Intranets held such promise in the early days of the Internet. Then they became the butt of many a joke in the enterprise.
Q: Where does useful information go to die?
A: Our intranet.
But in the past two years we’ve seen an intranet resurgence, driven by the technology and the traction user experience has gained in the enterprise.
Putting Collaboration (and Intranets) in Context
Rich Wood recently wrote an article equating intranets to dodo birds. While I can think of some other things that will go the way of the dodos, I don’t believe intranets are an endangered species (and a tip of the cap to Rich for giving me fodder for this article).
The only thing that corporate intranets lack is ease of use. Companies spend millions on their corporate Internets to attract customers, but spend few resources on the corporate intranet and the results prove it -- they're just plain bad.
Collaboration is the new kid on the block. Sure, we’ve been collaborating since our caveman days, but the technologies that make social media possible have only been around for about 10 years, give or take. And so our understanding of collaboration technology's value and use in our company intranets is still very new and evolving.
The “Digital Workplace,” as defined by Gartner, highlights collaboration's importance within the framework of technology innovations in the enterprise.
An Aberdeen report from January 2014, “Social Business Collaboration: Four Best Practices, Three Market Trends,” noted that over 12 months the leaders in social business collaboration improved their average time-to-information and “reported 83 percent greater improvements in operational efficiency and in the time required to make key business decisions.” So collaboration's value is proven -- at least in some cases.
Note the context of this improvement, because in all likelihood, it social collaboration alone didn't make the difference. In my experience, successful companies implement a number of process changes and governance around their social collaboration as part of an internal communication plan. I think that’s why the Aberdeen number is so huge. It works when it’s executed well. This holds true for intranets as the center of the communication hub.
Remember that collaboration (or “social enterprise” or whatever you want to call it) can’t exist in a vacuum. That’s a proven weakness: these technologies don’t work unless they are within a corporate communications/content framework. The context that these provide drives the effectiveness of the collaboration tools.
Finding the Value
Setting up robust systems of collaboration in an intranet can find value in:
Prioritize sharing of business-critical information
An enterprise must prioritize information sharing that fundamentally drives the productivity of a given individual, project team or department. Don’t just capture the low-hanging fruit. Information should be timely and relevant.
Build a collaborative culture
You may think your company is collaborative (after all, you’re still in business, aren’t you?) but it's time to go above and beyond past norms. If your culture doesn’t quite hit that bar, make a concerted effort to transform the culture. Success comes in many forms: through gamification, or an executive team that works together to lead the change, setting an example for the entire company.
Collaborate on mobile devices
In the Aberdeen report, collaboration leaders were more than twice as likely to provide mobile access to their collaboration platform -- 27 percent versus 13. Giving employees the opportunity to use their collaboration platform at any time, conveniently, helps build success.
Collaboration for projects
Just over half of all leaders in the Aberdeen report said social business collaboration provides the support necessary for meetings and discussions among team members. Forty percent said it improves productivity through communication and teamwork. Making collaboration social in projects drives value.
Ready for Your New Age?
“Intranet” doesn’t have to be a bad word. It just can’t be treated as an afterthought anymore.
Talk to people across your organization to understand their needs and win their buy-in on creating a new vision for your intranet. Track your progress against key metrics -- especially making all tasks easier for content creators, content consumers and all collaborators -- to ensure your company stays on track.
It may take a while to get used to the idea, but it holds true: these days a complete, robust, consumer-style intranet is absolutely essential to success.
Editor's Note: Read all of the new age of intranets series here.