It is so unusual to go to a conference completely devoted to intranets I thought I’d write about it.

To me it is quite puzzling why there is no stand-alone intranet conference in the USA. We are fortunate in Europe to have a number of national intranet/Enterprise 2.0 events in the Fall, and two major conferences in March.

On March 15 over 600 people will turn up to the Congres Intranet, and last week there were around 220 delegates to the long-standing IntraTeam Event in a grey and cold Copenhagen. It was, as always, an excellent conference, and I thought you might be interested in some of the themes of the conference, though this is in no way a summary of all the presentations.

Collaboration Takes Work

There was of course a lot of focus on collaboration, and what emerged from many of the papers (including superb presentations from Nokia and Electronic Arts) was how much effort needs to go into making collaboration happen. Just throwing SharePoint and social media at employees will not persuade them to collaborate if the underlying culture is not supportive. At Nokia it is the responsibility of a manger to ensure that new employees in particular are introduced to people who will help seed their networks. In general there was a concern that perhaps intranets were being built to support the people who had been in the company for a number of years, and not enough was offered to new joiners, and little attention was being paid to capturing the expertise of older employees close to retirement.

The Use of Video

Using video to get the message across to employees is also seen as important. In Electronic Arts, new video content is initially distributed to a small number of employees, who, if it is really useful, will quickly bring it to the attention of others. Tracking the rate of downloads gives an indication of the value of the video, and the phased roll-out reduces the load on corporate video servers. Neat idea.

Working with SharePoint

SharePoint was of course on the lips of many, but I can’t quote the comments verbatim. A number of companies are finding the experience of migrating from MOSS07 to SharePoint 2010 a lot more difficult than they had anticipated, and people starting with SharePoint 2010 were finding out that it was not quite as out-of-the-box as they had been led to believe. In general there was a positive reaction to search, but a lot of confusion about the difference between Fast Search Server for SharePoint 2010 and Fast ESP, a confusion not helped by the fairly poor level of information on search options provided by Microsoft.

The Intranet Home Page

The content of home pages was much discussed, probably started from some comments I made at a pre-conference workshop about intranets that look more like newspapers than business applications! I think that the consensus that emerged, especially during an excellent closing panel session of intranet mangers (no consultants allowed) was that there were no hard-and-fast rules about intranet design and architecture, and that it really needed an on-going programme of user research to ensure that the intranet remained fit for purpose as the organization changed shape. Liked into this discussion was one about how to persuade senior managers not to have a departmental structure for an intranet. There were no good ideas.

Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise mobility emerged from nowhere. Last year no one knew what the term meant. This year many companies in both the USA and Europe were undertaking trials, and the general view was that companies who were not ready to roll out enterprise mobility applications, including intranet access, would lose a significant competitive advantage. The level of awareness about some of the specific issues around mobile search implementation was quite low. Together with IntraTeam I conducted a small-scale survey of enterprise mobility implementation prior to the conference, and one of the most surprising outcomes was that 55% of respondents had not even considered how they would provide mobile search capabilities.

A Lack of Intranet Strategy

In one session delegates were asked if they had an intranet strategy. About five people put up their hand, but there were around 80 in the session. How is it possible to develop an intranet without a clear idea of the direction you are heading in? What was quite clear from the presentations was that to succeed intranet managers needed a blend of charisma and patience, neither of which can be taught.

I emerged from three days of intranet immersion much energized. It’s too late to book for Utrecht but I am sure you will get a warm welcome at Intranets 2011 in Sydney from 11-13 May.