James’ post outlined how companies like Royal Mail and Asda have a more-or-less open website aimed at staff, many of whom do not have access to computers during the working day. The advantage of this is it is an easy and cost-effective way of reaching these employees.
Of course, the flipside is that confidential communications cannot be posted and generally news stories cannot be commented upon, something which may prove to be a hindrance as the Royal Mail gears up for privatisation with the related change management effort required.
While this situation is relatively unusual for larger corporates (and may become more popular) it’s relatively common in higher education intranets. Here the line between “open” and “closed”, particularly in relation to news and content, is sometimes blurred.
For some of these more “open” university intranets the areas which require authentication tend to provide personalised access to different browser-based systems and applications. These might include details of library books on loan, course timetables, the amount left on the photocopying account and even email. Personalisation seems to be the driver for the required log-in rather than privacy.
There are some obvious reasons for this. Firstly of course university intranets cater for both student and staff populations. Both user sets are highly mobile and are in a constant state of flux, the student population in particular. Messages delivered to students are generally not sensitive, so like their commercial counterparts at the Royal Mail, its simply more practical to deliver communications without the need for users to authenticate.
Most universities are also effectively public institutions so are likely to have a more open approach to communications.
However what is “open” and what is protected varies greatly from university to university. For example the University of Sydney’s intranet (which also featured recently as a Step Two Designs mini-case study) has what looks like an extensive open page, but most of the areas require authentication, bar some news content.
The excellent Queensland University of Technology (QUT) intranet is even more open, coming in two separate flavours for both staff and students. This provides access to systems, including QUT Virtual (their digital workplace equivalent), the learning environment and more, but news, forms, departmental information and also the time of the next bus from the campus are available for all to view.
Many other university and academic intranets are completely password-protected, but those which have more open communications don’t appear to have suffered because of the consequence
Of course academic institutions are very different from commercial organisations, but the common occurrence of these more open sites may lend some weight to the argument that having an open intranet on the internet is a viable option (along with home-access, mobile, digital signage and kiosks) if you have a large non-deskbound user population.