The original intranet, Intranet 1.0, typically began life as a nothing more than a technology outpost under some techie’s desk in the corporate basement. The first version of this intranet was nothing more than a welcome page, perhaps a name and a phone number, and a simple welcome message. Today we are seeing the rise of intranet 2.0 -- this incarnation is the social intranet.

The Evolution of the Intranet

Intranet 1.0 grew and evolved rapidly -- more so at some organizations than others -- but in some respects, faster than corporate websites who had a few years’ head start with the advent of the ‘super information highway’:

  • Version 1.0:Welcome page (a welcome message and a phone number)
  • Version 1.1:Bulletin board (simple communications)
  • Version 1.2:Corporate newsletter (structured news & limited document management)
  • Version 1.3:Help Desk (simple transactions like the employee directory)
  • Version 1.4:Corporate Store (more complex transactions such as e-HR and self-service)
  • Version 1.5:The Portal (authorization, authentication, application & database integration)

Though not every intranet has followed such a clear evolutionary path -- in fact, according to the latest results from our 2010 Intranet 2.0 Global Survey only 15% of organizations have a full portal solution  -- it wasthe technology itself and many leading organizations (IBM, Cisco andVerizon to name a few) who have blazed this enterprise trail.

The trail has lengthened considerably as of late with the advancement of social media, and the intranet has made an evolutionary leap to version 2.0 -- the social intranet.

The Social Intranet

The phrase social intranet has only appeared in recent months (late 2009) to describe an intranet with social media features. Although with any emerging technology there is likely to be disagreement on the precise definition of a new term, I describe a social intranet as the following:

An intranet that features multiple social media tools for most or all employees to use as collaboration vehicles for sharing knowledge with other employees. A social intranet may feature blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, or a combination of these or any other Web 2.0 (intranet 2.0) tool with at least some or limited exposure (optional) from the main intranet or portal home page.

With that said, a few employee or executive blogs do not a social intranet make. A social intranet requires wide participation -- or at minimum, opportunity for participation -- by most or all employees.

Social intranets require social media: blogs, wikis and user comments, to name a few elements. More advanced social intranets may incorporate multimedia, user-tagging and social networking that are integrated into multiple channels including user profiles.

Learning Opportunities

The Rise of Intranet 2.0

How prevalent is social media behind the firewall? According to the latest results from the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey 2010, nearly two-thirds of organizations have at least one social media tool on their intranet (or hosted as an intranet tool for employees).

Social tools on the intranet have made the leap from the nice-to-have list to mainstream technology:
Intranet blogs, wikis and discussion forums are quite pervasive, while podcasts and mashups remain an after-thought at most organizations:

  • 52% have intranet discussion forums (24% enterprise use); 10% have no plans or interest
  • 51% have intranet blogs (17% enterprise deployment); 9% have no plans or interest
  • 50% have intranet instant messaging 34% enterprise use); 19% have no plans or interest
  • 47% have intranet wikis (16% enterprise deployment); 10% have no plans or interest
  • 43% have intranet RSS (18% enterprise use); 15% have no plans or interest
  • 27% have intranet social networking (13% enterprise use); 20% have no plans or interest

The growth in these tools is particularly notable: employee networking -- employee social networking -- has increased more than 40% from 2009 levels (see our 2009 Intranet 2.0 Global Survey Report -- 44 pages, US$ 79.00). And while a single social media tool does not beget a social intranet, these intranet 2.0 tools are rapidly growing in prevalence.

Stay tuned as we dig deeper into this topic, and if you're working and collaborating behind the firewall, note that this is the final week to participate in the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey 2010 and still receive the full survey results and analysis for free. We'd love to hear your thoughts.