Enterprise intranets are usually created to act as the main conduits for internal collaboration, including content creation / acquisition. But, to-date, most are failing to engage their internal customers: the employees of corporations.
According to a 2009 report by Watson Wyatt, only 50% of employees accessed the intranet on a daily basis; 80% said their company’s system needed improvement; and 50% said searching on their intranet was too difficult. Instead of functioning as a framework to access self-service portals and the apps/tools needed to be more productive, intranets are often difficult to navigate, out-of-date, non-intuitive, and bulky.
Bill Ives notes in his review of the Global Intranet Trends 2010 Report:
The intranet is starting to become the entry point into the “workplace web” – the collection of resources and information needed by staff. This includes applications, intranet sites, specialized portals, team spaces, collaboration spaces and so on. This was the original vision for many intranets but rarely realized.
To improve intranets to act as effective “gateways” for collaboration, intranets would likely benefit from many capabilities incorporated into Web Experience Management (WEM) for external-facing websites, including the use of social apps. In this case, a company’s employees are the customers to be engaged and converted.
Editor's Note: Follow our articles on enterprise collaboration including: Collaboration – an Intranet Perspective by Martin White and Enterprise Collaboration: It's About the Culture, Stupid.
Processes, Tools, Interconnected Employees
Community and collaboration in business enterprises are about people working together more effectively, quickly, and proactively — to achieve the goals of the business in dynamic fashion. This definition of collaboration seems to be eluding many companies that have enterprise intranets and are adopting social media tools. It’s not about tools adoption, but about interconnected employees working together more often, reducing silos of knowledge and expertise, and sharing relevant insight as quickly as possible.
The intranet can utilize approaches “borrowed” from WEM-oriented external websites to improve usability and engagement, but intranets must also integrate with business processes that are part of individual employee workflows. The intranet can become a personalized focus for an employee’s essential information flow related to the business operations that the employee ties into. The context for collaboration on intranets is connectivity to business processes and work. To increase employee use of intranets requires that intranets embody the employee’s "way of working".
Sameer Patel makes this observation in his post on the Google Wave discontinuation:
Organizations still need to understand how to design work processes that blend optimal process and collaboration but its a hell of a lot easier when the software plays nice…end users are still struggling to understand the basic applicability of these new tools to meeting their performance requirements better/faster/simpler. Organizations on the other hand often have a huge gap between declaring big picture strategic collaborative intent and tool selection.
WEM for Intranets
For intranets built as “engaging” sites, several WEM capabilities work well:
- End-to-end software solution, with excellent usability both for business users and IT personnel (includes behind-the-scenes document and content management, workflow, design tools and so on)
- Recommendations-like technology for social search and personalization (as well as enterprise search)
- Analytics — for usage and performance stats and improvements
- Rich media and video capabilities
- Social collaboration / communication capabilities
- Mobile access / multi-channel
- Extensive integration / interoperability capabilities at several levels of the enterprise infrastructure
Like external-facing websites, usable and relevant intranets must be designed from employee POVs, but with this difference: the larger the organization, the more diverse the employee perspectives and needs. External-facing websites usually have much more focused target markets.