Rethinking the intranets!

When is good enough...good enough?
Anyone that knows me, will know that I haven't always been an Knowledge Manager. In a previous life/role I was an Information Officer in a Law Firm. This was a much more traditional role when I joined the firm and it morphed into a much more technical role as I was seconded on to various projects at various stages in my career. The point I'm trying to make (badly) is that individuals can change and can learn over time and that according to this article on CMS wire is precisely what intranets need to do.

In "Rethinking the intranets: Teaching an old tool new tricks" The author starts with a story about how they used to visit a Library as a child "I remember my time in the library as a kid in Moscow. As the snow rustled under my feet, my mittens clutching my library card, I looked forward to being transported to faraway worlds. But first, I had to wander the halls of the dimly lit library, choose a book that wasn’t already checked out, wait for the homely librarian to scribble something on my library card, and do it all over for the next book. I had all the time in the world to repeat this process every time I wanted a new book, and books didn’t change that much"

The author then fast forwards a few years and describers their current situation "I don’t have time to check out a book, I can’t depend on obsolete information, and I can’t sit by the phone and wait for someone to call me with an answer" I think many Librarians and especially those working within Law Libraries would argue that Law Libraries are just as valuable now as they were 5, 10 or even 15 years ago. The resources might have changed and the way that information is collected, managed and distributed might be different but the concept of the Library being a Library is still essentially the same.

However Libraries aren't the real subject of the post, the real subject is that intranets like libraries have to move on to ensure they survive and retain their value. The author describes what I believe is widely regarded as the current state of affairs with corporate intranets, namely that "“use is still fairly limited to early-stage activities around information retrieval and employee self-service.” In short, people use it for compliance tools like HR paperwork, time and expense, which employees have to use in order to get paid" Whilst this makes an intranet essential to some degree organisations have moved from content-centric models to people-centric models and it would appear that for the most part intranets have failed to keep up.

The author goes on to say that the focus of intranets should be about engaging us and what better way to engage employees then through the use of social media. "Social media in its purest form is the engine that helps us access the people, resources and information, to turn knowledge into insights and actions, make better decisions faster and move at the speed of business today."

The best way to do this according to the author is by "merging the reach and authoritativeness of the intranet with dynamic and collaborative qualities of an enterprise social network – thus creating a social work hub." The author finishes article with some "tips for success", these are as follows:

  • Be people-centric: Social is a lot different — you can make people fill out timesheets, but you can’t make them share what they know.
  • Consumerize it!
  • Make it available anywhere: This is very important in an increasingly mobile society. 
  • Deploy with ease: Because the social intranet must remain easily adaptable, the platform has to be flexible and combined with other apps.
  • Integrate: An enterprise social network must surface and deliver information from vertical apps to the right people at the right time.
  • Mix official and unofficial content
  • Make content social: Your social work hub not only connects people to each other, it also must connect people to content. By alerting people to existence and changes in relevant content, the social work hub finally delivers on the original promise of the intranet
  • Focus on community: While your goal is to foster business conversations, it’s the non-business ones that build trust, which makes close collaboration possible. In my mind anything that encourages communication and collaboration is a good thing!
  • Redefine roles: To support a shift towards consumerization
  • Plan with right resources: While enterprise social is easier to maintain, is more flexible and affordable, success does take investment in community management, strategic planning, process and tool integration, and coaching

This is a really interesting article, supported by a number of links which if you're thinking about improving your intranet is well worth a read.

[Photo credit - Rethink productions from Flickr]