The five fundamental purposes to intranets are: content, communication, collaboration, activity and culture. Each purpose plays a key role in meeting staff and organizational needs and successful intranets maintain a balance between all five.

Intranet teams benefit from having a clear picture of the current focus of their intranets, highlighting areas of strength and weakness. By focusing on improving key areas, intranet teams can transform their intranets into valuable business tools.

This article focuses on two of the five purposes and looks at where intranets are in terms of communication and collaboration. 

Communications

Intranets can do much to support communication and collaboration, which are now seen as integral to the success of modern organizations. Over the past few years we have seen intranets evolve in these areas from just providing news on the home page and the odd project collaboration space, to delivering tailored news, giving staff the ability to comment on, like or add to news articles, and promoting the use of social and other collaborative tools.

In Step Two’s annual Intranet Innovation Awards we have seen improvements in these areas including innovative use of team-based collaboration tools, knowledge-sharing initiatives, integration of other communication channels and uses of technologies such as blogs and wikis.

Intranet Communications Tailored to User Needs

The intranet has a clear role to play as a corporate communication channel, one that reaches most staff across the organization.

On most intranets, this consists of one or more news boxes on the home page, publishing regular items of organization-wide interest. While the intranet’s role as a communications channel is well recognized, it only delivers on this objective when the site is being regularly used, and news alone isn’t enough to draw staff to the site.

We are now seeing a move to tailoring communications to the needs of the audience with home page news including corporate messages as well as departmental, local or role-specific messages. As the intranet delivers greater business value within organizations, we see more effective use of intranet news.

Microblogging and the use of activity streams within the enterprise were prevalent among this year’s Intranet Innovation Award entries. While this is becoming standard in many intranets, success is not as common. 

Collaboration

Historically, there has been little corporate recognition of collaboration, and teams and business units were left with just email and shared network folders. Intranets acted solely as publishing and news platforms, providing access to corporate documents but not directly supporting collaboration.

The changing organizational landscape has made collaboration an imperative, to support knowledge sharing, enhance service delivery and improve competitiveness. In this year’s Intranet Innovation Award entries, we saw the continuation of the key theme that intranets were becoming increasingly "social" and more informal.

We also predicted that they would start to add more business value and this appears to be correct this year too. However, there is some way to go before social tools are truly integrated into core processes and workflow.

Social Tools Positioned Around how People Work

We are starting to see the use of social tools being positioned much more around how people work, than the value of the tools themselves. In this year’s awards, both Stockland and Coca-Cola Enterprises delivered new iterations of their intranets that integrated social tools into their homepages.

Stockland’s new community space "Circles" aids collaboration on projects while Coca-Cola Enterprises have integrated "Chatter," a microblogging tool, as part of their campaign emphasizing the choice of different communications tools which could be used for different working situations.

Stockland_Intranets.jpg

Image supplied courtesy of Stockland

Open-source Communication and Collaboration Improving Knowledge Sharing

Pleio is an open-source communication and collaboration platform which can be used by Dutch government agencies and other public sector bodies in the Netherlands at no cost. You can create intranets and other project spaces to communicate internally, across different organizations and with citizens. Organizations can develop specific functionality as long as they release this back to the Pleio community so it can be used by others.

This is a great example of high-value collaboration across different organizations. Because Pleio is a platform for all public sectors, it has reduced silos between government departments and encouraged collaboration. People are now able to find each other across governmental boundaries. It is much easier to find different experts and opinions when starting a project or solving a problem. There is also no struggle about finding a working platform and giving access to external partners to your intranet.

What’s Next?

No doubt the rapid evolution of communications and collaboration tools and channels on intranets will continue, and produce new solutions not yet thought of. What we know for sure is that intranet teams need to focus on this vital part of enterprise development, and make sure their intranets are keeping up with these important shifts.

Editor's Note: Check out more articles from our focus on the evolution of enterprise collaboration and communications.