there is one thing that became pointedly clear during my attending and
speaking at the J. Boye Intranet conference last week, it's that we are
all experiencing different aspects of what it means to become a
world-class corporate (social) intranet. The typical shelf life of an
Intranet implementation averages about 18 months. This timeline can
easily be extended when you add on the complexities of social layers. So
if you feel that your company has been struggling for some time with
not only the correct strategy, but also the implementation tactics of a
social intranet... don't feel bad.
You are not alone.
And, if the attendees of the Intranet track are any indication, you are most certainly in good company.
So what makes the social intranet your company's holy grail or holy
mess? Is it because your company struggles with engaging multiple
demographics? Is it because you're global, but focus too much on local?
Do you lack the infrastructure to support a social intranet? Or do you
simply not have the manpower or resources? These are all issues that I
hear about quite frequently, and, to be honest, there is no tried and
true answer. While you can listen and share with other peers who
struggle with similar quandries, learning by example can only take you
so far. At some point, the direction and actions you take must be
tailored to your company's specific needs and goals.
Avoid the Holy Mess
This may seem like you've heard this many times before, but I cannot
say it enough. To make your social intranet an attainable goal, start by
asking yourself a very basic question: What is the purpose of your
Avoid the holy mess. Don't make your Intranet social because you want
to join the social business bandwagon. Make sure you have the right
people, content and tools in place FIRST. Do you want your Intranet to
be content-based for communications and/ or HR transactions? Do you want
it to be completely social? Or do you want something that is a hybrid
of the two? The only wrong answer here is to make the wrong decision for
your business needs.
One of my most memorable conversations from the J. Boye conference
was with someone who questioned the deployment of a completely social
Intranet. The question was, how do you balance social technologies with
key business objectives and messaging. Or put another way: how do you
balance social apps like Yammer with important (static) content such as
company policies and forms.
- Content Intranet - don't confuse social with being
sexy. Yes, your Intranet should evolve. But, no one ever said that an
Intranet that focuses primarily on content while also having a slick
interface isn't sexy. But a social Intranet that doesn't have the
infrastructure or resources to support it is NOT sexy. Until your
business is ready to jump into the social intranet pool, keep your site a
value-driven destination for your employees by sticking with what
works. Content is key. If your content works then follow this favorite
saying of mine: if it doesn't suck, then don't muck.
- Social Intranet - an Intranet that fully embraces
social technologies truly is the essence of a virtual watercooler. I
have not yet seen a company making its core Intranet 100% social, but I
have heard rumbles of some companies considering this. A social intranet
could be anywhere from entirely collaborative sharing to
employee-generated content on wikis and / or microblogs. Admittedly, a
lot of information managers would be hard-pressed to convince senior
leadership to convert to a completely social Intranet without sharing
some honest-to-goodness business advantages or ROI. On the flip side, if
you're a company that is just now transitioning your Intranet from a
static document repository, a completely social Intranet just might be
the solution you need.
- Hybrid Intranet - a hybrid Intranet is one that
adds social layers to a pre-existing infrastructure. Personally, I think
this makes for the most rewarding social experience for an employee. It
combines all the communications and transactions that an employee needs
to do in order to learn, plan and do their work and their life. This is
probably the most complicated, resource and time consuming approach,
but the long term payoff is a more enriching and value-driven Intranet
for not only the company but also the employee. Think about a day in
the life of the average employee: publishing and sharing content in real
time, easily finding and executing on key business objectives,
supporting and recognizing ideas from peers, instantly communicating
with global colleagues -- a hybrid Intranet is the effective
virtualization of all these things.
Attain the Holy Grail
So when it gets right down to the nuts and bolts... how do you do it?
Again there is no simple answer. Finding and implementing a Holy Grail
of an Intranet site is an attainable goal. But, there are four key
cornerstones with which you must start.
- People - Who is your Intranet for if not for the
people? If your Intranet isn’t useful to the employees who are supposed
to use it then you will most definitely find yourself in a holy mess.
Design your Intranet based on the work and life of your employees --
assess how your employees use technology both in their lives and their
jobs so that you can make both more productive, social and simplified.
Calibrate your Intranet knowing that how your organization is viewed by
your employees varies not only by global and technological needs, but
also by demographic ones.
- Content - Your content is the meat and potatoes of
your site. It’s the stuff that really counts. But how do you nurture a
healthy flow of content? You need to know what people want and make it
available to them. That means encouraging people to cough up the content
and ensuring the right information bubbles to the top.
- Process - Your intranet has to support the things your employees do every day:
a site that allows them to learn, plan and do. Human processes are
often overlooked in favor of technical development. But the best
Intranets help people achieve key business objectives while also
enabling them to more efficiently get their jobs done, and introducing
them to the global colleagues with whom they need to do it.
- Technology - If your project kicks off with the
purchase of software licenses expect to waste time adapting your problem
to fit the solution. Any project team that puts the technology cart
before the business horse is asking for trouble. Your intranet must
solve a communication problem, and needs more than a platform. Ensure
high tech does not replace high touch - tools are not the story; tools
are a vehicle for delivering the story
Reference: "Why Your Intranet Fails" by SmallWorlders <-- an excellent read
Special note: if you would like to share the
current state of your enterprise 2.0 and collaboration efforts, I
encourage you to participate in the "State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration Survey" being conducted by Jacob Morgan of Jacob Morgan Marketing / Chess Media Group.
This post intentionally published on May 10, because ... well... it is my birthday after all :)