Social intranets: think of the people and purpose first, technology later.
The Digital Workplace 24-hour (#DW24) seminar/conference/discussion showcased a range of different company intranets and tools. I couldn’t stay up for the whole time – I need my six hours sleep – but a few things were clear, at least to me:
The technology – Virgin Media seemed to have by far the best social intranet, developed by Cisco. But it was more the specific purpose of it that interested me – it focused on flexible working primarily (see diagram). It shows that introducing a social intranets needs a real purpose, rather than just a presumption that it must be a Good Thing.
The value – it was hard to get a real insight into the value of a social intranet. Yes, collaboration is important for organisations. But how successful have some of these organisations been? Hard to tell, as adoption is still in its infancy; and the outcomes (new innovations etc) haven’t always been measured.
Inside-out approach – a few companies talked about how the social element can extend externally; and Royal Mail showcased myroyalmail.com which is completely external (albeit with chat rooms behind a wall). In some ways, there’s no reason not to open up part of your intranet to the outside world, especially if it provides a greater connection between colleagues and customers.
Just a few hours after listening in to #DW24, I left to go and meet a contact who is working on a social intranet for an investment bank. Selling a social intranet into an investment bank isn’t easy – and here’s why: it’s hierarchical – so if the leadership don’t get involved, the majority won’t; they don’t like the word social – not only out of ‘fear’, but also because ‘if you’re doing that, why aren’t you working?’; and finally, how collaborative is an investment bank really?
So, it again comes back to purpose. Define the purpose of your intranet/social intranet. What is its business purpose and how is that aligned to the needs of the company and its people? Remember, a social intranet is only a tool; if it’s not part of a wider programme of collaboration, learning and cultural improvement, then it will be dead on its feet.
A little bit like me after 24 hours (-6 for sleep) at #DW24