Disruption! Most intranets need it. They tend to evolve gradually with time, with each new intranet manager adding a little touch of innovation. But not too much; we don’t want to frighten the users! I envy Jane McConnell, who seems to work with the very best of intranets. I tend to get called in when all else has failed. It can be a depressing experience. But disruption is on the way, and from a wide choice of options I’ve chosen three that are likely to be a challenge in the next twelve months.

1. SharePoint

SharePoint 2010 is the best thing that is ever likely to happen to a corporate intranet. Whilst your blood pressure comes back down let me quickly say I am not suggesting for a moment that all intranets should be migrated to SharePoint. The sob stories I hear about being told to use SharePoint are boring me.

The fundamental problem is that intranet managers seem ill prepared to have an informed discussion with the IT department about the value (or lack of it) in implementing SharePoint for the intranet. I sense that few intranet managers have tracked the development of SharePoint since mid-2007, and have also paid little attention to the very wide range of technology options available to support content management, search, document management and collaboration.

Hopefully the arrival of SharePoint will force intranet teams to have a well-defined vision for the intranet, to the benefit of IT as well as intranet users.

2. Enterprise Mobility

Every day I come across case studies of how the provision of mobile access to enterprise information is transforming the way companies conduct business. At present it is all pilot trials at 3G speeds, but next year will come 4G/Wi-Max networks offering 100Mbs access.

Making a business case for mobile access is very easy indeed, and before long the CEO is going to want to know why the competitive position of the company is being eroded because the intranet is still in the dark ages. It is not a function of how many “nomads” you have in your company; rather it is a function of the revenue and customer satisfaction they generate. It will certainly be more than the intranet.

The challenges are significant, and may mean a change to the information architecture of the intranet, adding in better search functionality and finding ways to facilitate collaboration outside of the nice warm walls of the office building. Just carrying out user research on your nomads would be a good start, as well as making friends with the business intelligence team because they will probably be well ahead of you in terms if vision and planning.

At last intranets have a real chance of having an impact on the bottom line of the company. Ignore this disruption at the risk to your career. There is nowhere to hide when IBM, SAP, Sybase, Apple, Google, Blackberry, etc come knocking on the doors of the C-suite. Make sure you are in the reception suite!

3. Data Privacy

Already this year there have been major breaches of data privacy, such as Sony and Trip Advisor. After many years of ignoring data privacy the US Federal and State authorities are playing catch up to the very tight European Union legislation. Data privacy is not an e-commerce problem. Employees will increasingly start to question just where the personal data they have added to a SharePoint MySite is going to end up.

Getting a new credit card to replace the one that has been hacked is nothing to the challenge of getting a new career because someone looked at your profile on all those wonderful social media tools, checked out the positions you claimed to have held in the company, and decided that they would not be inviting you to send across your cv.

To get a sense of the scale and complexity of the problems that can arise try to get hold of a copy of the Global Data Privacy Handbook 2011 compiled by Baker and McKenzie (www.bakermckenzie.com). This summarizes the data privacy legislation in around 40 countries, taking 400 pages to do so. This is not just an issue for international companies. Just making sure that you are fully compliant with local requirements is just as important. The reason that this is disruptive is that it takes time, effort and education to ensure that all employees know for certain their legal rights are being respected. The fines that the company might face are nothing compared to reputation damage. Start with putting your own name in the search box. Are you happy with what you find out about yourself!

Editor's Note: Also from Martin White: The Importance of Aligning Corporate, Intranet Strategies and a review of his new book: Book Review: Intranet Management Handbook