Intranet and portails : between centralization and deconcentration

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one-size-fits-allI recently predicted the possible comeback of enterprise portal. Not to make it a basic host for a CMS as it’s been for long – what made it lose credit – but as a service integrator. In the same line, Claude Malaison wondered if the advent of social caused the death of portals[FR]. He came to a similar conclusion : there’s no absolute answer. The portal as we knew it does not make any sense anymore but if we come with a new mindset it may become the pillar it’s always been supposed to be.

From the Portal to the User Experience Platform

Claude adds a very interesting thinking with the notion of “User Experience Platform” or UXP, proposed by Gartner.

gartner UXP

It fits well with what I previously wrote. The difference between old discredited portals and those that would make sense today is user experience. And, please, dont confuse user experience and user interface. It’s not only about exposing personalized content – the leat acceptable thing – but also make them contextual and allow synergies and bridges between many tools and the information they host. What matters is not to have a single tool/space but a consistent and unified experience. At this point we also notice the shift from a tool-centric vision to a platform centric one that is definitively a strong trend.

Intranets in an “Anything Anywhere” mode

But if we accept that intranet won’t be made of a single tool and that what prevails is the experience and platform, there’s an approach that can kill the portal. Some call it “social anywhere”, but I prefer “Anything Anywhere”.

As a matter of fact, everyone admits that a major concern is about moving the center of gravity of the workplace. If people have their habits in a given tool they’ll be very likely to stay there. That’s the reason why email is still eating enterprise social networks for lunch. And if a tool is critical to one’s mission it’s logical that he’ll spend most of his time in without paying attention to what’s around. Consequence : the average user spends most of his time in his mailbox and “prefered” business application and does not have enough time and attention for anything else, whatever the value is.

So the idea is to consider that the place where people consume information and even act on it does not matter. What matters is to have what matters where and when it’s needed and, ideally, in a conceptualized fashion. We can already see the beginnings of this trend : ability to use the social network in the email client, to process emails in the social network, to see social contents in a business tool. These two last cases suppose that context is taken into account : for example the information pushed to CRM users must be related to the customer, the product or context (industry etc..) )f the sales opportunity. And if any kind of interaction must be happen it must be able to start where the user is, whatever the tool that enable the interaction is.

In this perspective we’ll consider that the best social collaboration and networking solutions will be those that people us transparently, without seeing them, rather than those they have to launch. In brief, it does not matter one is in Office, a business application, a social network, an email client, he should be able to do what he needs to, read what matters without caring of the source or the tool that supports the action he wants to trigger.

The Intranet both decentralized and deconcentrated

Will such an approach kills the portal ? I don’t think so. As a matter of fact it’s more about a deconcentrated vision of the workplace than a decentralized one. Centralization still matters for governance and coherence while deconcentration aims at bringing anything anywhere.

Centralization still matters because :

– the concept of UXP supposes a centralized approach and the end of isolated side projects, out of the global governance of the IS and sometimes even against it.

– the need for some users to have a single entry point, a unifying space, no matter users to about their business as they want when they want.

On the other hand, deconcentration makes thing possible locally (in many places of the IS) and not only in a central place.

Whatever the choice will be, the headache will be for communication departments. In a system based of the relevance of information in context, they’ll need to reinvent their practices.