Why aren’t execs satisfied with social intranets?

October 6, 2011 by

Social intranets are the wave of the future, right? Then why aren’t more executives happy with them?

According to a recent survey from Prescient Digital Media, only 28 percent of executives whose companies have social intranets say the functionality is “good” or “very good.” About 35 percent called it “poor” or “very poor.” The rest fell into “satisfactory.”

Satisfaction didn’t run much higher among employees. Only 33 percent viewed their social intranets as “good” or “very good,” while 26 percent said it was “poor” or “very poor.”

So are social intranets just not what they’re cracked up to be? It’s a little more complicated than that, Chris Chambers, vice president of client development for Prescient, told the hosts of this month’s Digital Workplace Live program.

Part of the problem is that 38 percent of companies have spent $10,000 or less to implement social intranets. “You get what you pay for,” Chambers said. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t be trying to implement social intranets, he said.

Most companies that claim to have social intranets—the survey defines the term as an intranet that has an assortment of social media tools, which are available to most employees and integrated into the home page—have “very elementary” platforms, Chambers said. Around 14 percent of respondents had what Prescient would call full social intranets.

Almost every company that launches a social intranet does so with the goals of increased employee collaboration and engagement in mind, Chambers said, noting that studies show increased engagement correlates with profit growth. Plus, younger workers are accustomed to using social tools and expect to have them available.

“If you don’t set it up, guess what. They’re going to use them outside your corporate boundaries,” he said.

Listeners of the Digital Workplace Group’s monthly broadcast agree that social intranets can change cultures. In a quick poll, 80 percent agreed with a statement to that effect. But Stephan Schillerwein, director of research at Infocentric Research, said tools alone won’t do it. Management has to be open to the change.

An example of that idea popped up during an intranet tour led by Dinesh Tantri, head of knowledge strategy at ThoughtWorks. The hosts observed that his company’s intranet was basically an out-of-the-box installation of Jive, and Digital Workplace Group CEO Paul Miller said he found the intranet hard to navigate.

But Tantri showed statistics that more than half the company’s employees contribute to discussions on the intranet. People use it.

Of social media tools, the most prevalent are blogs and discussion forums, Chambers said, and SharePoint is by far the most popular platform. About 75 percent of companies surveyed were using SharePoint in some capacity.

Other topics discussed in this month’s program included:

The future of work

Jon Froda, co-founder of Podio, a collaboration tool provider, told the hosts about the firm’s new short film, “The Future of Work.” The film follows Podio executives as they tour Europe and the United States to talk to businesspeople about how people will work in years to come. It’ll have to soon get past emails and spreadsheets, he said.

“The way that we work is broken,” Froda said. “It’s not really motivating.”

But Schillerwein said not all work is broken. Some “is managed excellently,” though information work definitely could benefit from more openness.

Facebook haters?

The program’s second live tour came from Rocky Walls, CEO of 12 Stars Media Productions. His intranet runs on the Podio platform, which the hosts quickly identified as looking very much like Facebook or Yammer.

Co-host Paul Levy said that can be a turnoff to some employees, particularly those who are averse to Facebook. Froda said he’s never heard any such complaints. Schillerwein chimed in to say that familiarity is the biggest factor. If employees know Facebook, then they’ll feel comfortable in an intranet environment that resembles it.

The discussion spurred some chatter on Twitter. For example, @ChristySeason said that if Facebook-like sites scare executives, the company probably isn’t ready for collaborative software yet.

Oscar Berg of Tieto, a guest co-host on the program, argued that appearance isn’t the main thing. “The question is: How do you actually execute your tasks in this type of environment?”

Source: Matt Wilson, www.ragan.com

Categorised in: Collaboration

Nancy Goebel

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