Friday, May 20, 2011

Review The Intranet Management Handbook by Martin White

Martin White recently sent me a review copy of his new book ‘The Intranet Management Handbook’. I reviewed it in Dutch here (Frankwatching link will be inserted soon). I’m posting slightly different review here on my blog. One with a bit more questions about the book.

What is the book about?
Not many books have been written about intranet. And the existing books usually address an aspect of intranet. For this reason the publication of ‘The Intranet Management Handbook’ is special.  I’d like to congratulate the author of the book, Martin White, with this event! I really enjoyed reading the book. It is well-written and complete. (For those that don’t know Martin: he’s one of the older internationally known intranet experts.)

As I said I enjoyed reading the book. It addresses all or most of the intranet topics. It doesn’t go into too much detail, but enough detail for it to be a real handbook. It helps intranet managers and employees in their daily work. Whether you’ve been in this space for years or just heard you’ve become responsible for the intranet, this book will help you proceed. Examples of topics are: the intranet manager’s rol and skills, intranet governance, deployment and technology. It also addresses related topics like collaboration, social media and the Sharepoint platform.

Business case
I really liked the part in which White addresses the intranet business case. His advice is not to just focus on numbers and not to try to write up a case for the intranet as a whole per se. Focus on features of the intranet that bring value and also write a good story why the intranet is essential.

Questions
Now for some questions about the book.
What I really missed was a nice definition of the intranet. What is an intranet according to White? Somewhere he defines it based on underlying technology. It used to be content management, document management and search. Now we must also add collaboration and social media. My definition is: the intranet is collection of internal webservices (based on one or more platforms).

Somewhere else White addresses why intranets are often not essential to organizations. He mentions a couple of reasons: companies don’t see information as a key asset and the intranet doesn’t connect to what the company finds important. But can’t we be a bit more specific about this? Isn’t the key problem that intranets don’t connect to business processes. It doesn’t support (knowledge) workers in their daily work. A large part of their work is collecting, improving and distributing information. The fact that companies don’t find that important is actually quite weird… On the other hand: we have work to do to explain that to decision makers.
Two other remarks intrigued me. White says the “greatest opportunity and challenge for intranet management will be to adapt the intranet to the way in which people work in the future”. Why is that a challenge for the future? Hasn’t that always been the challenge for intranet managers?

You need this book
These questions don’t imply I think less of the book. On the contrary. They’re intended to keep the discussion about intranet going! I enjoyed reading the handbook. It should be on every intranet manager’s desk. Right there, to pick it up and learn from it when needed.

Have you read this book? Or are you going to? In both cases tell me what you think of the book when you’re ready. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about my questions about the book.
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