Six reasons why I’m optimistic about the future of intranets
Last week my new book, Essential intranets, went live. It’s fundamentally a very positive book, outlining an aspirational vision for the role of intranets.
As I sit in the airport on the way to a series of conferences in Europe, I thought it was worth outlining why I’m feeling so optimistic about intranets.
Here are my six reasons:
1. Intranets are finally proving their value
For a long time, intranets languished as just a repository for corporate content (policies, procedures, etc) and top-down news. While this is valuable, it’s hardly going to set the world on fire.
The role of intranets is currently expanding rapidly, driven by new intranet teams and new technology platforms.
As the book explores, there are now many hundreds of real-world examples showing how intranets can directly help organisations, beyond just content and communication.
For example, Scotts Miracle-Gro uses their intranet to bring customer needs into the heart of the organisation, Hansen Yuncken drives their core business processes via the intranet, AMP has delivered a truly social intranet and CRS Australia provides deep integration into SAP.
These are just a tiny selection of the exciting things happening in the intranet space, and I’m expecting to see a lot more coming down the line over the next 1-2 years.
(Essential intranets is structured according to business objectives — “Streamline business processes”, “Enhance knowledge management”, “Mitigate business risks” — to explicitly demonstrate the business-centric role of intranets.)
2. The intranet community is strong
When I started in the intranet space, 10+ years ago, intranet teams were totally isolated. There were no active discussion groups, no local communities; nothing to help connect teams and share knowledge.
This has changed incredibly in the last few years. There are now several very large LinkedIn groups devoted to intranets, and many local communities, including the Intranet Leadership Forum in Australia.
Intranet conferences have also prospered around the globe, with regular events now held in Scandinavia, UK, Europe, North America, Asia, Australia and beyond. In many cases, these are run by intranet folks, for intranet folks.
This directly addresses the biggest challenge for intranet teams: that their sites are hidden away from others. There is now every opportunity to learn from others, and to avoid reinventing the wheel.
3. Teams have broader and deeper knowledge
In my travels around the globe (and around Australia), I’m encountering more and more teams who have a great foundation of knowledge and expertise.
Many intranet professionals are now equally comfortable talking about content, usability, technology, change management, comms and user adoption. While there’s plenty for us all still to learn, modern intranet teams rock!
This rounded knowledge and deeper experience is starting to have a big impact on intranet discussions within organisations, and the sites that result.
4. Technology is easier than ever before
Modern development platforms and methodologies are incredibly powerful. Rich, interactive solutions can be quickly developed and deployed, drawing on the inherent power of the web. These days, give a developer an uninterrupted week of work, and amazing things can spring to life.
Recent products and solutions also inherently understand the role of the web, and come with excellent tools for integration and customisation.
This “consumerisation of technology” is start to flow into the enterprise, giving intranet teams new opportunities to deliver better solutions. While legacy products aren’t going away in a hurry, there are no shortage of opportunities to pursue.
5. We’re starting to have the right conversations
For too long, we’ve been stuck talking about content quality, publishing processes, metadata, IA and governance. While these are valuable topics, they’re all “behind the scenes” issues that mean little to the wider organisation.
Increasingly, I’m seeing teams initiating much better conversations within organisations, focusing on questions such as:
- What are the business problems to solve?
- What are the strategic priorities that we should be aligning with?
- What should the intranet be doing, and why?
- What are we delivering in the next 6-12 months?
- Who are the right people from across the organisation to include in intranet planning?
These are business-centric discussions that actively engage the wider organisation. This leads to more inclusive thinking, and intranets that better connect with business priorities.
6. We’ve become more ambitious
Intranet professionals want to achieve much more than they did even 5 years ago. We’re working with teams that have a real sense of ambition: to make their mark on organisations, and to deliver truly valuable solutions.
In many cases, these aren’t “rockstar” teams, but “quiet achievers” who understand the business, and use their knowledge and connections to make things happen.
Collaboration and social is a perfect example: this has become an “expected” component of modern intranets, and the focus is now on making it work in practice. Great! What’s next?
Onwards to great intranets
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m now more optimistic about intranets than I’ve ever been before.
Those who say that “intranets are dead” are flat-out wrong. Instead, intranets are now starting to emerge from their “adolescence”, to play a much more important role in organisations.
If you want to see my vision for a great intranet, obtain a copy of Essential intranets. I’m excited, hopefully you are too!