Several articles have recently proclaimed the intranet is dead. In an age of activity streams, mobile communications and other forms of fast-moving dialogue, do intranets remain relevant? Analyst firm Forrester Research has released a new report, Intranet Portals: Workforce Technology Adoption 2011, that provides some insight into that question.


The Intranet is Maturing Very, Very Slowly

In late 2010, Forrester defined a four-stage maturity model to describe the evolution of corporate intranets from static content repositories to context-sensitive, interactive tools to enable productivity.

  • Communication-centric
  • Self-service-centric
  • Collaboration-centric
  • Information workplace

The most recent study of the intranet space indicates that progress along the maturity curve has significantly slowed. A little over half of survey respondents are using intranets, but it is primarily to retrieve human resources content like benefits information. This is logical since one the original drivers for intranet adoption in many enterprises was to replace human resources manuals and other paper communications. Organizations are having success with these efforts, however, this is a far cry from the information workplace concept Forrester envisions for the most sophisticated intranets.

Despite the slow evolution, the study does indicate that the audience and the uses of corporate intranets are evolving. Intranets are an important information resource, but according to Forrester, most companies are failing to provide the collaborative experience that most knowledge workers desire. Survey respondents ranked collaboration as one of the most useful capabilities provided by intranets.

Study Results

The report provides an interesting view into how organizations are using intranets in the real-world. The data showed that the top three uses in both large and small businesses were related to human resources:

  • Benefits at 75 percent
  • Company directories at 67 percent
  • Training and development courses or content at 64 percent

The services being used, however, aren’t necessarily the ones users value most. Most valued capabilities include collaboration tools, team-specific content and search. Data also showed that users are increasingly leveraging collaboration tools outside of the enterprise to serve their collaborative needs.

In terms of users, IT, engineering and something Forrester refers to as business services are the biggest users of intranets. Overall, 57 percent of respondents accessed at least some content on the corporate intranet.

As new technology tools emerge, intranet technology vendors and companies will have to evolve to provide more engaging and contextually aware tools, or intranet use will decline. Users are no longer satisfied with undifferentiated static content when they have access to so many new information sources. It appears the intranet is not dead, but it’s definitely limping.