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Intranets: what do you want?

Intranets as a concept have been around over 25 years, and content management solutions allowing business-users to deliver them nearly as long. So what do we do when the recurring intranet project crops up... again.


Intranet history is one of relevance and user engagement. It's been driven by IT evolution, fads and HR trends (probably tactless to say so, but 'meh').

Perhaps a view of evolution of "intranet" is in order:

  • we started with getting our "Office manual" online by digitising paper manual i.e. here's the policies, procedures and forms for doing things

  • next intranets became communications channel for the organisation comms and HR teams to reach the staff, and then as way for staff to respond to surveys,

  • at this point we have convergent evolution happening as application portals start to rapidly develop and are branded "Intranets" as well, this brought in a concept of a task-driven UX for end-users - essentially a modernisation of the workstation in a browser,

  • shortly after staff-feedback became common, the rise of "Facebook for enterprise" emerged - a way of engaging communities and to get the word of the common-worker in chat-oriented discussions became 'de rigueur'

  • eventually the original vision of a "portal"1 became real thing, and merged with a publishing (office manual) intranet leading to "personal dashboard" of things I need to do (widgets, activities)

  • And now? Well, we have options for pick-n-mix - we want them all, and we want none and it users don't really want choice - in fact most end-users I meet just want the useful bits from above - and the content to be current/correct.

1. the original concept of a "Portal" developed in late 90's and early 2000's when a vision of "one place for user application access" (or aggregation of business apps) developed. This was later amalgamated into the amorphous "Intranet" concept combining both.

The main-stream vendors all fight on very-narrow footing, and don't provide much differentiation.

The only thing all organisations agree on is:


...after that its what best fits your organisations personality, and no one really listens to what the users say.

What do we have?


So how to move forward? Really it comes down to:

  1. who will own this thing called "intranet" in your org?

  2. what's your organisations culture like?

  3. what's your organisations demographic like?

  4. how goods your content?

Looking at the answer to these will usually help you drop into one of the core options for intranets:

  • Communications intranet - news, articles, policies, forms, and all about us

  • Social intranet - discussions, team-chat, executive "talks", and only one communication channel (external) - put facebook/twitter on the home-page.

  • Task-focus intranet - personal dashboards, quick-ways to action tasks and jobs from different places - and the support on how to do this

  • Schizophrenic intranet - we want a bit of each - all on one page - looking as smart as comms, but nobody owning content refresh or lifecycle the bottom one tends to fail appallingly early on, but the others can work well, depending on your culture.

Lifecycles, ownership and refresh.

The lifecycle of intranet publishing has become very compressed and focused over the last 10 years. They all seem to fit the pattern of:

  • every 3yrs we change the intranet - because its not very good

  • communications suffer significant down-turn when your key-people move on

  • the content goes stale, but no one wants to own the jobs of updating it, and

  • an IT project is spun-up to 'change' it ..for more of the same

Well we the "Intranet in a box" is a real thing, and this seems to have exacerbated this pattern. Actually "intranet in a box" is more like 50+ real things - all slightly different. They can be broadly grouped like this:

1. a "template-driven" intranet is your friend if you have people owning content, but little / no IT to support you;

2. you'll pay for "development-driven" platform (components not a solution), If you have internal developers and believe that your marketing and branding teams know what is best experience;

3. but you'll gravitate more towards "framework + tools" options If you have engineers, architects, or internal people that "could write-that for us".

No 1. provides rapid, useable and OOB, but has 'stock' look-n-feel. This is more about content, and low IT interference.

The only thing is, for 2 you need money and classic approach to project delivery - because you own this, not just using it.

For no. 3 you will be forever ripping/replacing, changing tweaking and never done - so be prepared to be permanently under-construction and never satisfied.

Which are you?

Choices, choices.

At the end of the day, this is about your people - not the implementation project. Cloud (and Office 365) has removed the long-winded run-up for these now, and you're into content and "now what?" stage in days or couple of weeks...

What delivering an intranet is about now-a-days is really consideration your desired operational model. Figure out your organisations appetite for Risk, and whether you really want to own all the hard-work of managing solution - or do you want to manage your content?

The Choice is yours.

If you are interested in what we see, and how you could do this then why don't you give us a shout?

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