This is the second in a series of five blog posts about some of the likely headline trends for 2015 in the intranet and digital workplace space.
Intranets definitely not dead
One of my headline trends in the intranet and digital workplace for 2015 is that the intranet space as a whole is in a good place.
Over the years there has been a lot of talk about intranets being dead, a provocative statement which seems to stir up emotions of those in the intranet space.
I’ve always thought that the whole “intranet-dead-or-not-dead” debate actually boils down to semantics. If your definition of an intranet is a static content repository with too much corporate comms, then yes, that model provides little value and is unpopular with users.
But many new intranet implementations incorporate social and collaboration features, provide a gateway to an organisation’s workplace applications and may even be optimised for mobile devices. These intranets aren’t dead, they have evolved.
Intranets are back
A couple of months ago I hosted the London ‘award ceremony’ for the Intranet Innovation Awardswhich I help to run for James Robertson and Step Two Designs. I introduced this by saying I thought intranets were “back”, having lost their way after an initial burst of energy driven by knowledge management in the late nineties and early noughties.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of bad intranets of the old ‘static’ type still out there (there are!) but as 2015 gets underway, it seems to me that collectively intranets are in a better place than they have been for many years.
But, you might say, I work as an intranet consultant so I would say that. So in the words of Lloyd Grossman (now a maker of superior pasta sauces), let’s look at the evidence.
There is a growing interest in intranets, not a decline
The Google Trends graph above shows a growth in the instances of search for the term “intranet” since 2004, complete with a predicted rise in 2015. This clearly indicates a general rise in interest in the term “intranet”, after a trough through 2007 and 2008.
This gradual rise may be because of a return to economic confidence indicating there is budget to spend on intranets, or it may be because there are more users connected to the web. Whatever, more people are searching on the term “intranet”.
The global intranet industry appears to be in good shape
This is rather an unscientific view as I don’t have access to some specific market research, but I am personally not experiencing an intranet industry in decline in terms of the activity of software vendors, intranet consultants and general marketing activity.
Last year intranet software start-ups like Incentive were starting to attract bigger clients like NATO., while a more established vendor like Interact expanded, opening a second office in the States. Meanwhile the domain name intranet.com allegedly sold for S160,000 USD in 2013, meaning somebody somewhere must see some commercial value.
The solutions have got better and better
There are now some nice off the shelf intranet solutions that deliver a sophisticated set of capabilities. For example I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from Iris Intranet with great design, integrated social features and other user-centered elements.
Smaller firms now have access to choices such as Jostle, Interact, Intranet Connections and more.
Moreover social and collaboration solutions such as Jive and Salesforce.com Chatter are now gravitating towards more complete intranet-ready solutions which incorporate a publishing element. Yammer might also get there, eventually, when it is better integrated with other elements of Office 365.
There is a global intranet community and it appears to be thriving
In 2014 in the UK, Intranet Now, a grass roots-led “Unconference” was brilliantly organised by Wedge and Brian in a matter of months and sold out. This was a new addition to an already thriving set of intranet conferences already taking place in Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and beyond.
There have never been more opportunities for intranet teams to network either through paid membership of organisations like DWG (disclosure: I work extensively with DWG), free networking groups, LinkedIn communities or the conferences.
Leading edge intranets are doing great things
Each year I’m lucky enough to see the entries in the annual Intranet Innovation Awards and consistently over the past four years the quality of entries has got better and better. There is also the annual Nielsen Norman top 10.
The best intranets are squarely focused on providing value and are aligned to organisational strategy. They are useful reference points for providing information and inspiration for intranet teams looking to raise their intranets to the next level.
The digital workplace concept opens up new possibilities for intranets
In the past few months there has been a definite growth in interest in the concept around the digital workplace. This is opening up new possibilities for intranets and the teams behind them.
I’ll be posting about this more extensively later in the month, but as momentum builds around the value of a more holistic and strategic view of employee’s user experience of work tech then there is a real opportunity for intranets to prove themselves. The intranet is perhaps the most likely candidate for a digital channel to act as a gateway or environment for a variety of workplace applications, with a more integrated user experience.
Intranets are still here!
Intranets have now been around since the mid to late nineties. And they’re still here, with some fundamental roles such as the ability to improve processes and share knowledge changed little since the first wave.
Given the pace of change of technology in the consumer web the intranet is a remarkably resilient channel. Personally I expect intranets to be around for a few more years, especially as they have evolved to become vehicles for collaboration, and are now responding (albeit rather slowly) to the need to be accessible via mobile devices.
What do you think?
So that’s my view. Perhaps I am being over-optimistic? Have I missed any signs that intranets are healthy or in decline? All comments welcome!