The Social Intranet

Many organisations have used a variety of tools to implement intranets including Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Quickr. As such they have succeeded in providing a central place where information can be placed for access by the staff. A lot of organisations struggle with how to structure their intranet for a variety of reasons, but usually including:

1. Lack of experience of the people involved in understanding the technology and what it is capable of.
2. Trying to come up with any structure other than the organizational hierarchy is a) politically too difficult b) would take too long and c) the amount of information lurking in corners that has to be pulled out to make sense of it all is too big.
3. Internal IT staff have dabbled with the intranet and reckon its easy and so therefore any kind of outside help – from people who know what they’re doing – is usually shunned.

Thus, many intranets follow the organization chart. The Product Department has its own site, the Research Department their own site, Sales have their place, and so on. What has this achieved? Very little in my opinion other than putting everything in the middle.

Sure, the Sales department now can all share a product spec and the Research department can gain access to essential safety information, but the fundamental goal of the solution – to unify information and foster cross-organizational collaboration – in most cases fails.

As an IBM or Microsoft Partner, therefore, trying to sell an intranet is well nigh impossible and even when you have a strong track record the natural bias and skepticism of the IT department often prevents any traction. How much chance, therefore, do you think the humble partner has of trying to convince the IT department that SOCIAL NETWORKING plays some part in their organisation?

It’s easy to bash an intranet, but fundamentally they often end up as glorified network drives and repositories of out of date information. The key to making a success out of such a system is to embed it in the fabric of the organization, making it both the hub and the spokes of the productivity wheel. Most intranets don’t do that but, in my experience, IBM Connections can offer many of the intranet tools people want with the ability to be front-and-center when it comes to business process improvement.

I am not going to turn this into a sales pitch, but the key message to consider is this: If I only ever hang out in the Sales area of the intranet, how can I possibly learn more about what my organization does? If I want to improve my own sales performance how would I go about finding out more and finding people to help me? Chance are your intranet won’t do this. IBM Connections does.

No one in your organisation knows everything themselves. They all need to ask other people for advice, facts, procedures, and basic knowledge about what to do, how something works, what we did before, etc. Social business systems like IBM Connections don’t replace human interaction, but instead help you to easily discover knowledge you would have had no chance of finding in the traditional intranet. Sure – if you had known to go digging four folders down in the Product development departments Projects folder, you might have found that product spec for a competitor’s system? But the bigger the system and the bigger the organization, the smaller the chances of doing so.

Discovery and tagging are the keys to this transformation. Let’s say you are preparing for a bid for a customer who is considering purchasing your biggest competitor’s solution over yours. You’ve done your best to find competitive information, compare and contrast their product with yours, etc. What you don’t know is that one of your colleagues in the Development department has just done a comparison. In an intranet you might miss this fact. Your colleague tags the information he puts in with your competitor’s name and bam – it pops up on your radar right away.

This is an example of intelligent discovery which a flexible solution like IBM Connections makes possible. Any structure of intranet is cut right across using tagging and intelligent search. Discovering something you didn’t know can make all the difference to our lives and our success.

In a business setting you often don’t know what you don’t know. With a Social Intranet such as IBM Connections you can start to discover value elsewhere in the organization which works for you, and not just afor the IT department.

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