Intranet roundup 2010

2010 has been a year of fast-paced progress for the world of intranets. You can almost feel the ground swell and ripple with growth and evolution.┬áThe main drivers have been awareness, interest and adoption of social tools within the workplace. Here are the main themes that I’ve spotted throughout the year.

Companies have implemented social tools both within and outside the firewall, to connect and engage with staff and customers. We’ve seen CEO blogging with both good and bad outcomes. We’ve seen whole intranets built on wikis. There has been some great buzz around commenting and moderation, with the general consensus that staff should be trusted to post and comment without the need for big brother monitoring. And the odd hint of using crowdsourcing tools to capture ideas from staff.

Some intranets have introduced individual staff profile pages (great for keeping the staff directory up to date) with activity streams, social networking, question and answer tools, rewards, badges and karma points.

Internal communications teams have had to learn that communication is a two-way street and that staff have a voice. With user-generated content, the intranet tables have turned. The intranet has shifted from being used centrally as a megaphone to a channel that can be used for listening. Staff can now create their own content through wikis, and whether content is sourced from central teams or not, staff can rate, comment on and share it with each other.

There has been a fair amount of buzz around what or whether to name your intranet. Great arguments being that it improves branding and adds personality. Arguments against, that the intranet is still known by staff as “the intranet”, even if it has a fancy name.

There have also been cries of “kill the intranet”, “the intranet is dead” and “long live the intranet!” Some people claim that with the fusion of intranet, extranet and website as the work space moves into the customer space, the intranet as we knew it really doesn’t exist any more. But this is certainly not the case across the board, especially for those who are slower to adopt social tools and use them to connect and engage with staff and customers.

Two camps are at odds over what to call this new, socially-integrated workspace; NetJMC rallying for the “workplace web” and IBF backing the “digital workplace“. There are those who insist we use the collaborate word in preference to the social word. And there are those who don’t see a problem with the word “intranet” and just see the role of the intranet changing and moving on with the times without having to label it.

The popularity of smart phones and tablet devices with improved user interfaces has given us the potential for mobile access. The ability to surf the intranet remotely via handheld devices will help staff who are not chained to a desk to view information and perform tasks from anywhere. A mobile intranet creates more potential for reach, in terms of internal communications to those members of staff who would otherwise find regular access to the intranet impractical.

There are more and more of us intranet professionals blogging and tweeting and connecting with each other; sharing ideas and advice around the globe, with a lot of buzz from the US, Canada, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia.

Social tools have also given us new problems to solve. Content has moved from being static pages to a fast-moving flow of consciousness, adding greater complexity to the age old problems of how to search this stuff and how to evaluate it.

On a personal note, I hope that 2011 will be the year when our intranet evolves socially. We don’t even get close to some of the themes that I’ve discussed here. To do so, we’ll need new platforms, new software and a new way of thinking. But I believe it is possible and dare I say, inevitable.

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