Social Business, Modern Intranets in the Technological Circle of Life
Updates and improvements are commonplace in the enterprise technology world. Business needs change, demands pop up for different functionality and the technology must be amended to meet requirements or risk being rendered useless. This evolution is part of the technological circle of life, and things either survive and thrive or die off completely. 

Which brings us to corporate intranets.

The modern corporate intranet is a prime example of how a piece of technology can be born to serve one purpose, yet evolve through time to become a completely different asset. What started out for many organizations as a simple, one page launch pad to all external systems has turned into an organizational social hub where employees can collaborate like never before -- and things are just getting started.

Where We Came From

Even as early as five years ago, corporate intranets were used primarily as a central location where employees could access all of their external systems. Rather than having to bookmark a bunch of different pages in your browser, you could go to one page and find the resource you needed, whether it was access to your customer relationship management (CRM) software or your help desk.

More often than not, an organization would need a dedicated resource on staff to update the content on the intranet because permissions were not given out company-wide. That means your HR announcement about free bagels in the conference room wasn’t coming directly from HR, and likely had to be given to the web developer in advance to ensure it was posted in time.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there was no place for open conversation and collaboration amongst employees. There was no place to share ideas, give feedback or work together, leaving all of those conversations to happen through email, where only the people chosen to be on the thread were able to participate. In short, intranets used to be the equivalent of your Windows start button -- only used when you need to get to something, and all other work done outside of it.

Not anymore.

Collaboration Central

As organizations continued to implement content management systems (CMS), like Microsoft SharePoint, the modern intranet began to take shape. These CMS platforms allowed organizations to break their intranets out into departments, while adding a social feature that greatly enhanced the way people work together.

Before newsfeeds like Yammer and SharePoint Social were implemented into intranets, employees were used to having two-way conversations -- just them and whoever was on the “To:” line of the email they were sending. But now it’s expanded exponentially, where employees can post a question on the newsfeed and receive comments and responses from anyone in the company.

The conversations are quicker too – almost instantaneous because you can access these newsfeeds on all of your devices. It’s easier to communicate with your colleagues, and get notified of their responses, than ever before. The social aspects of these intranets -- the newsfeeds, blogs, community sites -- have allowed this evolution to take place, and the push only seems to be getting stronger.

The last five years were about the introduction to the social aspects of intranets, so the next five years will revolve much more around the actual evolution of the newsfeed and how it gets ingrained more into the day-to-day company culture. We will begin to see an emphasis on mobile and offline capabilities, where people are able to share and collaborate from outside their company walls. Intranets will become your company’s social headquarters, where people will visit first thing each morning not just to get started on their work, but to see what hot topics are being discussed amongst their peers.

The benefits are easy to see -- the newsfeeds have given people their own voice and the ability to share ideas, turning corporate intranets into a true knowledge management system and a sub-component of the overall knowledge management of the company.

Title image courtesy of YarekM (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Jeremy in Planning for SharePoint 2013? Make Sure You've Got Yammer on the Brain