Filed under: Intranets
Intranet discussion forums are an often used mechanism within organisations. While they are implemented using a variety of tools and technologies, they all serve the same basic purpose of supporting communication and discussion. In practice, however, many discussion forums fail to prosper, with few (if any) posts being made to them. In other cases, discussion groups are hailed as great successes.
This article explores the differences between these experiences, and introduces two critical success factors for intranet discussion forums: a clear purpose, and a common community.
Many names, same goal
Intranet discussion forums may be called many things, including:
- bulletin boards
- discussion groups
- online forums
- collaboration areas
Regardless of what they are called, they are all designed to provide an area where staff can post questions or comments, or to hold discussions with other staff. The underlying purpose behind implementing these tools is often to increase the ‘interactivity’ of the intranet, and to support ‘knowledge sharing’ goals.
It is also worth noting that many of the same issues discussed in this article also apply to email lists, when used within organisations to facilitate discussion between staff.
Why do some online forums prosper, while others fail?
It is extremely interesting to talk to a group of intranet managers about their experiences with intranet discussion forums.
Half of the group will say:
These were a complete waste of time! Staff asked for them, so we implemented a number of bulletin boards, but no-one used them. We’re definitely not doing that again!
The other half of the group will say:
These have been a huge success. There are many posts to the discussion groups every week, and they’ve taken away a lot of ‘all staff’ emails that were causing a lot of frustration.
In general, the success of online discussion forums has been very ‘hit and miss’. Without a clear sense of when and why they work, some intranet teams have found them to be successful, while others deem them to be entirely useless. The obvious next step is therefore to compare exactly what each of these groups has done, to identify the underlying patterns.
[June KM Column, read the full article]