One of the best ways to improve your own Intranet is to learn from those who are also working on theirs. Jane McConnell's Global Intranet Trends 2010 report is a perfect way to do just that.

Global Intranet Trends 2010

Many organizations are undergoing rapid changes in how they work. New strategies for collaboration and a heap of new tools and technologies are developing, moving us closer to a "unified workplace web" and our Intranets are a key, if not the key, component. But not everyone knows how to evolve their Intranet to support this new way of working.

Jane McConnell's Global Intranet Trends for 2010 report is based on survey that her company runs every year to identify the strategies and practices for intranets, collaboration spaces and social media inside the enterprise. The survey, comprised of 120 questions, was completed by over 300 organizations across the world. The results are interesting and can help guide the roadmap for your Intranet's evolution.

5 Key Trends For Intranets

The report identifies 5 key trends that show how the Intranet must evolve if it is fulfill its role as the central hub for the workplace:

  • The Front-door intranet: The Intranet is the front door into the workplace web providing a single point of access to applications, sites, team spaces, collaboration, etc..
  • The Team-oriented intranet: These are the team workspaces set up to support teams which may cross functions and geographic locations, even internal vs external people.
  • The people-focused intranet: Providing information and services to employees (Business to employee) and in some instances enabling employee to employee support. (you could almost refer to this trend as the social intranet).
  • The real-time intranet: The intranet provides tools for real-time communications like blogging, micro-blogging, presence, alerts and notifications.
  • The place-independent intranet: An intranet that supports the employee regardless of time and place: extranets and mobile.

The report says that each of these trends is a facet of the future intranet. There are few who can claim their intranet has elements of each facet today. They may provide the technologies to support these trends, but they are aren't in a cohesive single intranet or "workplace web".

How Mature is Your Intranet

Your intranet likely falls into one of three levels of maturity as defined in the report:

  1. Stage 1 - the early period: No integration with business applications or processes, no senior management support, some are just starting to consider a Web CMS.
  2. Stage 2 - the ambitious period: The intranet is starting become the central point of access, it may include blogs/wikis, some business processes and customization based on roles/activities.
  3. Stage 3 - the mature period: The intranet has a high degree of purpose, employee collaboration/real-time communications, supports core business processes making it a business critical system

Unfortunately you may find it hard to identify exactly where your intranet fits as McConnell says these stages are not black and white: 

There are many shades of gray, and many organizations will identify with one stage for certain aspects of their intranet and with another stage for other aspects. Organizations many also have areas within a global intranet landscape that are more or less advanced than others.

Based on the results of the survey, the report finds that today's intranets are not very people-focused. 


Thoughts on Findings

This is a 150 page report packed with a lot of findings ranging from strategy and management, to business use, people use, enterprise transformation and how Intranets are measured. It also takes a close look at how social media is utilized within organizations and to what extent these capabilities are a part of the intranet.

Based on the findings, there still seems to be a lot of confusion related to how an intranet should fit in the organization. It doesn't help that only half of those surveyed have a documented intranet strategy, or that the Communication division is the primary owner of the Intranet in almost all cases.

Intranets have been around for a long time in one form or another. And while some organizations have recognized their importance as shown by what's happening with Stage 2 and Stage 3 intranets in the report, it seems like many others are still struggling just to get senior management support.

What makes it all the more confusing for most organizations is the emergence of new tools -- like social software -- that don't talk about intranets as a key component. Intranets are normally built using web content management systems, not social software. The technical solution needed to support the intranet as the workplace web resides somewhere in between.

But before you even get to the point of selecting technology, you have to know how you want your intranet evolve, to comprise the five facets that McConnell discusses in the report. To do that, you can read how others are doing it. There are a lot of great quotes from the trenches and stats that are based on results overall and/or broken down by intranet maturity.

Mark Morrell, Intranet Manager for BT (UK) has a good point when he states: "This report has shown where even the best intranets can learn and improve further from the trends and findings highlighted by Jane."

The Intranet is a Process

McConnell states it best when she says that the "intranet is a process, not a one-time project". You can't build it and walk away. It is always going to a be a work in progress, growing and adapting to the needs of your organization and to take advantage of the new technologies that are constantly coming. 

There is no one-way to build an intranet. How you do it and where you focus on meeting the five facets of the future intranet depends on your own goals and objectives. But it's great to see how others are handling the same challenges and opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about the Global Intranet Trends Survey or participate, you can learn more on the website. The current survey is open until the end of this month, with the report being available in October.