Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my intranet. Prepare to die.

We turn today to the silver screen to see what lessons information management professionals might learn from a classic Hollywood comedy.  

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think it Means

In 1987's "The Princess Bride," the scheming scoundrel Vizzini keeps exclaiming, "Inconceivable!" usually in an inappropriate way, and Inigo Montoya finally turns to him and states: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

This is highly appropriate to the state of the company intranet. There is considerable confusion in some quarters around the actual definition of an intranet. In my experience as an intranet consultant, most people seem to understand that when they fire up a browser and go to an internal site, that is the intranet, and it is different from the public Internet purely because it is internal to the company.

So it seems to be a well understood term now that crosses generational divides, which makes it a difficult proposition to tell them that there is no intranet anymore, and what they think is the intranet is now just the publishing part of the "digital workplace."

However, as an information management professional, I am fine with technical definitions. The intranet is an internal network built using the same tools as the public Internet -- the TCP/IP network stack and the HTTP(S) communications protocol -- to give us a web interface to anything from flashy dashboards to boring accounts-payable systems. But there are now other technology platforms that step outside of these technological boundaries, including mobile apps, VoIP communications, etc.

This brings us to the broader-based label of the digital workplace, of which the intranet comprises just one part.

Not Dead, Just Mostly Dead

When Westley, our movie's hero, appears to have been killed by the bad guys, his friends take him to Miracle Max, a wizard who explains there still may be a chance to revive him because: "It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."

This one definitely applies to our intranet discussion. The intranet is definitely not dead, but in many organizations it might be characterized as "mostly dead." It is often in these organizations that the square peg of an enterprise social collaboration platform might be hammered into the round hole that is labeled intranet. However other organizations, more mature in their information management or collaboration practices may have leapt onto the blended evolutionary offshoot that some vendors call the "social intranet." A couple of months ago, I wrote in these very pages how the latest version of Jive's enterprise social collaboration platform was very capable of taking on intranet information publishing functions.

So your intranet may be mostly dead, but the concept is as lively and vibrant as the Princess Buttercup herself!

To the Pain!


I sometimes feel this should be the motto of enterprise information management professionals. When the recently "mostly dead" hero confronts the evil Prince Humperdink, the Prince brandishes his rapier and pronounces they will fight to the death. Westley responds, "No, to the pain!" and goes on to describe the terrible wounds he will inflict on the prince, but that he will leave him alive so that he may exist in a state of permanent anguish.

I myself often think that this information management and information governance "fight" we're involved in is to the pain. Do you often feel you lost yet another battle? You'd won a small victory by getting people used to working with appropriate metadata in system X, and then some regulator comes along, and now you have to change your policy and procedure, again, have to start capturing more content as records… Oh dear, once again we descend into the pit of despair!

However, all is not lost. Just as in The Princess Bride, teamwork amongst the strangest of company can help us triumph. In the movie, the good guys are the simple country boy turned pirate, a bumbling giant, and a professional swordsman consumed by revenge. That doesn't sound as if they have a lot going for them, does it? And as they are thrust together by circumstances they initially find it difficult to get along.

An analogous situation obtains in the workplace, where we must forge interdisciplinary teams between information management and KM specialists, information governance and RM specialists, business teams and IT service providers. Working together in a coherent fashion, we are much more likely to set up the frameworks, policy and procedures that will help us solve our ever-evolving information management issues. There is no room for personal agendas and politics when there is a princess to rescue… Sorry, I mean when there is information to manage.

Maybe we can get to the point where our answer to every new demand is a simple: "As you wish!"

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  paleololigo