No, you don’t start with technology. In fact, an intranet has more to do with people and process than technology.

There are some fantastic, award-winning intranets, such as AEP’s social intranet, that are custom built in HTML, and use no off-the-shelf or brand name platform. AEP’s winning team, figured it out years ago: the technology is an afterthought; what really matters are people.


AEP’s intranet home page (Source: Wm. Amurgis, AEP)

The Secret Ingredient

The secret to social intranet success is the same as the traditional intranet: executive support, supported by solid governance and motivated, educated users. Part of the governance is the process of which I spoke (ownership, roles & responsibilities engendered in explicit policies and guidelines).

Is it any wonder then that the very best intranets are built from a variety of technologies including custom HTML, open source and other products? In fact, I’ve not seen too many killer intranets built on SharePoint. And yet you’d think that our universe revolves around SharePoint (yes, I realize the hypocrisy since I’m partially to blame, but with so many organizations using it, I can hardly ignore it).

I am still frequently asked, even by clients who know better, “What does a successful intranet look like?! Our executives want to know.”

Success, however, looks different at different organizations. I still contend that IBM’s intranet is likely the best on the planet, yet I frequently test it in employee focus groups with other companies, and it frequently tests very poorly. And yet, it delivers spectacular results for IBM.

To better answer the question, and since success looks differently from organization to organization, I developed a model some years ago: the Nexus of Intranet Success.

Nexus of Intranet Success (source: Prescient Digital Media)

A Model for Success

The most important ingredient to a successful intranet, at the heart of the Nexus model, is executive support. It is statistically possible to have a satisfactory intranet without executive support, but you won’t have a very good one in the absence of an executive champion. The best intranets, such as IBM, Cisco and many others, all have active executive sponsors. Let’s face it: the buck stops and starts upstairs. The c-suite provides funding, moral support and critical political support which is the key fuel to success.