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Save Your Tears, Intranets Aren't Dying

Save Your Tears, Intranets Aren't DyingExpect nothing new for the intranet this year. No new major innovations, or paradigm shifts, or evolutionary arcs. The intranet will not die, nor will email, nor will any other enterprise technology. Some of the supposed "experts" (who are really just grandstanding) have predicted in recent years the death of the intranet, the death of email, the death of enterprise social media (one self-proclaimed guru even told me recently that wikis are dead). No one is dying, and no one is giving birth to any great innovation.

Nor should you be fooled by old sheep in new clothing with five-dollar handles like “digital workplace” and “enterprise social network.”

Expect More of the Same for Now

Email will continue to dominate enterprise communications and the intranet will continue to languish. True, some organizations do have fantastic intranets, but they’re the exception to the rule. It’s also true that most organizations have dipped their toes into the innovation pool (72 percent of organizations have at least one social media tool on their intranet, but the execution and use of social media is dreadfully poor, according to the preliminary findings of the 2014 Social Business Study).

No evolutionary leap forward for intranets nor enterprise social technology is about to occur, nor is there an impending death blow.

Most organizations have an intranet that is somewhere between subpar and dreadful. The last five years of recession turned economic downturn have stalled the average intranet. The languishing intranet is par for the course. But there is good news …

Time for a Fresh Coat of Paint

The economy is picking up, and so too will IT budgets, and finally (thankfully) investment into that old clunker of an intranet. We are seeing new budgets to redesign the intranet, to (better) implement social media, enterprise content management and of course, implement the latest version of SharePoint — SharePoint 2013. SharePoint has infiltrated nearly three-quarters of all medium to large organizations – half of which use SharePoint to power the main intranet.

Some organizations, though well below 50 percent, will markedly improve their intranet this year. My company, Prescient Digital Media, has worked with more than 200 intranet clients and witnessed a jump in intranet spending for the New Year (as reinforced by commitments made late last year for this year’s budget). A redesign is par for the course. Perhaps an upgrade of SharePoint, or a new portal or content management system. Perhaps the odd company will invest a little into a change management program that educates and promotes the use of enterprise social technologies, including the intranet. After all, if you build it, they will not necessarily come.

Ironically, the success of social intranet tools has more to do with the change management than the technology. Most employees don’t know what a wiki or My Sites are so why would they use them? Employees need to be educated, sold and cajoled to use these tools initially until their use becomes a repetitive action that is part of the culture. Effective change management flows from effective governance (explicit, documented governance model detailing ownership, management and decision-making), social media policy (who can do what, when, how and the rules for doing so), and active communications and training.

If the intranet gets little investment, change management and communications programs will suffer a similar neglect.

Prognostications of corporate email and intranets are nothing more than hot air blown by pundits seeking media attention. But don’t expect the reinvention of the wheel either. If you’re lucky, your intranet may get some fresh paint and new tires, or just a good wash. That old clunker still has some gas in the tank.

Note: If you'd like to take part in the 2014 Social Business Survey, click here

Title image by Jule_Berlin (Shutterstock)

About the Author

Toby Ward, CEO and founder of Prescient Digital Media, is a former journalist and a social business consultant, writer and speaker, and author of the Social Intranet White Paper.

 
 
 
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