Launch an intranet before it

With more than half of organizations in the Western world now using intranet-based blogs, wikis and discussion forums, according to Prescient Digital Media Ltd. CEO Toby Ward. He says companies that have lagged behind on an Enterprise 2.0 strategy are at risk for outright failure. But according to another industry professional, slow and steady might actually be a good thing when it comes to corporate 2.0 initiatives.

In a global survey of over 500 companies across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Toronto-based Prescient Digital Media found that many Web 2.0 tools are approaching mainstream acceptance in the corporate world. Wikis were found in 47 per cent of organizations, blogs in 45 per cent and discussion forums in 46 per cent, the report found.

“It’s hit the critical mass where it’s essentially a mainstream technology,” Ward said, adding that the intranet tools are no longer a “nice-to-have” or a future wish for many companies. He also found that half of respondents spent less than $10,000 on their Enterprise 2.0 initiatives.

But despite the ability to implement a corporate intranet on the cheap, Ward said that satisfaction levels for these initiatives remain low. Only 29 per cent of organizations rate the tool functionality as good or very good, while 24 per cent rate them as poor or very poor.

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What intranet use can tell an IT department

For Ward, avoiding these mediocre numbers starts at the top with a proper business plan that fosters strong support from executive leaders.

“If you look at an organization like Cisco for example, John Chambers not only has his own blog, but he also has his own vlog where he video podcasts for employees and they can post comments,” Ward said. “He’s been doing it for years and employees love it. But if there’s a mid-level corporate communications manager doing the same thing is it going to get the same level of readership and engagement?”

The second ingredient, he said, is to plan for success and take into consideration why the employees will need to use the 2.0 tools and how it will make the business more successful.

“An intranet is only one part technology and three parts people and process, so you really need to know what you’re getting into,” Ward said. “Your plan has to have change management as well, because it’s not just enough to ‘build it and they will come.’ Sure, some of the geeks and propellerheads certainly will, but you’ve got to work to promote and market 2.0 tools to most employees.”

While agreeing with Ward’s tips for a successful intranet implementation, Greg Michetti, president of Edmonton-based Michetti Information Solutions Inc., took issue with the results and felt that the numbers were significantly higher than they are in reality.

“Don’t forget there’s still a huge portion of companies that are still scared like hell of Facebook,” he said. “To come out and say an organization without a 2.0 strategy risks outright failure is more of a scare tactic than anything.”

“Before you jump into a full blown SharePoint site, wikis coming out the ying yang, blogs that nobody will read and discussion forums where nobody is talking, I would approach it a lot more cautiously,” he added.

Starting off small and ensuring that employees actually understand the purpose and guidelines of the intranet are two areas to consider, Michetti said.

“I’ve seen a lot of in-house, corporate SharePoint sites where even though employees are encouraged to put up the coffee schedule or post photos from the company picnic, they’re still nervous about doing that because they’re not sure it will meet with company policy,” he said.

Michetti added that corporate leadership will help alleviate these fears and accelerate the intranet along a path to success.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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