Intranets: Your Not-So-New Collaboration Frontier

4 minute read
Kimberly Samuelson avatar

It’s been about a billion years (1994 says Wikipedia) since intranets were invented. So by now you would think that organizations would have figured out how to best leverage their information+data+processes+users using the intranet as a focal point.

You would be wrong.

Sharing, searching, discussing and collaborating are the ways in which we perform work. But keep in mind that these actions are only part of the equation -- workflows and approval routings make up the other half. All of these actions are performed upon or with a single unit of work -- which, in the context of enterprise content management (ECM), is essentially information in the guise of a case or folder.

Today, many organizations are exploring better ways to enable more fluidity when it comes to these actions. They ponder how can we best link information, human and process?

The answer may lie in rethinking intranets. Traditionally speaking intranets are simply an extension of the enterprise network; some would add that they could be called private internets. But what happens when you start thinking non-traditionally?What happens when you layer in Web 2.0 and social elements?

From Document Sharing to Knowledge Sharing

Blogger and Theorist, Bertrand Duperrin has some interesting things to say regarding his “Theory of Intranet 2.0”. Essentially, he speculates that Intranet 2.0 allows organizations to generate new services and functions across all components of the intranet and that elements of the traditional intranet will be socialized.

This is really exciting. One of the most important elements of the work that I do is the conversational element. The work itself is information in the form of a document -- but the conversation and knowledge sharing around that document is what enables me to make decisions. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to capture that social-moment-in-time so that others could benefit from it? Perhaps it would inform future decisions, drive a transaction or exist as part of a business record. It would also help ensure governance in heavily regulated environments.

Elements of Intranets 2.0

While it is fun to theorize, the hardest part is always "how do you get there?" How do you create a next-gen intranet where your staff and partners can gather, share and work? How do you get to information+data+processes+users=knowledge+productivity?

There are 5 crucial elements that need to be in place in order to get to 2.0:

Information: Today, we all work with information. In fact, manipulating data and information into knowledge is some of the most important work that we do. In order for Intranet 2.0 to exist there needs to be an information super-structure in place. Staff members need unfettered access to information -- and the information needs to be secured. This could exist within the framework of an ECM application.

Learning Opportunities

Knowledge management: “Information wants to be free” -- but frankly it can’t be. In order to ensure compliance and security, rules and regulations need to exist. Your knowledge management strategy should be inclusive of Intranet 2.0.

Community: Be sensitive when crafting your user’s intranet experience. Users are bringing consumerization into the workplace. Your intranet should be set up to deliver information dynamically and be comfortable for staff to work within. If staff like using it, a community will naturally form.

Process: Information drives process, or is produced as a result of process. There is a trend toward organizations pushing multi-functional, multi-departmental processes such as Hiring to their intranets. This makes a lot of sense. The information behind the process is stored in a central location but can be viewed, manipulated and approved dynamically depending on your role in the process. If important processes are "housed" on the intranet, staff will continue to use it.

Collaboration/social: The conversations around information and documents are the catalyst for decision making. If value in those conversations could be saved it would help future decision-making and research, not to mention compliance. Some organizations are using discussion modules as part of their ECM to manage that conversational content rather than a social platform. There is also a need to be able to reuse information as a knowledge-base that needs to be both searchable and allow for Q&A.

This new manner of thinking about and implementing intranets supported by an information superstructure and discussion layer will support decision making and productivity. This modality shift moves the notion of traditional intranet from private Website to collaborative communications accelerator.

Editor's Note: To read more by Kimberly, why not check out ECM + WCM = Your Portal Strategy

About the author

Kimberly Samuelson

Kimberly Samuelson is a freelance product marketing strategist in the ECM marketplace. She specializes in developing and delivering compelling content about ECM as it relates to the greater technology marketplace.