I have a startling and somewhat unnerving confession to make. I haven’t used a company Intranet in any capacity for around 3 years now. The Intranets have been there, in a fashion, but haven’t been remotely useful or worth even thinking about. Why is this unnerving? Well, it’s made me question everything I thought and advocated about Intranets for many years.
The organisations I’ve been working for are all successful and, in many areas, bucking the trends of the recession in their particular markets. In each, email, IM (primarily Skype) and shared drives are the established ways of working. I have found myself becoming adept at navigating shared drives, learning about the organisations from them and pulling out the information I need. On the whole, the people around me are even more adept at doing this. It’s what they know, how they’ve done it for years and what they do every day.
In a time of ever tightening budgets and laser sharp focus on measurable results I have had to examine and continually reassess the Return On Investment any changes to the Intranet is likely to have and is there really any business justification for changing the way things are currently done – If it works, why try to fix it?
It’s a tough call at the moment. During the last 3 years, I have seen and experienced how internal communications, project management, CRM, HR and marketing communications can run more than adequately using the combination of email, IM, shared drives and Office documents. Whereas I have used SharePoint extensively on projects in the past, I’m fast coming to conclusion that a few simple interactive Excel templates in a shared folder can be just as effective.
If an organisation is practised at sharing and communicating information through long established methods and has evolved those as new capabilities, such as Skype, have come along are they really going to gain much more by spending a lot of time and effort on their old Intranets?
I’m fast coming to the view, that if you are ‘knowledge worker’ and have been communicating and sharing information for years – either online or offline, you simply adapt to the toolsets available. You apply the same underlying principles of simplicity, usefulness, context and lifecycle in a hyperlinked way but don’t necessarily need content to be sitting in a web browser under the banner of ‘Company Intranet’.
I’d be interested to hear how many people really believe their Intranet is so business critical that they couldn’t succeed without it? What am I missing here? Are there really killer Intranet apps that couldn’t be achieved in other ways?