We have been lucky enough to see quite a few intranets across a diverse range of organisations, in both the public and private sectors.
Knowing this, we are often asked the question: so who has the perfect intranet? In most cases, the reason for asking this question is to find out who to visit, to see how to get an intranet right.
Our answer, however, is: we haven’t seen a perfect intranet. While this is often a very disappointing (or even disheartening) response, it is valuable to explore some reasons.
Have not seen every intranet
First off, we haven’t seen all the intranets in the world, so perhaps there is a perfect intranet somewhere. That being said, it hasn’t turned up in the magazines, case studies, or reports that we’ve read.
For all the reasons outlined in this briefing, it remains fairly likely that there isn’t a perfect intranet.
No one “perfect” intranet
Secondly, there can never be one “perfect” intranet. Every organisation has a unique environment made up of its staff, culture, business processes and purposes, technology, size, resources, and a dozen other factors.
A really successful intranet is a perfect fit for the organisation it serves, and for this reason, every intranet should be unique.
This leads to many “perfect” intranets for the organisations they serve, each being very different, and quite inappropriate for any other organsation.
Many facets of intranets
Managing an intranet is not easy, and there are many “balls to keep juggling”. It is our experience that intranet teams have their strengths, and tend to (quite reasonably) focus on these aspects of the intranet.
Of course, this will lead to gaps in intranet strategy and management that can have a significant impact upon the effectiveness and viability of the site.
For an intranet to be successful, all of these aspects must be addressed:
- change management & communications
Only by taking a holistic approach will an intranet be truly successful.
There are some great intranets out there. In fact, every intranet we’ve seen has had at least a few great ideas or elements.
This is perhaps the most important point: every intranet has some valuable strengths (and weaknesses), and each intranet is strong in different ways.
This means that a very effective way of generally improving intranets is to bring together intranet managers from different organisations, to share approaches and ideas.
(This was the reason for establishing the Intranet Peers in Government community of practice.)
In the past, many intranets have been managed in an ad-hoc way, or have been seen solely as a technology problem.
Only in the recent few years has there been a growing awareness of the importance of approaches such as usability, information architecture and knowledge management.
The good news is that we are finally in a position to start being much more effective in our management of intranets.
Great things can be done with intranets, and more than ever before, intranets are starting to realise their potential. While lessons can be learnt from other intranets, perhaps the best approach is to understand the needs of the organisation and to evolve the intranet to match.