What intranet use can tell an IT department

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m getting addicted to our new company intranet.

This doesn’t follow conventional wisdom. Intranets have been so boring for so long that creating them and not using them is probably one of the most predictable paths in project management. There simply isn’t a graveyard big enough to store all the intranets that have been left for dead by users, companies and certainly their IT departments. Employee newsletters may be one of the last areas of communication where print still tends to triumph over online. Which is a long way of saying when we launched this intranet, I wasn’t expecting much.

It helps that the whole thing is based upon a social networking platform. Instead of relying on some woefully overworked employee (usually someone in marketing or, worse, HR) to corral content from all departments and then publish it to the site, every user gets a profile that includes blogging privileges, access to forums, groups based on department and the ability to add announcements, videos, images or even audio files.

As with most employers, our senior managers are really pushing for us to use this portal, suggesting we make it our home page. We’ve started talking about how we could avoid some in-person meetings by simply providing updates on the intranet where appropriate. Our upcoming holiday party has been extensively outlined and promoted through the announcements area. The surprise to me, however, is that there are actually a few of us logging on and contributing every day.

Some share links to news items they think could teach us something. Others provide reminders about upcoming events, or tips on how to perform tasks in Excel. What’s great about this intranet is it’s easy. Unlike the intranets of old – and we’ve all probably been exposed to them – you’re not fiddling around with code, with restricted content management systems sites that limit you to text and a few pre-determined image sizes. This is as close to a corporate version of Facebook as we’re likely to get.

The user base is not large so far – we’re not a large company – and I think it would be fair to say that the most active members include some of the people who are fairly driven in other parts of our organization as well. This kind of follows the usual rule that a small portion of your audience accounts for the bulk of the participation, but it may also indicate something else.

An intranet – or at least a really good intranet – is going to attract those Type A personalities who want another channel to collaborate, communicate and contribute — what I’ll call the three Cs of effective online usage. These are the people who will also most likely be the early adopters of the IT department’s biggest innovations. That’s why IT needs to be among the intranet addicts, because they need to form as close a relationship with those people online as off. There’s no longer any excuse in a Web 2.0 age to build a crappy intranet. Just as there’s no excuse to ignore any opportunity to identify the users who will make IT departments successful.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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