A few of my first thought inspired by the Razorfish report on intranets bet practices. It concerns the distinction made beetween two kind of intranets according to the intanet maturity framework. According to the report information portals are a steph higher than collaboration-driven intranets. Althought I admit (and claim) that such portals are a step in the good direction for better intranets, I think the situation will change with the emergent web 2.0 intranets (aka social intranets or intranets 2.0).
The adoption of user friendly tools as blog or even wiki (even if commun wiki interfaces seems not to be user friendly enough for most employees) will bring people to publish more information than before, to have more discussions. As a consequence, intranets will support more and more content and.
I consider as a key factor of success of such intranets the ability for anyone to track what’s said on such or such subjects not depending on the author…so they need to have the information they need delivered (enven by push) in order to know it exists et eventually start a discussion with the author. Starting from that I think that information portals are the key of success for collaborative-driven intranets (in their 2.0 sense) because they include powerful search engines and deliver a panoramic view of the published information. Moreover the highly level of customization may help build individuals portals for employees according to their favorite topics, as for such or such departement that wants a specific entry on the intranet with service issues. People of the HR doesn’t need the same front datas as people from financial or marketing for example.
So, in my opinion, the portal is not the next step but must be included in the collaborative intranet to make it adopted, then efficient. An opinion confirmed by the deployement of a blog-based collaborative intranet in a french major company, a project I worked on. Users expectation quickly concerned the portal’s evolution which was key (as they mentionned) in their user experience.
We have to become aware that taking too much time to find information (and even not notice when a pertinent information is published) is a waste a time, it impacts ROI and can even make the project fail because its utility will appear clearly. If you also consider people have to change their behaviors to become really collaborative, which is a big effort for most of them (what is evident in their everyday life seems counter-cultural when they’re at the office) I think we can’t afford not to consider this point. They make efforts so we have to down every barrier in order they don’t give up.