What matters in your intranet ? The backstage !

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Following my quick overview of Jane McConnel’s study on the state of Digital Workplace, I’d like to point at a too frequent mistake made in intranet projects.

I use the word intranet because it’s the common way to name it but using it is already a mistake. If the word “digital workplace” has been around for a certain time that’s for a reason. Intranets moved from being a portail for content nobody reads except if forced to a work and life environment that’s both meaningful and useful in people’s day to day lives.

Don’t call me an intranet ! I’m a digital workplace

That’s not a matter of words only : there’s a difference in terms of sense and purpose. Thinking about that I recently had a look again at Gartner’s eights building blocks for the digital workplace.

• Digital workplace vision: why, what and how
• Digital workplace strategy: write a comprehensive road map
• Workplace employee engagement: encourage a corporate culture of autonomy, accountability and empowerment
• Digital workplace organizational change: this changes everything
• Digital workplace processes: how to be the right kind of enabler
• Digital workplace information: on demand and on target
• Digital workplace metrics: measurement as a tool for change and evaluation Digital workplace technology: get smart

In too many cases here is how how concerns are prioritized :

1°) Content. The old paradigm of a content-only descending platform dies hard.

2°) Technology. How to display the content

3°) Other drivers. Everything about people’s actual needs to get their work done.

4°) Change. How to make people use the platform.

I’m not saying that change is overlooked but that it’s hard to handle without being clear with all the previous points.

Change is about the intranet and people, not the business

But if you read cautiously Jane’s study or the Gartner’s post, there’s something missing that is often overlooked : enterprise transformation. How should the organization evolve to make the most out of the technology and put people in a context that makes sense instead of providing them with a technology that makes many things possible and urge them to use it while, at the same time, management and processes are forcing them to work the old way.

Finally the front end, what’s visible is changed, people are asked to change but what does not change is the foundations everything lies on : how the business works. What often leads to shaky situations where, in the end, technology is blend while it was not deployed in an appropriate context.

The focus is on what happens on stage and what happens backstage has very little importance. So there’s no surprise if some intranets seem to be living artificially, being more show appartements than the image of how people actually work.

Intranets are means, not ends.

I’m not saying that transforming an organization just because the preliminary study showed that people’s actual needs were dramatically different than what was expected is easy. Sometimes even if they’re given the right technology they won’t use it unless everything around changes.

I can’t remind of any business that transformed because of its intranet. Be leveraging the intranet, yes. But not because of it.

What works is businesses that have a vision of the future of work and organization and turn this vision into action. In this case the intranet catalyzes change and supports new way of working.

On the other hand when the intranet is seen as an end and not a means serving a greater purpose there are many chances no one is going to use it.

Intranets are pulled by a greater purpose, they don’t push organizations to change.

Unfortunately, too many businesses still build intranets because they must have one and not because tey have a vision to support.

In short, what’s really important in your intranet project is what happens backstage.

 

Image credit : Backstage by dreadek  via Shutterstock