Is the Intranet Dead?

May 14, 2014 Edwin Abl


I read with interest a great article by Euan Semple on Diginomica around the purpose of a modern day social intranet.  In fact, Euan questions whether there is still a place for one in the modern enterprise.

According to Euan, the intranet, as we know it, is simply outdated and does not meet the needs of the modern day app hungry and mobile employee. Intranets are old and clunky – many simply are not fit for purpose and fail to serve much of a role in today’s world.

Taking into account that the future is an open and connected world, I wanted to share some thoughts on what the social intranet could become. I believe the crux of this question is more around how an intranet can encourage employee engagement rather than focusing on the tool itself – the tool needs to be part of that wider engagement strategy.

It’s the context of how you use the social intranet and if you have an old and unwieldy one you need to understand its limitations, get into the psychology of the user and make sure you get the best out of what you have.

In my opinion, a social intranet can still serve a purpose but only when aligned with a coherent employee engagement strategy. Clearly, if you consider the following stat you need to take this point seriously:

“Engaged organisations grew profits as much as three times faster than their competitors. They report that highly engaged organisations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%. (Source: Corporate Leadership Council)”

Reading stats like this is an eye opener. It seems such a simple solution to try and solve with a significant upside if you get right.

The secret to employee engagement and the future of work is having a social intranet not defined as a social intranet, but being one of many tools which enables the facilitation of a mobile, connected and demanding user base. It needs to foster a ‘community feel’, connecting people and re-affirming company goals in a simple way, without getting too hung up on privacy and locking down features.

For this reason social intranets in my opinion are still valid, but you need to focus on designing the right solution for your employee base.

How can we do this?

First you need to understand the user psychology: what they need, and what you want them to achieve through the intranet.

The psychology and context is as follows:

  1. It allows employees to find company-related information fast, wherever they are (i.e. stats, presentations, taglines etc.). The social intranet solution must deliver this effortlessly.
  2. It looks and feels like a consumer app that people enjoy using on the go (via tablets and smartphones). Otherwise user adoption and usage will be minimal.
  3. It allows a community to develop within the intranet – more like a Wikipedia type approach where the employees help evolve the content and participate in content generation.
  4. It enables wider collaboration which feeds into the enterprise social network solution you are using, whether that’s Chatter and/or Yammer.

Finally, if you achieve the above and roll out a successful education programme you can start to reap the rewards that an engaged worker brings to your business.

Clay Shirky says: “A revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts new tools, it happens when it adopts new behaviours” #BizInsights
— Imperial Business (@ImperialBiz) February 21, 2013

The truth is that the future will be open and connected, and the social intranet is not dead.

As Euan mentions in his article, today’s intranet needs to be more like the internet and needs to be developed accordingly – and there will eventually be blurring the edges between the two. It needs to evolve into becoming a tool that helps with the employee engagement process – but without stringent rules, without firewall blocks, without paranoia and with something cool that feels like a modern day consumer app.

Use it to provide the flow of information to the workforce, but then entrust them to fostering a community so that usage increases and then spreads throughout the organisation. Please, whatever you do, don’t develop static intranets but think of something that moves, changes, evolves and flows with the constant change required of the modern day enterprise.

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