPages. Time to think more in social networks. These directories could be so much more useful is we would just think in networks and communities. That's what companies are made of, so relate to them! I find that a good intranet should simply start by getting the 'who-is-who' app right. Then news. Etc.

Intranet Strategies

The report contains an interesting chapter on 'intranet strategies'. If I'm not incorrect I think this chapter shows what's the problem with intranets and their positioning. Looking at the list of 'strategy drivers 'business needs relating to products, services and customers and/or value for business" comes in 5th place. And 'economic cost savings' comes in 6th. I know it hard - we're experiencing it - but shouldn't these two points be 1 and 2 of the list. I'm quite sure that if these were higher up in the list, we would have problems positioning the intranet as a/the business critical tool of the company. Oh, yes, maybe most of the benefits and costs are on the 'soft' side. I think this goes for most IT tools. But if we can't sell the intranet using hard facts and objective numbers, senior management won't buy in. They simply don't work in another. Or you have to be lucky you have a Board that simply understands the concept of intranet, knowledge management, collaboration, sharing, etc and gives you a bag of money, people and the 'go'. But most companies don't have this luxury.

Simplify

I'm going to round up this post with a key result for all intranets: simplify! This relates to all aspects of the intranet: it's government, content, navigation, etc. Very true! As Jeremiah Owyang once said: Show me your intranet, and I know what kind of company you work for. Complex, slow intranet? Dito company!

Thanks Jane, for another great survey with insightful results! Looking forward to your posts on the results and to next years survey!

3 comments:

  1. Thanks very much for this review, Samuel. It's valuable input for constructing the survey this year.
    I will add a question to find out how people actually use the report results. I get feedback which is anecdotal and very encouraging for me, but would be great to get a deeper view.
    I also agree that we need to define "intranet". That's a big question for me.
    You say: "the intranet can become a large, diffuse beast consisting of (portal to) email, collaboration tooling as Sharepoint, web 2.0 tools, etc. So, is the intranet basically all the web-based tooling used inside the organization?" I like your definition. However, we also need to decide how to include the fact that many apps that are not yet web-based are accessed via the intranet. Do they count in your mind as being part of the intranet? For me, yes, as along as the user reaches them via the intranet. What do you think?
    Your point about intranet strategy drivers is one of my personal concerns. I was with a client the other day who looked very surprised when I suggested that improving services/products for clients should be one of the goals of the intranet. Some people in the room outright rejected this quite loudly, saying that had nothing to do with the intranet. So, there's still a ways to go.
    I don't know for sure where the phrase "Show me your intranet and I'll tell you..." originated, but I've been using it since 2003 when I wrote an article on The Complexity of the International Enterprise (It's archived on my web site at this URL: http://netjmc.com/engl/art005.html)
    Thanks again for all your thoughtful and helpful input.
    Jane

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Jane. Maybe we should start a discussion on your blog and/or LinkedIn about the definition of intranet. I agree with yours. Maybe all IT will be the intranet. Most enterprise apps are moving to the cloud anyway.

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  3. Intelligently written article. This article was from 2009 and here I am commenting about it and it is 2016! Well, intranet is still alive! Better than ever as it now it can be turn into something "fun". Social intranets that is! Here is an article that talks about the 21st century intranet: http://www.simpplr.com/blogs/2015/11/what-makes-a-21st-century-intranet/. Give it a peek!

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