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A Review of the 2011 in Intranets and the Digital Workplace

A Review of the 2011 in Intranets and the Digital Workplace

Many people are boldly doing 2012 predictions, which is nice guesswork if you can get it. I’m going to stick to more certain ground and talk about the 10 things that stood out for me in 2011.

1) Intranets remained stubbornly not dead. There seemed to be a rash of articles by people writing headlines “The Intranet is Dead” and then saying why it wasn’t. Unfortunately the meme that leaked out was the ‘dead part’ (e.g.  Death of the Intranet, Reports of Intranet’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated,  Death of the Intranet: ‘The Times They are A-changin’)

2) Digital workplace concept grew steadily.  Use of ‘Digital Workplace’ as a term grew progressively, significantly with Jane McConnell changing her Annual Trends report  from ‘Intranets’ to ‘Digital Workplace’,  and IntraTeam (including my own Digital Workplace Model), Gerry McGovern and others all picking up the term.  It’s fair to say though that the idea is growing far faster than that specific label, with the Netherlands having a “New Way of Working” week, and the UK and Belgium holding  a “National Working from Home Day”. The trend looks to be accelerating for 2012 driven in part by the growth of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) and expectations of remote access, and government moves to promote Anywhere  Working (e.g. in the UK). Collaboration, as a component of the digital workplace idea, also seems to be gaining traction.

3) SharePoint 2010 was the default choice…for intranets and sometimes it felt like everything else too.  2011 was the year that many organisations bit the bullet and switched from earlier platforms (e.g. OpenText’s survey of over 2000 organisations  found 49% used SharePoint 2010 as their primary platform). In Russia SharePoint was marvellously advertised as the perfect solution for when “office plankton is driving us crazy

4) SharePoint dissatisfaction grew too. Almost inevitably alongside the success, many SharePoint Intranet managers started to feel that SharePoint 2010 out-of-the-box was already looking dated, particularly its social features. 2011 was a great year for add-on vendors, with Newsgator in particular coming out with some strong case studies. Harmon.ie and Attini also showcased some neat ideas.

5) Office 365 went live.  Microsoft launched their cloud-based SharePoint and Office solution, though awareness outside SharePoint die-hard circles seemed relatively low. I hope to see some decent case studies in 2012 (and not just the same old BPOS ones rebranded).

6) Lync lauynchd. To me the most exciting component of Office 365 is the inclusion of Lync, and this deserves much more recognition than it has had so far. The promise of mode-switching collaboration (e.g. chat to voice to document sharing) has been around for a long time, but Lync seems to be the first to really do it seamlessly enough that the technology doesn’t get in the way.

7) Social grew; Yammer was oddly antisocial. 2011 was the year that everyone wanted twitter on their intranets. Yammer was the leading light, with their ease of sign up leading to many ‘unofficial pilots’, though this viral approach meant that Yammer conversations often happened in quarantine from the rest of an organisation’s digital workplace. Despite this, there’s clearly a useful role for microblogging (e.g. study of Yammer use at Cap Gemini by University of Sydney).

The social media theme also trundled on, with ‘Internal Social Media’ becoming ‘Social Intranets’, becoming ‘Social Business’. I do see ‘social’ fatigue setting in now so perhaps we could talk about ‘business’ and ‘intranets’ going forward? Many intranet managers seem to have tried the social element and are now either just getting on with it or have hit cultural brick walls. If nothing else,  News seems to be finally losing its stranglehold on the homepage, with some good examples of more balanced approaches from for example IBM’s new intranet design.

8) Gamification played up. I’ve had my doubts about gamification on intranets, but it at least got people back into thinking that the workplace could be a pleasurable, even fun experience. Rypple have been working on Enterprise Gamification for some time, and their acquisition by SalesForce has potential to make them more mainstream. However, the cloud based approach makes it ever more likely that companies will rush in with a software deployment rather than getting their heads around the real issues of getting gamification right.

9) Governance (again).  This could be a permanent feature on any annual intranet and always sparks discussion in the intranet and SharePoint training courses I do. The governance issue was helped by Martin White’s excellent Intranet Manager’s Handbook coming out, but the shift to user-generated content and consumerisation are both sparking new bush fires as soon as others are put out.

10) Adoption is being fostered. This is probably next on the list of recurring themes, though for 2012 love is in the air, with IBF running an “Intranet Love Affairs” campaign and I too will be speaking on “Loving the Intranet: Re-thinking Employee Adoption” at IntraTeam 2012 in Denmark.

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

  • Jo (RSPB)
    Posted at 2:30 pm, 4 January, 2012

    Great post, Sam – some really useful links in there to refer back to! Thank you for summing up 2011 in a simple way!

  • Posted at 9:01 pm, 4 January, 2012

    A review of the 2011 in Intranets and the Digital Workplace – ClearBox Consulting…

    This article has been submitted to Intranet Lounge – Trackback from Intranet Lounge…

  • Posted at 10:07 am, 6 January, 2012

    Happy New Year Sam and a great assessment. Digital workplace and the ‘network’ being somewhere other than an office will increase because the ‘corporate office’ is such a illogical place to position innovation workers. I would like to see 2012 as the year we rid ourselvces of the ‘work from home’ label and just use ‘on the network’ to label when someone is online.

  • Posted at 8:01 am, 11 January, 2012

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