Monday, August 13, 2012

LinkedIn as your intranet?

“Why can't we use LinkedIn for our intranet? At least it works, our intranet doesn't.” Maybe you considered this or heard it in your organization. The question intrigues me and I think we will hear it more and more in the coming years. What do you say in response to this question as internal or external consultant, Communications or IT manager? I'd like to share my thoughts in this post.

Dissatisfied about IT
The intranet is changing rapidly. The internet provides all kinds of free tools, like Dropbox, Yammer and Google Drive. More and more people are getting used to sharing (versions of) documents, online collaboration, sharing short messages, setting up and maintaining a personal profile, etc. Employees are often dissatisfied about the internal IT-tools and content-focused intranets. These tools cannot compete with the functionality we have on the internet.

Free tools as intranet
More and more employees are openly, and sometimes secretly, using free internet tools to get things done ('stealth IT'). Organizations, especially IT departments are struggling with this trend. Making things worse, the developpers of the free tools aren't laying back. They market their tools, implicitly or explicity, as intranet solutions. Recently LinkedIn shared they possibly also want to position their platform as an intranet. Some are even using Facebook as their intranet.

LinkedIn as intranet?
Could LinkedIn fit as an intranet platform? LinkedIn has functionality many intranets have or should have, such as:
  • Detailled profiles and connections between profiles (social network)
  • Groups and subgroups to ask questions, share knowledge and publish news
  • Share documents with 3rd party apps
  • Available everywhere
  • Mobile access
Advantages LinkedIn intranet
The advantages of a LinkedIn intranet aren't hard to imagine:
  • (Most) employees are already there; they have a profile
  • They know how the tool works (intuitive UI)
  • Fast development of new functionality
  • The platform is free
  • Customers are there as well (so collaboration and co-creation via the intranet is easy to set up)
  • The LinkedIn intranet can be set up and configured quickly
Disadvantages LinkedIn intranet
But there are also disadvantages of LinkedIn as an intranet platform. I'll list a few:
  • Security of company informatie is fragile
  • Ownership of content is not clear: is it owned by the company or LinkedIn?
  • Navigation of information is defined by LinkedIn
  • No functionality for content management 
  • Integration with organizaitonal processes and tools is impossible or complex
  • Integration with user management tools (ADS) is impossible
  • Search is limited: it works in LinkedIn, but you can't seach  from one searchbox over all your free tools and in your business tools, like ERPS
Balancing and directions
When chosing a platform it's always important to weigh the pro's and con's. If costs and collaboration with customers are important, then a LinkedIn intranet could be a good direction. However, if information security and integration with business tools is a priority, this direction is probably not right.
A mix of different directions is also possible. E.g. a LinkedIn intranet for specific goals like knowledge sharing and facilitating internal networks, and an internal platform to open up business tools and share internal work methods.

What are your ideas about a LinkedIn intranet? Is it a viable direction? Do you know organizations that successfully use such an intranet?

(This post was also published in Dutch on Frankwatchting.)

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