The intranet is dead, long live the intranet

Reading time: 3 minutes

It never really existed anyway.

It’s no longer useful to call it the intranet. It’s just a concept. Everyone has a different idea of what the word means. That adds complexity. That means risk.

As an idea, a construct, it’s been useful, but moving forward it’s more of a hindrance. Who does it serve to call it the “intranet”?

The three ages of the intranet:

  1. Attic geeks and vanity publishers
  2. Structure and order, command and control
  3. The death of the intranet

1. Attic geeks and vanity publishers

No law and order

Unmanaged content, unmanaged contributors

Poor/no navigation, poor/no search

Anarchy and chaos, and some quite good stuff

And why not? Now that the internet is here, everyone’s a web designer (right?), everyone’s a publisher – why shouldn’t that be true of intranets?

2. Structure and order, command and control

Control centre, rules, policy

Consistency, branding, homogeneity

Standards (W3C, design, editorial, accessibility…)

Search, Navigation

Framework, Structure

CMS, workflow, version control, templates

Governance

3. The death of the intranet

Intranet merges with desktop to become “screen-based working environment”

Oh and it’s still a portal if you want it to be but that’s always just confused things

Helps people do their job, perform tasks

Understands context

Attempting to control everything has stifled creativity and innovation and the willingness to share information and ideas with colleagues

But some of the online applications are starting to pay dividends, provide ROI. Particularly those which conducted user research as part of the design process and didn’t simply expose the inner “buiness-system” workings leaving people flummoxed and exasperated!

CMS has worked for some people and some content, but is not the panacea

One size doesn’t fit all

New stuff is cropping up all over the place – but it’s not all inside the organisation

Social bookmarking, folksonomies, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, conversations on discussion forums

How do we keep track of it all?

How do we keep control?

Do we want to? Do we need to?

Contextualise content. If content is king, context is god.

Make it relevant.

Combine taxonomies (local top-down to the systems they describe, controlled classification system) and folksonomies (bottom up, how people out there have described the stuff)

Stuff out there is as relevant and useful as stuff in here

The firewall is a hindrance

It’s not the intranet anymore, it’s a (mainly) screen-based extension of what I do (when I’m working, maybe)

But I still need a way in.

Well, not just one way in…

Now… what should we call these ways in?

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