Despite the hype around the social intranet, mobile access and enterprise collaboration, according to the latest data from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC), intranets aren't any more collaborative, interactive or mobile than they were three or four years ago.

The Survey

The graphs below show:

  • The average ratings for the WIC survey questions related to collaboration and access for the last four years (Note: data is based on the following number of organizations for each year: 2009 = 30, 2010 = 17, 2011 = 39, 2012 = 50, 2013 = 4).
  • The average rating of the first 70 surveys (25 May 2009 to 20 September 2011) and the average rating of the second 70 surveys (25 September 2011 to 11 February 2013)

The graphs below show the average response to the question "How often do you use the intranet to" where the possible options and allocated points are:

  • More than once a day = 4
  • 2-3 times a week = 3
  • 2-3 times a month = 2
  • Infrequently = 1
  • Never = 0






As can be seen from the above graphs, the numbers indicate a pretty low level of intranet interaction within organizations, with most numbers landing between "Infrequently" and "Never" (with the exception of online forms).

The graphs below show the average response to the question "Rate the following statement about the performance of the intranetwhere the possible options and points are:

  • Agree = 2
  • Not sure = 1
  • Disagree = 0



Why the Lack of Gains?

There is no clear reason why online communication, collaboration and interactivity hasn't gained the same traction within the enterprise as it has in the mainstream. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media tools are signing up members at rapid rates. We've all seen the graphs showing that if Facebook was a country it would be bigger than India, China and Indonesia combined.

Some possible theories for this lack of uptake include:

  • Social tools are primarily "social" -- for sharing photos, playing games, gossiping, meeting people -- ork is work. Just because people spend hours on Facebook is no guarantee that they will be similarly engaged during work.
  • Senior Management is old school -- many people feel a little guilty responding to discussion forums, posting questions and "chatting" via electronic channels. What will the boss think? Much better to organize a real meeting so that everyone can see I am working.
  • Senior management don't set the example -- nothing sends a more powerful message than senior staff not actively participating in this new world.
  • Business value not clear -- many of the arguments supporting the increased use of social media type tools at work are a little ephemeral. Improving employee engagement, encouraging better communication and collaboration, share knowledge -- the value of these is a little hard to prove.
  • Asking for help or wanting to collaborate can be seen as a sign of weakness in the workplace -- "why doesn't Bob know the answer to that question -- he must be stupid!"
  • People don't want to share their knowledge -- "knowledge is power" as the saying goes -- some people do not want to give up this power!

A recent Deloitte report titled, Social Software for Business Performance, says that focusing on adoption metrics, rather than real performance improvements was also part of the problem. The report says,

Focussing on adoption as a success metric will likely lead to failure because it engenders resistance. A recent survey found that 64% of companies implementing social software faced resistance from management and 72% faced resistance from users. Many senior executives are skeptical that social software can improve performance and are concerned it will be a distraction and undermine traditional authority structures."

What Can be Done About This Situation?

While the above data may make for depressing reading for the enterprise social media evangelists out there, it can also represent a great opportunity for organizations willing to commit to enterprise 2.0 to get a head start on their competitors. There is compelling evidence that shows an interactive, collaborative organization can be significantly more productive than those that follow the traditional "command and control" model.

For example, recent research from the McKinsey Global Institute says that "by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers -- high skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals -- by 20-25 percent." The report goes on to say that "Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises."

Also the Deloitte research -- How to translate social business into bottom line results -- says that

Social software has potential to address operational 'pain points' and significantly enhance business performance in the short term and transform it in the long term. Companies that embrace this opportunity will have a distinct advantage over their competitors; skeptics will likely finish last."

In addition, research from the WIC has shown that if your intranet is more interactive, staff consider it more valuable.

A recent CMSWire article by Deb Lavoy -- Collaboration Isn't Working: What We Have Here is a Chasm -- also talks about how collaboration is failing to gain traction in the workplace and discusses a possible approach for improving this situation.

A recent presentation by Toby Ward discusses the State of the Social Intranet. It shows that social media and mobile access both rank poorly within organizations but social media tools are also widely available within organizations. So it would seem that it's organizational culture and adoption that is the barrier. The presentation then goes on to provide some tips for putting together a business case to support the social intranet.

In many cases, the use of these technologies require a "leap of faith." Those organizations that believe in the possibilities of a different collaboration model and have real commitment from their leaders will gain a significant head start over their competitors.

How Interactive is Your Intranet?

If you are interested in finding out exactly how interactive your intranet is in comparison with over 120 other organizations, why not participate in the WIC? The WIC is a free online benchmark survey that asks your end users what they think about your intranet and then allows you to benchmark this information against other participating organizations: Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC).

Editor's Note: To read more of Andrew's intranet insights, check out Why Intranet Governance is Overrated: It's Really About Change Management