An important question has been raised by more than a few people:
So is this still the intranet? Or should we be calling it something different?
An excellent question, and one that I’ll be exploring throughout 2010. There are some that would like to dump the “intranet” name, as it’s associated with the “old” vision of intranets as a publishing platform, a dumping group for documents, and a place for the CEO to post his thoughts.
This narrow vision of the intranet must certainly die. In the process, intranet teams need to go from being custodians of an internal website, to facilitators for business improvements. In many ways, the word “intranet” has too much baggage, and is an anchor for much-needed changes.
It’s hard to come up with a new name, and to get it adopted. This is fundamentally a social thing, and it smacks of marketing when driven by a few individuals (not that this is Jane’s intention!). “Web workplace” also doesn’t resonate with me, as it still traps us online, rather than moving towards ubiquitous access.
Where do I stand? I think that intranets still have a role to play in our future organisations, and this is how it could fit together:
We will still need a web-based “intranet” in the future. This will play a more important role in organisations, mixing old and new thinking:
- corporate homepage and first point of entry
- findability layer, helping staff get to required information and tools
- home for corporate information (yes, we’ll still need this!)
- seamless environment for web-based systems and processes
- business tool used daily by operational staff
- web-based environment for collaboration and social interaction
- vehicle for corporate culture
This is not a million miles away from where intranets are at currently, but there are important differences:
- intranets are just one part of broader environments within organisations (see below)
- focus shifts from publishing information to delivering business value and streamlining processes
- collaboration capabilities get progressively folded in, rather than being separate
- intranets get smarter, sharper, more proactive, and more valuable
As an industry, it is our responsibility to change the perception of the word “intranet”, and to create a forward-looking and constructive vision for our intranets.
(Organisations then benefit from hiding the word intranet entirely, instead giving the intranet a name. That way staff are using “Morris”, oblivious of the debate raging in the intranet community over the appropriate nomenclature.)
As the future scenarios have shown, Sarah is interacting with much more than just a web-based intranet “site”. Information is available at the point of need, and seamlessly accessible across multiple systems and platforms.
This requires us to be smarter and more coordinated in how we manage our “information systems”. I’m being deliberately generic here, to get away from being caught up in discussions about “document management” vs “enterprise content management”, “business process automation”, “web content management” etc, etc.
Instead, we can say:
“To deliver a staff directory with all the information we need, we’ll need to integrate some of our information systems.”
“Better information systems would allow us to slash the lead-time in product development by 50%”
In practice, this means working with many different tools, systems and platforms. Despite the hopes of some vendors, we’re not going to replace every legacy system with “one tool to rule them all”. Instead, we need to work with point solutions and system specialists to deliver the end-to-end processes we desire and need.
How do we focus our work on the underlying information systems? By targeting the needs and activities of staff:
The broader industry talks about “user experience”. How users interact with systems, systems’ ease of use (usability), the step-by-step process to complete a task. This has driven remarkable improvements in the usability of websites and intranets.
Within organisations, we should start to talk about the “enterprise experience”. What experience do we want to provide to staff in their working lives? What systems should they be using, and how? How do they interact with the information and tools they need to do their jobs?
This provides a useful focus on:
- delivering solutions that work remarkably well for staff
- creating end-to-end solutions that streamline processes, despite the profusion of behind-the-scenes technologies
- moving steadily towards a seamless environment for staff
- producing delight and joy for staff
- making a real impact on how organisations work, and delivering commensurate business benefits
We’re talking about delivering intranets that bring tools, information and processes together. By steadily improving our information systems, we can provide staff with the tools they need to do their jobs, where and when they need them. The end goal is to deliver an enterprise experience that delights staff and drives business success.
Does this work for you? Or should we using something different?