I recently ran into a slew of articles and Tweets touching on this topic. Yet despite all the talk and the fact many organisations understand that the locked down intranet (1.0) of old wont do, I thought there is still much debate about what its new iteration (the social intranet) is and why it is important. So I thought I would try and collect some answers, if only for my own purposes of clarity. In essence this is a distillation of my experiences and these are my views although I did get several insights from a really excellent conversation held on the topic via Twitter which did provide lots of food for thought (see my favourite tweet further down). I would love to hear your thoughts in a comment :)
The critical part
The list of 10 items relates to the things that make an intranet social so before getting onto those let me cover the other aspect of the topic which is why an intranet is critical. I have captured a similar list of reasons why a social business should start internally and if you agree with any of this, then you will agree (as I believe) that the intranet is the platform to make it all happen. Since I compiled that list, two key articles by others essentially verify this. One recounts how PepsiCo makes employees social ambassadors by turning a bit of its intranet inside-out making selected internal newsletter articles available to post externally. The other focuses on why internal social networks are now an important proving ground as both a means to drive collaboration and as a test bed for future social initiatives, according to IBM’s 2011 Tech Trends report.
So now onto the list of 10 reasons that make an intranet social (they are brief and to the point in keeping with our micro-blogging age :) However, note these points relate to a social intranet in its ideal sense because of course very few organisations are achieving this ideal as this recent research points out.
1. The focus in new style social intranets is now on people not content as it used to be although this does not mean content is no longer relevant – see next point
2. Content is authored collaboratively by anyone and the emphasis is either knowledge sharing or documentation that is useful and up to date (all related to the business of course – in this sense context is key)
3. Further to the last point, anyone can contribute and everyone is involved (from CEO to PA’s). In other words, there is top down and bottom up involvement and this is critical for success.
4. It supports work processes and helps people get their work done more efficiently (its not just virtual water cooler). Focus is therefore much more around integration with existing processes, supporting day to day work or alongside project work
5. Publishing workflows and approvals are kept to a minimum and so too private areas (although for highly sensitive data this is still important)
6. It has a mix of key social features: activity streams, authoring (wiki style), networking (connecting, finding expertise, visible social graph, etc.), blogging, etc.
— Andy Jankowski (@andyjankowski) January 26, 2012
7. Outcomes are measured in terms of business performance: better and faster decision making, improved knowledge sharing, increased innovation effectiveness, greater employee engagement (improving motivation) which in turn is reflected outward towards satisfying customers, etc.
8. A community manager or team is in place alongside a light yet necessary governance policy in order to guide employee behaviour in light of the newly enabled conversations
9. Intranets are predominantly internal and closed but boundaries (firewalls) are becoming permeable. Access via mobile, remote work and the open social web that people demand access to and at best there is some integration with (as in the PepsiCo example above) drive this.
10. Gaming constructs (gamification) play an increasingly important role as a way of rewarding contribution but also of making the process of collaboration more enjoyable, thus creative, innovative, etc.
Can you think of any others or were any of mine wrong? Please add a comment or let me know on Twitter: