In the historical context of the organization, the intranet is definitely the new kid on the block. Properly managed, the future for intranets is very bright indeed.I meet a lot of intranet managers who are frustrated with their jobs. It's easy to understand why. But we need to be clever here. We need to get things in perspective. We need to think long-term.
Most organizations have no more than 10 years experience with the Web itself. Intranet understanding is about 5 years behind general web understanding. That's not a long time by any stretch of the imagination.
It can take an organization, particularly a large one, between 20 and 30 years to truly understand and digest a major new innovation. So, we could say that, at most, we are in the middle of the beginning. There's a long way to go yet. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
The intranet has the power to radically change the very nature of the organization. Here are just some of the potential impacts: The increasingly virtual organization
To be an effective organization, do you really need full-time employees based in physical locations? The intranet (and the Web) can help us organize beyond the traditional organization. The intranet can help quickly connect the right people with the right ideas, tools and content to get the job done. Awesome potential here. Breaking down traditional silos
To be effective, the intranet must move beyond any particular department or division. Take, for example, organizational training. The question from an intranet manager's perspective must be: How do employees get the right training quickly and easily?
Making sure that this happens will require the support of IT, HR, and all the various parts of the organization that supply training. It won't be simple to work beyond the traditional structures of the organization, but it will be necessary for success. Measuring success
We need to measure success differently. Let's say HR has been told to slash its costs. Let's say it's spending $300,000 on staff to help members of the organization find people. Let's say it launches a new Find People application and gets rid of the support staff.
HR can now say that it is saving $300,000. But is the organization saving? Let's say the new Find People is badly designed and poorly maintained. Let's say an analysis is done and it is found that $500,000 is being lost because it's now much slower to find the right person.
The problem here is that nobody is really responsible for this new cost, because this cost is 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there - spread across the entire organization. But it is a real cost and it is dragging down organizational efficiency.
To change the way organizations measure efficiency, costs and success will not be easy. But it is far from impossible. So you've hit a brick wall. Go around it. So nobody is listening. Be patient. Reframe your argument and come back later.
What you need to understand is that nobody is going to organize a ceremony in order to hand you a prize for all your hard work. The intranet is new. It needs to earn respect bit by bit.
If you know you're doing the right thing then keep doing it, and be prepared to keep doing it for years to come.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.