‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’ wrote Mark Twain back in 1897. Much the same could probably be said of the intranet.
As long ago as 2010 I remember clients and colleagues asking this very same question. The first generation of intranets had been found useful in the provision of corporate documentation, but communications managers and knowledge managers quickly discovered that maintaining the intranet was a full-time job and the payback was small. Users found intranets developed on platforms such as SharePoint 2007 unattractive, clunky in operation and difficult to navigate. The joke ‘where’s the best place to hide secret information? Put it in plain view on the intranet’ did the rounds for good reason. Search was preposterously poor, page layouts cluttered and content mostly horribly out of date.
The intervening decade between 2010 and now saw some substantial, if slow, improvements in search, user interface and the ability to publish content. But, in parallel with these improvements, a new breed of tools had found their way into the office and into our social lives. Yammer and Teams in the office and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more in our social lives. Suddenly the way we found knowledge changed. The idea of a one-way street of communications from on-high was immediately antiquated. The concept of one-size-fits-all content also fell by the wayside as old information providers such as TV news stations and radio in our home life and head office communications teams in our work life found themselves competing with special interest providers targeting ever more niche information consumers.
The new breed of tools compartmentalise information so you can be sure it’s relevant to the task at hand and they enable teams to collaborate and share knowledge that was previously stuck in people’s heads or shared in just a single team or location. These are revolutionary changes and they have brought incredible benefits. There is no doubt that without these tools we would have found the transition to remote working under Covid-19 lockdown much, much more challenging.
And yet it is when the world is in chaos, when events become extreme, that the public turns back to the curated news platforms. Whether that’s the BBC, The Times or your ‘legacy’ news provider of choice, studies show that in times of crisis we want our news curated by a ‘trusted’ source. Your personal definition of trust may vary from mine but you are likely to at least validate the stream of personalised news coming from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by checking out the BBC website and you may even revert to that as your sole source of knowledge as the noise from your social media feeds rises to a crescendo of fury, outrage and, often, nonsensical bias.
And so it goes with intranets. Modern tools mean we can consume intranet content from our preferred device, wherever we may be. Information is curated and we know we’re getting the company’s authorised view of the situation, which is vital during times of crisis. Not only that, but information can be made to persist. Trying to search back through Yammer or Teams feeds can be exasperating but intranets provide a way to ensure that important information remains visible or easily found. Using ClearPeople’s Atlas product to manage your intranet even makes it simple for everyone to contribute important information in line with corporate governance policies and for curators to ensure key content is up-to-date and relevant. You can find information quickly with advanced search facilities and you can still tailor your experience to filter out noise.
The intranet may not be as sexy as it once was, but there is little doubt that, just like the trusted news curators in our world outside of work, it has an important place in our corporate toolset. Know when to use the intranet, use it sparingly, integrate it where you need to with your corporate social tools and you can deliver the best of all worlds to your users. Building a shared understanding during these challenging times is more important than ever and the intranet remains the tool of choice to achieve that. So, if your intranet still looks, feels and behaves like one from even a few years ago, take the time to look at what something like our Atlas product can do to support your business through this pandemic and beyond. Not only will you get the benefits of a usable intranet but, with Atlas, you’ll have the basis of a powerful digital workspace capable of supporting even more exciting ways of working.