Thursday, December 11, 2008

Intranet 2.0 in Ten (Not-So-Easy) Steps

Chris McGrath of Thought Farmer presented a great session on the new wave of intranets.

1. Blow up your old intranet. It probably has become a document dumping group. (I  think of it as a roach motel. Documents go in, but they never come out.)

2. Turn Users into Authors. Turn readers into writers. Let people edit documents. Put a big "EDIT" button on each page. Seek information and knowledge. Graymont, a mining company, pushes intranet editing out to everyone, including blue collar workers. The truck drivers have access to and can edit the intranet.

3. Expose the Social Context of the Content. You need to see who created the information, who edited and who commented. Then also what other information they have created and who they report to. (More important as the size of the company grows.) A particular point of information source is the employee directory. There you can aggregate the reporting structure, background and other information creation.

4. Make Things Findable. If they can't find stuff then the intranet is a failure (An intranet is all about supplying information to the enterprise.) Provide multiple ways to find. Search by words, browse, tags. Chris also mentioned a "work-stream": a time based view of changes to the intranet. This is a bit more serendipitous. Show recent changes.

5. Add Signals. When something changes, you should signal those who are interested in it. An email notice or an RSS feed accomplish this goal. The key result of signal is that it turns the intranet into a communications platform.

6. Provide Scaffolding.
When you do a physical building project, you put up scaffolding then pull it off when the building is father along. It is easier to edit than to create. It is easier to copy than to create. Do not present people with a blank page. Set an initial structure for the intranet like the top level. For example: people, offices, projects. Chris recommended a card-sorting execrise as a way to determine the initial structure. Chris recommended getting an information architect. He also suggested as a tool for card-sorting.

7. Hold a Barnraising. A way to create an initial block of good content. Migrate exisitng content or create new content. Get a bunch a people into a room. Set up a page for each employee in the company.

8. Make Them Use It Once. Most people are intimidated by learning something new. peopel need to try it once to see how easy it is to use. Get people in a room with a short training exercise. A great first step is having everyone add some information to their employee page. Then have them comment on a page and have them create a page.

9. Lead By Example. The more senior people ou get involved the more likely the intranet will be successful. CEO comments and pages tend to be the most popular. The CEO's blog will be the most read blog.

10. Get the Intranet "in the flow."  Most intranets store the artifact of information instead of the acting as the agent to create the information. You can also hijack the flow. Grab an email and have it published onto the intranet (respecting security of course).

Bob Buckman's ultimate idea-sharing system:

  • one transfer step
  • all employees have access
  • all employees can contribute
  • available anywhere
  • available at anytime
  • indexes every word
  • users contribute in their native language
Bob proposed this in the 1980's (before the internet and intranets).

For a large company, the intranet should be rolled out in smaller groups. If the company is 200 or smaller, then roll it our across the entire organization. You take lessons from smaller groups and apply them up to the larger organization.

Chris thinks the "Turning Users into Authors" is the most important. Most companies do not succeed in "getting the intranet in the flow." Can your company operate without the intranet? Would anyone notice if the intranet went down?

There is a repeat of this webinar on Thursday December 11 at 1pm PST: Intranet 2.0 in 10 Not-So-Easy-Steps


  1. Hi Doug,

    Great post. Boils down very succinctly the challenge of creating a true communication platform on the Intranet. We are using a customized version of the Sharepoint blog site to achieve number 2 and the concept is taking off. A few practice areas have signed on, with more to follow. But there is a huge amount of work that needs to happen to make this vision a reality.

    Hope all is well with your new position and enjoy the holidays.


  2. Lots of good ideas here, Doug. Thanks.

    It will be interesting to see how #10 (getting the intranet in the flow) works with the DMS and e-mail in law firms. Having one-stop shopping is very alluring, but will that one-stop be Outlook for the foreseeable future?

    - Mary

  3. Mary -
    One of the challenges is realizing that email is not the only way to communicate. We are willing to have a phone on our desk and email on our computer so there is not a one-stop at law firms.

    But the 2.0 tools do need to do a better job at integrating the notification system and replies, particularly with blackberry access. SharePoint notoriously fall short working with a blackberry.

  4. Guy -

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    The 2.0 change to the intranet is a big change for the organization, just as it has been a huge change for internet sites. Look at the changes to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. They are all getting very 2.0.

    There is a lot of working re-purposing firm knowledge into the 2.0 platforms.

    You may have a few attorneys wandering the halls with some extra time to edit and create content.

  5. Hey Doug, thanks for the nice summary of the presentation! We also have a blog post with some screenshots of the intranets we talked about:


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