The intranet is sick, not dead

The intranet is dead. How many times have we heard this tired, uninformed complaint or false prophecy in the past 10 years? Too many, which coincidentally is equal to the number of half-wits out there that don’t know any better.

Yes, the intranet is sick, under-funded, under-used, under-appreciated, and perhaps even ‘mostly dead’ in many companies. But as Miracle Max (The Princess Bride) so poignantly put it in terms that even children can appreciate, “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

Remember when Amazon was going to kill the book store? And the Kindle was going to kill the book? And when George W. Bush was going to get us all killed? Yes, all are alive, and doing quite well.

Yes the intranet, though sick, is still most alive – and getting better thank you (albeit slowly). He’s been sick for a while, and a lot more liquid cash is required to bring it to its true health but there’s a glimmer of hope…

Rumors of the intranet’s death are greatly exaggerated; idol, foolhardy gossip.

No need to panic, your intranet won’t disappear. Despite the dire, prophetic predictions of many a fiery, false prophet, the intranet will continue to survive its current malaise, or rather, embattled evolution.

More than a few pundits have recently and falsely prophesized the death of intranets (see “Whatever happened to intranets? ). In fact, one of SocialText’s founders, a self-described social media maven, was the first to adorn the pulpit with this death knell prediction more than ten years ago.

Social Intranet Infographic

The fact of the matter: intranets are quite alive. Sure, their current state in the average organization is rather piss-poor, but the intranet is well-ensconced in its mediocre position behind the firewall. The theory goes that social media represents the death blow for intranets, and that social media will replace intranet. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Just as social media won’t kill email, the other equally laughable false prophecy shouted by far too many attention-seeking blowhards, social media isn’t killing anything in the enterprise.

Social media merely represent another channel, another technology, to augment, or enhance the corporate intranet. To be clear: the intranet is defined as a closed internal network, using Internet Protocol technology, protected by a firewall (hosted or not) for an employee audience. Yes, a social media platform such as SocialText, SocialCast, or ThoughtFarmer, can certainly be the main technology platform that powers the intranet, but it won’t kill the intranet, but it can become the intranet. This transformation from standard, traditional intranet to a ‘social’ intranet doesn’t kill the intranet, or email, it merely represents an evolutionary leap.

But the intranet doesn’t depend on technology – technology is merely an enabler. As depicted in the Social Intranet Infographic (above), an intranet’s success and performance is predominantly determined by people and process – authors, publishers, and managers and the rules, standards, and policies that govern their actions. Employees don’t go to the intranet to entertain themselves, or to play with a piece of technology, they’re after information and knowledge, which is technology neutral. The intranet is the platform to serve up this information and knowledge, and social media and other technologies don’t replace its service, but rather augment it.

No the intranet is not going anywhere – and employees will depend on it for corporate news, looking-up phone numbers, accessing pay and compensation statements, and sharing and collaborating with colleagues – regardless of the technology. Like social media, the technology will continue to evolve, as will the entire intranet, but the people and process that support it, will determine its performance and end state, not the technology itself.

4 thoughts on “The intranet is sick, not dead”

  1. Hi Toby,

    Great blog!
    Like you i have been working with intranets for many years and have implemented hundreds. The prophecy that they are dead is wrong.
    In fact i have seen a resurgence in many businesses wanting to do more with their intranet and making it more relevant to the task, role and location. Good intranets can facilitate localised, content in local languages on any device that enables businesses to thrive.
    When social appeared many people thought this was the only way forwards, but now we see the social tools looking for a differentiator. They all do very similar things and they are all looking back towards process now and ‘connectors’ or integration to make them different.
    I think this is a good thing as it proves that intranets are more of a business tool and that they should support the business objectives.

    The Intranet Journey i created a few years back is certainly helping people rescue their intranets and purpose and relevance is coming back.
    The intranet is just the ‘enabler’ and the drive to also think about writing good content and adding value with that elusive ’emotional’ connection with the user is vital.
    I think we have a lot in common and i will certainly be keeping an eye on your future blogs and seminars.
    Happy to pitch in on one if you ever need me 🙂

    All the best


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    1. Hi Toby,

      I couldn’t agree more to your thoughts – especially on social media will replace intranet and email – dumb, dumb, dumb 😉

      Also the zero-email hypothesis never will become true. It is simpley about communication, it is about information flow from a to b. It is about information management, process management and change mangement, topics which you can study at universities already for decades. Way before we started to talk about social intranets…

      Anyhow, I don’t think we should even think about “dead” or “sick” intranets. There are many good ones out there. And also, so many other projects in organizations are then sick as well – so many projects are under-funded, over-time, …

      I believe that simply so many organizations have wrong expectations. They over estimate the adoption rate in the first months, they underestimate the work which needs to be done when “online”…



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