If the rumours are anything to go by, it’s time for the humble old intranet to bow out gracefully in the face of slew of “Facebooks for the enterprise” or enterprise social networks (ESNs). That’s according to Toby Spendiff, Intergen’s practice principal for portals, content and collaboration.
“The intranet as we know it needs to evolve and get with the programme when it comes to being more social,” he says. “But don’t abandon your intranet just yet for shiny new cloud-based social collaboration tool.”
Spendiff says intranets fulfil very real organisational need but they’re often few steps removed from the action.
“They lack everyday interaction, and they’re far less frequented than they could be.” Spendiff says the intranet has its place, “but ideally we want the best of both worlds”.
“When we talk about communication, or the exchange of information, it’s continuum. At one end of the continuum it’s controlled, and at the other end information is totally uncontrolled, like gossip.”
Spendiff believes there will always be place for controlled information, and social network isn’t that place.
“Sometimes you need to get your hands on the authoritative document right away and have confidence that it is absolutely correct. It would be hard to manage your travel forms and policies within an ESN, for example, with any confidence that you have the definitive version.
“We want the confidence that we’re getting the hard facts on the intranet, and then to also be able to gauge sentiment, find out what people think and get the consensus on things through an ESN.”
Spendiff says the biggest strength of an intranet is enterprise search.
“It’s great to have many types of information and different channels,” he says, “but how do we have oversight over all this information?”
He says enterprise search gives the ability to surface not only all publicly available organisational information pertaining to search term – from your intranet, document management system, records management systems, collaboration sites and now ESNs – but also external information as well – reaching out into Facebook, Bing and news channels, for example.
“Rather than getting embroiled in tug-of-war over whether intranet or ESN is better, we need to focus on supporting improved knowledge management using the complementary capabilities of both.” M

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