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Intranet2015: The Experts’ View

As part of every intranet managers purview will be long range planning for your intranet or digital workplace. Part of the input will be from your users and some will be from your business leaders, but will either be ambitious enough? In today’s Intranetizen post, we share insight from our industry’s thought leaders on their vision of Intranet 2015.

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Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, @risgaard, is a Social Media enthusiast and Online professional currently working as a consultant at Grundfos. He blogs at connaxions.wordpress.com

In 2015 the concept of ‘The Digital Workplace’ will have gained momentum and the intranet is now increasingly seen as the hub that provides easy access to all online tools that make up the digital workplace. This is either as the integration layer that brings tools together or as the integrated portal that attempts to cover all needs. The intranet itself focuses on a few tasks close to the business core e.g. the ability to connect people and surface knowledge regardless of time and place (the word ‘social’ is now considered “soo0 2012”). Intranet professionals spend less and less time discussing platforms. Instead the talk is around how to make good and intelligent integrations and ultimately how to achieve the best fit between the digital workplace and the organization – with work efficiency as the measure of success.

Search is slowly improving – more as a result of improved integration and improved solutions rather than an increase in focus and resource allocation. The information landfill still exists but nearly all companies work on changing this and as a result we now see a widening gap between those who succeed and those who don’t.

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Paul Miller, CEO and Founder, Intranet Benchmarking Forum. He is the author of “The Digital Workplace: How Technology is Liberating Work”, a Charter Member of the Editorial Council of IBM’s Center for CIO Leadership and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. @paulmillersays

Intranets will survive and be thriving in 2015. Since intranets started in the mid-90s we have heard forecasts of the imminent death but they will grow (as they have) as essential enterprise services.

Intranet services will be as present on the mobile frontline (retail, logistics, manufacturing to name a few) bringing staff and customers closer digitally. This will still be “work in progress” for many companies but delivering applications via mobile devices to customer-facing staff will become standard.

Intelligence will become embedded into innovative intranets, providing understanding of staff location, patterns and needs – creating a growing divide between digital enhanced businesses and those playing catch up.

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Andrew Wright is the chief Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) guy. Located in Melbourne, Australia, he started the WIC in April 2009. He also delivers intranet workshops and provides intranet consulting services. Skype: awright.ciba.solutions; @roojwright

Sorry to be a pessimist, but I don’t think the majority of intranets in 2015 will look much different from today’s intranets. Based on my intranet research over the last 4 or 5 years, I haven’t noticed much of a change in that time and I can’t see that trend changing in the near future.

Admittedly there have been some improvements in technology, look & feel and some award winning intranets have become a little more interactive, but the fundamental issues remain the same as they did 4 or 5 years ago:

  • There is still a strong focus on internal communication as the core purpose of the intranet
  • As a result, many intranets are simply internal newsletters (some now with Facebook like activity feeds) that provide nice news stories that may or may not get read (check out the 2012 Beautiful Intranet entries and notice how much home page real estate is for news, announcements & updates)
  • Staff still don’t see them as business critical because they are not essential for completing business tasks and as a result they do not have the attention, respect or budget of senior management
  • Many are also simply document repositories, not much different to network drives (I’m specifically talking about SharePoint here)
  • Staff still cannot find what they are looking for and information is still categorised by business unit – staff need to know which department owns which piece of information before they can find it
  • There is not much consolidation of information going on and silos of information are continuing to appear. The wheel continues to be reinvented.
  • I don’t see much workflow, task automation or online interaction taking place

None of these issues are strictly technology related – they all relate to intranet vision and change management.

Ok, so it’s all very well for me to be critical, so how I would like to see intranets in 2015? Well that’s a different story. I think the great thing about intranets – and what motivates me to spend so much of my time researching them – is that they have a unique ability to support 3 critical business imperatives:

  • Rapid implementation of continuous improvements & innovation across an organisation
  • More efficient business operations
  • A greater level of employee engagement

I’d like to see the intranets of 2015 support these goals more clearly and explicitly (eg. we are implementing activity feeds because we think this will create serendipitous connections that will not only encourage innovation within our organisation but will also contribute to a higher level of employee engagement – which leads to higher profits and greater productivity).
I also think one of the major contributions an intranet can make to an organisation is the ability to be the glue that combines the different organisational (and external) information elements together in a context that is meaningful to each staff member (I know, sounds a little complicated).
I envision a personalised web page for each staff member that not only lists all the activities they need to do their job, but also provides additional context such as links to any documents, templates, applications, discussion forums, people, online forms, lists, contacts, web pages, and any other content that supports the completion of that activity. Maybe we could call these intranets Contextually Integrated Business Applications. I think a time frame of 4 or 5 years is not unrealistic to achieve this utopia.

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Martin White, Managing Director, Intranet Focus Ltd., is an intranet and information management strategy consultant, founding Intranet Focus Ltd in 1999. An information scientist by profession he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, the University of Sheffield since 2002. Prior to setting up Intranet Focus Ltd in 1999 he held senior management positions with Reed Publishing, International Data Corporation and Logica plc. In the course of his career Martin has undertaken projects or managed business operations in over 35 countries.

I’m making my forecast for the end of 2015. By then SharePoint 2010 will be out of mainstream support, many larger organisations will be implementing digital transformation programmes and mobile access to enterprise information will be ubiquitous.

By the end of 2015 I think there will be four fairly distinct types of intranet

Type A intranets will be well on their way to being digital workplaces. They will be interconnected with digital workplaces in suppliers and customers, be predominately task-based and built on search-based application platforms. The roadmap for these intranets will be set by IT departments because of the significant application integration and security management issues.

Type B will be social intranets, meeting requirements for sharing between groups and teams within and across organisations. Type B intranets will be designed knowledge sharing and in addition will support activity stream analysis to provide employees with a means of tracking social media and collaboration channels across the organisation. I expect to see IBM making an impact in the development of these intranets through its significant commitment to Connections.

Type C will be mobile intranets, though they will not be mobile versions of current intranets. The navigation experience will be via search and apps, and the focus will be on the immediate delivery of usable information at the point of requirement. Both Type B and Type C intranets will be driven by line of business units.

As we move into 2016 we will find that in larger organisations the three Types will co-exist and be synchronised, providing a seamless access to data, information and knowledge. The information architecture may well be presented dynamically by a search application. Users will create and validate the information they deliver so the role of the intranet manager will be primarily around issues of governance, compliance, defining user requirements, usability testing and performance analysis.

However I expect that the majority of intranets will be Type D, highly organised collections of documents and web pages predominantly based on SharePoint. There will be little progress here as organisations struggle with the issues of when and how to migrate from current platforms. Organisations are already conscious that during 2015 there will be news of SharePoint 2016! These intranets will have utility but little impact on the achievement of the objectives of the organisation.

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Jane McConnell, author of Digital Workplace Trends 2013, has been active in the digital world since 1996. Jane has 14 years of extensive hands-on consulting experience with intranet and digital workplace strategy in large, global organizations. She has conducted over 100 intranet/digital workplace projects for 50 organizations. Most of them are headquartered in Europe, some in North America, and all of them are global.

Intranet2015 will be part of a larger digital workplace where people have access to managed, collaborative and social information, processes and conversations. I see a better user experience in social collaboration thanks to increasing adoption of enterprise social networks. The business value of connecting and conversing will start to be understood. There will be more mobile services offered by the enterprise, but we’ll still be waiting for the heavy duty tasks and business processes to become accessible from mobile. The security challenges will not yet be solved sufficiently in 2015. There will be some progress but it will still be a blocker in many cases.

Intranet2015 is only 23 months away! That’s a short time in enterprise years, at least it is for large organizations. Organizations that want to make a leap forward need to use that time to work on change facilitation. They need to find ways to build and instill trust and openness (as appropriate) in their cultures. As I discussed in “Digital Workplace Trends 2013″, in the majority of cases, resistance to social collaborative ways of working comes from top management. Early adopters on the other hand have support from top management; the resistance comes from middle management. Culture and change is where I would love to see a real difference in 2015.

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Guy van Leemput, Online Communication and intranet expert, is an experienced professional in the fields of marketing, product management and e-business. He has managed international teams that defined and implemented new web strategies, built online community platforms and redesigned corporate intranets. Guy leads the JBoyeactivities in the Benelux region.

When we at J. Boye talk to customers about their intranet roadmaps, we find that most organizations are planning intranet improvements in 2 areas:

  1. Supporting the ‘New World of Work’: Intranets are growing and maturing in order to support the ‘New World of Work’ as Microsoft and others have called it. The traditional intranet with its official content will still have a place, but a much smaller one than before. Social, collaboration and especially mobile capabilities will ensure that the employees of 2015 will work together efficiently anywhere, anytime, on any device. Introducing NWOW is quickly becoming a priority in many organizations, and so will be the transformation of their intranet.
  2. Unlocking tacit knowledge: Many organizations are introducing social features on their intranet or are implementing a brand-new social business platform. By 2015, these will be widespread. When looking beyond the hype, the main business drivers are always about unlocking the tacit knowledge that sits in the brains of the employees. Companies want to make this knowledge accessible, across physical locations and departmental silos, in support of business objectives such as product innovation, faster time-to-market and better customer service. Managers like to say that ‘People are our most important asset’ but in the past this was often just lip service. In 2015, it will become a reality. (Well, at least in those organizations who implement successfully)

The good news in all of this – at least for us intranet professionals – is that intranets will become more business-critical than before. Intranet managers often complain that the intranet is only the poor cousin of the website, with little money and no senior management attention. Now they have a unique opportunity to lift their babies to stardom!

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James is a global expert on intranet strategy and design. He is the author of the best-selling intranet books “What every intranet team should know” and “Designing intranets: creating sites that work”. He has helped many high-profile organisations develop an intranet strategy, and keynotes events around the globe. James is the Managing Director of StepTwo Designs.

For intranets in 2015 there is two pieces of good news, and one ongoing challenge.

  1. The edges of intranets become further blurred. 2012 and 2013 saw the rise of “intranet plus”, for example “intranet plus collaboration”, “intranet plus document management”, etc. By 2015, what are considered add-ons to current sites will become assumed elements, further expanding the role of intranets, and blurring the lines with other enterprise systems.
  2. Intranets are mobile. The rise of enterprise mobility is both compelling and unstoppable. By 2015, many of the key tools and resources that staff need will be accessible from mobile devices, whenever and wherever.
  3. Productivity remains a challenge. The greatest intranet benefits come from streamlining core processes and activities. But this is a very slow process, as it’s heavily dependent on IT and enterprise systems. By 2015, we will see more solutions in this space, but still a lot of work yet to do.

Summary

Firstly, we’re very grateful to our panel of experts in giving us an insight into the future. We’d like to highlight some important trends from their ideas that resonate with us.

Mobile and Mobility: Despite sounding like a Jane Austin novel, these two focuses will be vital for intranet 2015. The intranet will be everywhere — on every glass, company or employee owned — and in particular, will be smartphone focused. We believe that this mobile first thinking will generate some important steps forward in UI and functionality.

Work and Workplaces: The intranet will be the workplace of the future. It will have evolved from a communication and collaboration vehicle and will be a place of work. If your business makes widgets, you’ll make them, in part or full, through intranet functionality.

Social: The intranet will not have social spaces, it will be intrinsically social with every social features weaved into each element of current functionality. Social HR; social marketing; social internal communications anyone?

What do you think? What will your intranet2015 look like? Add your comments below and join the debate.

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