Here we are at the six-month mark of 2015 — how far have you gotten with your collaboration goals for this year?

For the past few months we've been looking at what I call “The New Age of Intranets.” Intranets held such promise in the early days of the Internet, but over time they became the butt of many a joke in the enterprise. 

Mad Men's Don Draper recommends, “If you don’t like what people are saying about you — change the conversation.” The same can and should be said about the term “intranet.” And as we and fellow Microsoft partners gather in Orlando, Fla. for the annual Worldwide Partner Conference, this seems like a good time to change the conversation.

So why do intranets have so much baggage? Let’s start with the definition.

Time for a New Vocabulary?

What is the modern intranet and what does it do? And more important, what do we need it to do? There are more buzzwords by the day surrounding the many competing products out: social, collaboration, portals, yada, yada, yada. 

It's no wonder we're confused.

And then there are tools like Slack and the myriad “texting” apps… not to mention people saying they are getting rid of their email.

Here’s the crux: We’re overwhelmed, confused and disillusioned by this elusive “intranet” concept. Countless writers have written about intranets for far too long to go back now. So how can we change the conversation?

Gartner’s term “Digital Workplace” is doing just that: changing the words we use to talk about intranets, even while the concept is as old as the “paperless office.” “Digital Workplace” is Gartner’s shorthand for the many pieces of technology your teams use to work together harmoniously.

Gartner’s idea is powerful, but let's keep it in perspective. The magnitude of planning and deploying “The Digital Workplace” can quickly overwhelm you — let alone planning and deploying your corporate intranet. Don’t try to build something that you will call “done” — it is never done. There are far too many shifting work streams to ponder. 

Trying to draw a line around it is impossible, which brings me to a few pieces of advice for approaching collaboration in your company.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Take Small Bites of the Apple — Don’t Ingest the Tree

The days of taking 12 to 36 weeks to deploy a solution are gone. Earlier this week a client told me that IT is ready, but Corporate Communications is not. While this type of feedback on readiness should inform your approach, it doesn’t have to become a barrier. Your solution should be something you can use right away, which can grow and adapt with your shifting needs.

Establish an Open Dialogue

Have you seen all the ways your employees publish content on Facebook and LinkedIn? What if you could do the same on your corporate intranet? 

Christian Buckley recently conducted a tweet jam on the authoring experience in Office 365. Conversations are happening and your corporate intranet isn't the only place. Make it easy for your employees to share their voice and let them link to public venues — Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and all the others. Make an open dialogue.

Build vs. Buy

There are lots of options now for companies looking to buy an intranet product for their Microsoft environment, whereas even a few years ago the only choice would have been a custom build. Rich Wood did a good job summarizing a few of the solutions out there. The good news for you, technology buyer, is that you have plenty of choices that will get you 80 percent of the way there. That may be good enough for what you need to accomplish — or you can customize that last 20 percent with less cost and faster completion.

While changing the conversation will help us sort through the confusion, remember that the goal remains the same — to help our companies be more successful. So one final piece of advice: Let collaboration be your culture. 

How are you supporting your teams? Give them the means to be heard. By getting up front buy-in for your intranet project, you can look forward to better adoption at launch. The more pervasive the idea of collaboration is among the people of your organization, the greater your success. Don’t get hung up on the word Intranet — let’s just say it’s time to make it easy for people to share information. Let's change the conversation together.

Send me your feedback, I want to keep the conversation going.