rise of the intranet

16 09 2006

there has been more and more discussion of corporate intranets in the past year or so.  in most places workplace learning has been involved in these discussions.  independent, free standing lms’s will soon be dinosaurs.  some will evolve, but most will go the way of, well, the dinosaurs.

back in july, avenue a|razorfish, a consulting firm here in san francisco published a report on corporate intranet best practices.  unfortunately it’s taken me this long to get through my other projects and the pile of reading i’ve got "stacked" in a folder on my desktop. 

it was well worth saving.

the report is packed with great information and insights and would take far too much of my time, and yours, to summarize.   the section i thought most interesting to elearning is the section on future trends on corporate intranets.  many of the trends are somewhat no brainers to those who have been involved with company intranets – like mini-intranets a emerging throughout the enterprise, that intranets are becoming key builders of corporate knowledge and strategy, or that users are now demanding better interfaces on intranets as they use them more. 

their take on executive attitude toward intranets and the technologies to be involved were the interesting bits.  they predict that intranets are becoming so fundamental to the enterprise that they will be budgeted without the massive roi justifications that intranets – like training – have had to build up til now.  they liken it to email.  "when was the last time that your management team asked you to create an roi model for corporate email?"   of course, every finance executive out there is waving their arms and saying, "but everything must have an roi."   but the reality is very few sectors of a corporate budget have roi calculated.  i think avenue a|razorfish are right on this call.

the second area of interest is around technologies.  of course they predict the ajax revolution on the intranet.  no big aha there.  but i like there take on blogs, rss, and wikis.  they predict that strategies focused heavily on blogs will not last.   they maintain that enterprise blogging will generally not work blogging clashes with corporate culture in two fundamental areas.  one, bloggers blog because they have something important or unique to say. (or we hope we do.)  most corporate  cultures, like it or not, still reward information hoarding and group think.  stray to far away from the herd and you get picked off. 

the other reason blogs will have limited success is that bloggers expect independence.  independence of thought is given alot of attention these days, but seldom does it get rewarded by career advancement.   learning to align your ideas with the strategic goals of the company is what gets your to the executive suite.  while a few lone voices are often encouraged, the report suggests that "the people who have the most  will be the most reluctant to say it."

they believe that rss and wikis are the web 2.0 technologies that will have real staying power.  in the case of rss they suggest:

Enabling employees to subscribe to subject and department specific RSS feeds and then view them through readers will enable more targeted, community-focused conversations in the workplace.

wiki’s then allow a place where those community-focused conversations can manifest themselves in projects and other work situations which require extensive collaboration.  they finish by giving an obligatory tip of the hat to social networking tools.  while i beleive they are right to call out social networking tools as important, i think they miss the mark when they point to wikipedia and squidoo as hallmarks of social networking.  better examples of social networking tools would be linkedin or myspace.  wikipedia networks information.  social networking should network people.  but i plan to write on this issue soon.

i highly recommend avenue a|reazorfish’s corporate intranets best practices report to anyone who will be involved in communicating with the workforce in the future.  the intranet is going to be the focal point for training, learning, performance management and just about anything else involving interaction between employees and the enterprise.

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