Microsoft’s takeover of the corporate intranet has been rapid, and nearly overwhelming. Nearly two-thirds of all organizations (all except the very smallest) in the Western World use SharePoint, in some shape or form (according to multiple surveys).

Despite its most unimpressive start and growth as a second-tier technology just a few years ago – lagging well-behind IBM’s Websphere and other commercial portal and CMS technologies – SharePoint has become the leader of the pack, powering more intranets than any other solution.

SharePoint Dominates as a Corporate Intranet

SharePoint’s tentacles are reaching and growing into new corners and business groups, particularly in medium to large-size organizations; and it’s being used to power social media, and sometimes, the new breed of social intranet. According to data in the Social Intranet Study (2011, conducted by the IABC Research Foundation and Prescient Digital Media), SharePoint is now deployed as the main intranet technology platform in nearly one-quarter of all organizations; 55% of organizations that have social media on their intranet (61% have at least one social media tool on their intranet), use SharePoint to power their social media.

SharePoint is beginning to subjugate the world of intranets.

“The study certainly reinforces the impression... that Microsoft is eating the world,” says Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communications + Technology, in his recent FIR Interview: 2011 Social Intranet Study. “People who suggest to me that Microsoft might be on the ropes, as people move to mobile platforms... I don’t think they see how many SharePoint implementations are being sold -- it’s huge.”

But Few Orgs Have a True Social Intranet

SharePoint has in fact also helped propel the rise of intranet 2.0 – internal social media deployed on the corporate intranet. However, while social media is being used in multiple forms at various levels of deployment (and experimentation), the more advanced social media deployments open to all employees – the social intranet – are still uncommon (but exceptional).

A true ‘social intranet’ is one that features multiple social media tools, accessible by most or all employees, that are integrated into the intranet home page and woven into most aspects of content consumption (e.g. think of being able to comment on most content pages, rate the page, or add tags to it). A social intranet may feature blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, or a combination of these tools.

According to the data of the Social Intranet Study, only about 10% of organizations have a true social intranet. However, the concept of a social intranet has only existed for a few short years, and therefore the rise of the social intranet is in fact quite impressive. The true social intranet using SharePoint is even more exceptional, though once such example is the Canadian law firm of Bennett Jones.

With more than 1000 employees spread across the country, Bennett Jones required a portal solution to manage the firm's legal knowledge precedents and research. Implementation firm V51 worked with Bennett Jones to develop a knowledge management strategy that includes enterprise search, team sites, wikis, blogs, as well as document libraries. Through multiple web services the intranet portal also integrates with various internal systems including an enterprise document management system and an HR information system.



Screenshot of the Bennett Jones intranet. Source: V51.

Although the intranet was built on the previous, legacy version of SharePoint (MOSS 2007) and has limited home page social media integration, it is at least a step in the right direction.

Dissatisfaction of Intranets is High

Not surprisingly, since few intranets have made the evolutionary leap from ‘playing’ with or ‘piloting’ a one or two social media tools, to full social intranet, the satisfaction levels with intranet 2.0 tools is shockingly low. The Social Intranet Study reveals there are more dissatisfied users of corporate intranet social media than satisfied users:

  • 28% of employees rate their internal social media tools as good or very good: 31% rate these tools as poor or very poor
  • 28% of executives rate their internal social media tools as good or very good: 35% rate these tools as poor or very poor

When barely one-quarter of your executives rate your social media as good, then you have failed (in fact, your job might be in jeopardy). One key problem is that many deployments of social media are using the out-of-the-box SharePoint tools, many of which are the poor-breed versions from SharePoint 2007, or free, open-source solutions that are just plain bad.

Finally, poor technology is only a small part of the problem: successful enterprise adoption of intranet social media tools requires people, process, and change management. Let’s face it, it’s easy to deploy a blog or wiki, but will people use them? This isn’t the Field of Dreams: it takes more than just being there to get employees to come and use these tools.

For the social intranet to become a reality in more organizations, executives and employees alike need to be sold the benefits of deploying these new fangled social technologies. Ironically, they’re used to using these tools on the Internet, and pretty soon, they’ll be demanding better deployments of these tools on the intranet.