Jinfo BlogFuture intranets

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By James Mullan

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Abstract

What will the intranet of the future look like? It's hard to know for certain but most people agree that the intranets of the future will be social, which involves having more and more social tools integrated into them. But is this the only way intranets are heading? Not necessarily.

Item

What will the intranet of the future look like? It's hard to know for certain but most people agree that the intranets of the future will be social, which involves having more and more social tools integrated into them. But is this the only way intranets are heading? Not necessarily.

In their post "10 Lessons for Intranets – from 10 years of IBF", The Intranet Benchmarking Forum says that although "social intranets are just the latest evolution of the intranet environment that started with the employee directory – 'social' is an essential step, but it’s not the end of the journey".

As new internet technologies and trends evolve, it is almost inevitable that intranets will be impacted. While "social" intranets are considered essential right now, it might be that in a few years time a new dominant concept will have evolved. In this context a social intranet is simply a stage along the way towards the next trend.

Another reason why the future of intranets may not be social is that some organisations may not now, nor ever be ready to implement social tools. It seems strange saying this when we've been using social media tools within organisations for the last 10 years. However given culture and technical infrastructure of some organisations, social intranets are simply not feasible.

There are other options available to intranet managers who are looking to take their intranets to the next level without necessarily integrating social tools. In his closing keynote at the Intranets 2012 Conference, James Robertson talked about "Intranets that surprise and delight". There are four principles that intranet managers can take from this presentation:

The first is that intranets need to be beautiful. If you're trying to encourage intranet usage, having an "ugly" intranet isn't going to improve your chances of doing so.

Second and perhaps most important is that intranet managers need to make things simpler. After all this is what intranets are designed to do: make stuff people find difficult to do easier, by bringing it into one central place. In practical terms making things simple will mean having great usability so that users don't have to think where to find content or how to do things.

Next is that intranet managers should be using new technologies in smart ways. Modern technology platforms and content management systems are incredibly powerful and we should be taking advantage of these platforms to really improve an individuals experience. What intranet manages should not do is roll out the same intranet just built on a different technical platform.

Lastly, Robertson promotes the idea that people, instead of content, are kings and that this is where the integration of social tools will have a role to play.

Putting people at the heart of intranets can only be a positive step as individuals take more responsibility for the content that is being created. By facilitating communication, social intranets can also help reduce staff reliance on email and potentially turn intranets into dynamic collaborative environments. Yet despite the obvious benefits of social intranets, they struggle to go mainstream. I believe this is because to adopt them they require a major cultural shift by an organisation.

If you're interested in learning more about social intranets then some of the other resources linked below may be useful.

Other resources:

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