How consolidating intranets can serve your staff better

August 3, 2011 Updated: July 29, 2022 by

On this month’s IBF Live broadcast, three presenters showed off fragmented intranets they’re trying to bring together into one.

By Matt Wilson, Guest Reporter from

As Cleveland Clinic grew across the United States and opened facilities overseas, its intranet began to grow as well. At one point, the company was running six distinct intranets at once, said Leslie Chom, Web and application development manager at Cleveland Clinic, in speaking to the hosts of Digital Workplace Group’s IBF Live broadcast for August.

The clinic called in Modus Associates to help consolidate those intranets into one, consistent platform for all of its 40,000 employees. Scott McDonald, Modus’ founder, said his firm aimed to make it so employees who were logging in a dozen times a day to different sites would only have to log in once.

“The organization was just really ready for change,” he said. To avoid political conflict or blowback from top executives, Modus “drilled down on what the priorities of the business were” and looked at what employees were doing most on the intranet.

What McDonald presented on the broadcast was a mockup of a single intranet that looked strikingly like an outward-facing website, with the signed-in user’s face adorning the sidebar. The mockup won Modus and the Cleveland Clinic an honorable mention in this year’s User Experience Awards.

“Intranets are becoming like the rest of the Web now,” McDonald said.

But they’re not quite there yet. Roy Wilsker, senior director of technology planning at Covidien, demonstrated his company’s intranet, which is divided into two sections: a main SharePoint site called Pulse, and a collaborative site that runs on Jive software called PulseConnect. The main site had a very slick look, while the collaborative site was more data-heavy.

“If you want to have a conversation, go to Jive, if you want to share a document, go to SharePoint,” he said.

Gia Lyons, strategic adviser and business community manager for Jive, said the idea of the company’s collaborative software is “all about getting the software to disappear so people can get work done.”

Though the two pieces were distinct, Wilsker said there is some “blurring” between the two sites. For example, users can click on a link on a Pulse article to go to a PulseConnect discussion board about it. The company is in serious talks to overlap the two pieces further, he said.

Steve Kaukonen and Steve Berzins, both social learning team managers at Accenture, also discussed having separate tools for the main intranet and collaboration. Accenture’s intranet is also on SharePoint, but its collaborative tools use Newsgator. The two discussed several ways that Accenture has integrated the two pieces, including how profiles from SharePoint are pulled in to Newsgator.

Among the other topics discussed on this month’s program:

Too much social?

A challenge for Modus in developing Cleveland Clinic’s new intranet is the question, “How much social is too much?” McDonald said. “We don’t want to make it too much like the commercial social Web,” he said.

Rather, Modus’ aim is to include social-media elements that match up to the organization’s goals, McDonald said. So far, commenting and rating content have worked their way into the intranet, he said.

At Accenture, users can also rate content, but they likewise have the option to recommend pieces of content related to the article they’re reading. In addition, they can see the impact of the content they create—how much it’s read and shared—through a “knowledge sharing score.”

“Whenever you give people points for activities, it really seems to ramp up the activities,” IBF founder and CEO Paul Miller said. But Kaukonen said the real goal is to bring the score back around to performance management. “They want to show the great work that they’ve done,” he said.

Wilsker showed how Covidien is testing Jive 5, which includes social elements such as micro-blogging. Miller wondered what effect incorporating that element might have on tools such as Yammer. Wilsker said that, as more broad collaboration tools bring in those features, single-serving tools such as Yammer may fade away.

It’s the environment, not the tool, that matters, he said. The most important piece is having community managers who can guide the culture toward collaboration.

Kaukonen agreed, saying he’d much rather work in a company with a cooperative culture than one that had the technology with the most bells and whistles.

Personal communication

What’s the most personal form of communication? According to respondents in a quick poll of program listeners, 47 percent think it’s a phone call. About a third said it’s instant messaging, and another 14 percent said email.

Robert Rose, founder of Big Blue Moose, said he was surprised by those results. He said he finds IM intrusive, and actually finds email to be the most comfortable form of communication, as people can answer on their own time. Rose also noted that studies show millennials find their Facebook updates to be just as personal as phone calls or face-to-face interaction.

Categorised in: Digital workplace, Intranets

Nancy Goebel

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