10 Lessons for Intranets – from 10 years of IBF
On June 13th the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) celebrated its 10 year anniversary in a live, London – New York joint meeting of its 100 plus members.
The original IBF mission to improve the performance of our member intranets through interaction, measurement and best practice has defined the intranet industry over the last decade.
Here, IBF CEO and Founder Paul Miller, outlines his ten personal lessons for intranets from the last 10 years – and what they mean for the future of intranets.
Lesson 1 – Intranets have proven to be incredibly adaptable, robust and powerful – because they are more a “concept” than a “tool”.
The beauty of any intranet is that it can be whatever an organisation or a business wants it to be. For that reason alone, they will survive and grow.
Lesson 2 – Intranets have become a “hygiene factor” inside major organizations – but as in life, hygiene is essential for health in all things.
Intranets should not be seen as routine or simply business as usual. Instead they should be seen as part of the lifeblood of an organization where they can ensure a healthy future.
Lesson 3 – Bit by bit, most organizations have become totally reliant on their intranets and unable to operate without them – neglect them at your peril.
Many business critical applications already reside on intranets. Intranet use and functionality has expanded well beyond company news and the phone book – they require resources, budget and core system support.
Lesson 4 – 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 internet technology and trends evolve, it is inevitable that intranets will be impacted. While ‘social’ intranets are considered essential right now, it’s merely a stage along the way towards the next trend.
Lesson 5 – Intranets are now part of a wider world of work and technology, described as the “Digital Workplace” – both will evolve powerfully in the future.
Intranets are just one workplace technology and they exist alongside everything else people need to do their jobs. When you consider all of those technologies in the same world of work, you need to consider the entire ‘Digital Workplace’. But, if you want an advanced digital workplace across your company, you will need a high performing intranet inside it.
Lesson 6 – Every organization gets the intranet it deserves – they hold a mirror to your company – that’s a useful fact to notice.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see from within an organisation, but from the outside looking in through its intranet, it is easier to see that problems are located inside reporting lines, roles and processes elsewhere. Your intranet might not be who you want to be, but it is quite often who you are.
Lesson 7 – Intranets are what Jeff Jarvis, author of “What would Google do” calls ‘new economy roles’ in old economy organizations – small numbers of people and money producing huge value – CEO’s will always value that return on investment.
Intranet managers and their teams are usually plugged into the entire organisation from marketing to finance to HR. They have the power not only to deliver consistent messages but to find the truth behind the rumour. Their future looks secure.
Lesson 8 – Passionate intranet managers and teams produce intranets that take your breath away!
At the IBF, we recently produced a report for our members called “Intranet Love Affairs”. It was part humorous but explained that behind the great intranets we now enjoy (such as Verizon, IKEA, AEP, BT) you will always find a passionate manager and team.
Lesson 9 – Intranets in major organizations are worth hundreds of millions of dollars and in many cases several billion – at the IBF we have proved that.
Intranets have always been weakened by a lack of hard data on the financial value they bring to the organization. Investment levels are annually between $1 – $5m and each service (such as travel booking or online expenses) registers values of between $10 – $15m. Every CIO should have that data at hand, so when the Chief Financial Officer asks the question, there are figures and evidence with which to respond.
Lesson 10 – Intranets provide a “digital glue” in ever more fragmented organizations and this will accelerate.
Work happens. Wherever you happen to be, people will always find a way to work. Profound shifts in working patterns have made intranets essential, not only as functional tools, but as engaging cultural experiences within organisations. So whether you’re working in Malaysia, New York, London or Spain you can feel connected.
See Paul Miller’s other anniversary blog post: 10 Intranets that have defined the industry from 10 years of IBF