People struggle to find meaning in life. Our place in the world. The value we provide. Our political persuasions allow us to either rethink definitions or preserve our traditions & institutions. Funnily enough, this philosophical divide plays out in technology all the time.
The morbid question – Is the intranet dead? – seems to be popping its head up recently. I get it, the world is evolving, our expectations of ‘digital’ has changed and technology is at a point where it’s no longer a barrier to seizing opportunity.
Socialists would argue the traditional Intranet is dead or at least facing an identity crisis. The word shouldn’t be used or should significantly be redefined to reflect modern times.
Conservatives would argue there is no crisis, the Intranet is fine as is and should not change its definition. Doing so will shake the digital foundations of any modern enterprise.
It all comes back to meaning; what do we mean when we say Intranet?
The Google Definition:
“a local or restricted communications network, especially a private network created using World Wide Web software.”
Definition sets the baseline. It helps us see understand if any change is required. Here are some insights from the definition.
Local or restricted
The core here is identity. Identity brings utility. Identity powers relevance. Who should have access? What content should they see? Access is historically defined by organisational boundaries i.e. All staff should have access, but not contractors or service providers.
Gone are the days when the intranet didn’t know who you are.
Communication + Network
The foundations of an intranet. Communication is arguably the most important aspect. It’s evidenced by Corporate Communications teams having ownership and being influential when it comes to decision making. It’s viewed as the primary communications network as it’s available to everyone. It’s there when you login. It’s there when you open your browser.
Metcalf’s law is relevant here. The value of the system is proportional to the square-root of connections. Meaning – the more systems, people & content a person is connected to, the higher the value. Pre API-Revolution, meaningful integration was but a dream. We are now seeing the value of APIs – Data is the digital currency which flows through APIs.
Intranets need to become more networked. More connected. More relevant.
- It does not limit how it’s consumed – It doesn’t specify browser, device, time or even place.
- It limits how its created – Only World Wide Web software? So 2000. Conceptually this type of software is used, but its not limited to it.
- It doesn’t limit evolution: My favourite. It shouldn’t be left to deteriorate whilst others evolve.
- It doesn’t encapsulate trends: These days we hear about intelligence, digital workplace, responsive, <insert buzz word here>
- It doesn’t limit ownership; What are the roles & responsibilities of each group involved? What’s the hierarchy & decision-making process?
I favour evolution, not revolution. Definitions need to strike the right balance between ambiguity and being too explicit. We can’t lose sight of the core – Communications, Network & Identity. I do think we should drop the WWW part. Here’s the new definition:
“a local or restricted communications network, especially a private network”
Beyond the Intranet?
You may think it’s a boring adjustment. To me it provides the right amount of ambiguity that allows companies to give meaning to their intranet, keep a close eye on trends and deliver something that helps people be a valued part of the network.
At its core the intranet is not dead. We have evolved the meaning as technology has enabled different opportunities. These trends are just ways of delivering the core definition in more eccentric ways.
Perhaps a new label is required? Digital Workplace? Digital Front door? Modern Workplace? Label it what you will, the definition is still the same.
How to get started –5 Step’s to sustained success
So how do you delivery something? Process is important as it ensures focus. These 5 steps are what I typically. I’ll do a follow up blog on this process.
- Define ownership, roles & responsibilities
- Define meaning & Scope: focus on evolution
- Select your platform
- Build for Day 1
- Analyse, Sustain & Evolve