The reports are in again -- intranets are not dead -- which is always a relief to hear. Part of the rumors of its potential demise stem from the many shapes and forms that intranets can take, which includes the rise of the social intranet over the past five years. Even this term means many things to many people and does not necessarily mean all elements are built on the same platform. On the other hand, some organizations try to build a full intranet out of a social collaboration platform such as Jive, which does not necessarily work very well.
Social Collaboration Hasn't Killed Publishing
While intranets, as part of a wider digital workplace ecosystem, can mean different things to different organizations, even the most advanced and mature intranets include the simple requirement to publish information in a one to many mode: things like restaurant menus, the way to book meeting rooms, etc. While throwing this into a social community or workspace with the appropriate tags may work, there is a reason why plain old web pages work so well for text heavy content -- they keep the presentation of the information simple, clean and easy to digest. Web pages also provide plenty of easy to parse and index contextual content for search engines, above and beyond any meta tags.
User generated content is often involved in social collaboration. I had users who were easily creating html pages with text and graphics within an EMC eRooms workspace eight to 10 years ago and SharePoint has had wikis since 2003. More modern tools allow users to upload audio or video content (if organizational culture approves) and build sophisticated enterprise versions of YouTube. Once again though, video is often better hosted on a web page with complimentary information such as links to versions in other languages, links to transcripts, etc. This useful meta-information might be difficult to add to a social community page if that is the only place you can upload video.
Video is becoming an ever more important medium for internal communications. My organization has a full studio with lighting rigs, green screens and an awesome lady who is the video studio manager and production expert. Another professional services organization across the street has an internal YouTube equivalent, but is quite happy uploading iPhone quality content without much post production. In the end neither the restaurant menu, nor the room booking details lend themselves well to video.
How to Achieve a Blended Approach?
What we're left with is a potential need for good ol' fashioned textual content and rich media, like video, and adding in the enablement for social collaboration. There are a number of approaches to achieve this well balanced intranet. You could try and find your Tolkien-esque intranet "ring of power" (as in "one ring to rule them all"), or you can use different products, loosely or tightly integrated via a portal (or three ...).