The Evolution of Intranet (Intranet 2009)

Ah, we're starting to live blog Intranet 2009! Great ambiance at MediaPlaza, Utrecht, The Netherlands. I'll be tweeting too here (#intranet2009 and #intra09). Using Twitter search is great during a conference! Found some new interesting people.

James Robertson of StepTwo Design will first talk on 'the evolution of intranet'.

James says this is the single biggest gathering on intranet in the world!

The intranet seem to be at the same point all over the world. James distinguishes 6 phases of intranet.

  1. The intranet is born. "We need an intranet!"
  2. Rapid organic growth. Common problems emerge: browsing problems, finding problems, management commitment lagging, etc. We were asked to stick up our hands if we recognize this. Almost all did...
  3. Repeated redesigns. Problems usually pop up again immediately. In 2-3 years the intranet is a mess again. Then the intranet team says: Let's do a redesign. None of the underlying issues are addressed.
  4. Usability and Information Architecture. Refer to Jakob Nielsen. Huge step.
  5. Useful, not just usable. Didn't really investigate what people really need in daily work. 'What does staff need?' Don't ask about intranets but what people do.
  6. Intranets as a business tool. The intranet connecting to the core of your business.

Not much of the audience in phase 1 and 2. More in 3, just about the same in 4 and 5. Not much in phase 6.

But what do we know by phase 6. There are 4 fundamental purposes of an intranet:

  1. Content. Most companies are good at this.
  2. Communication. This is the news box on the homepage. But also blogs and pushing news to mobile devices.
  3. Collaboration. Collaboration is hot, very sexy at the moment. Fueled by Sharepoint and wiki's. Not one of the organizations here doesn't not have one of these two somewhere. But the challenge of the rapid spread of these tools is anti-knowledge sharing. Finding information gets hard. We need to manage them sit along side the intranet. Needs lots of thinking. Shows intranet with 12 pages (their 12 major competitors).
  4. Activity. The intranet is the place for doing things, not just reading. For instance, forms.

1 and 2 is not enough for an intranet. There is no business case for this. 1 and 2 is the traditional focus of the intranet. Productivity improvement is not enough. The numbers are soft. Jakob Nielsen says to focus on time saving. James wrote a blog post why this is not good.

You should focus on collaboration and activity. But collaboration is usually done by IT... Make sure you deliver something new every 3 months! Deliver business value. Focus on activity.

Wraps up his talk by telling about intranet and innovation (Intranet Innovation Awards). Innovation = originality + impact. Also points to lots of articles on StepTwo Design website.


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