Intranet predictions for 2010

By Toby Ward - 1. SharePoint will continue to dominate - All hail the king, SharePoint. SharePoint has become the single biggest, most pervasive intranet platform of all time (present in 50 – 60% of all medium to large-size organizations). While SharePoint is still minimally used for department and team level document sharing and collaboration, more organizations are looking to use it as the enterprise intranet platform.

SharePoint 2010, due to market in late spring, is vastly improved over the former version, MOSS 2007. Many, many organizations will be upgrading to 2010, and begin to use the new platform as the enterprise intranet platform. What’s more, the cost of entry for taking on SharePoint has never been lower as Microsoft SharePoint “in the cloud” with SharePoint Online. SharePoint online already boasts more than 1,000,000 users, and unlike the previous SharePoint Online the 2010 version of SharePoint Online promises to “near feature parity” (with only small exceptions) to the install version.

SharePoint’s market share will soar with SharePoint 2010.

2. IBM will finally become more aggressive with WebSphere Portal

As dominant and pervasive as SharePoint has become, the market leader is WebSphere Portal (measured in license revenue. Although the implementation and services revenue is undoubtedly much higher than what the anemic Microsoft Consulting Services group can conjure). However, unless you follow the portal market, you would think that SharePoint is not just the leader, but a market killer.

Regardless, of how you measure success, SharePoint is a massive success, and so to is WebSphere Portal, but you would never know it by wading through the surface of most technology news and blogosphere punditry. WebSphere Portal however is arguably a more sophisticated, certainly more mature, product than SharePoint. And while IBM is happy with WebSphere’s success, there are undoubtedly more than just a few ruffled feathers by all the hype and attention SharePoint gets. Never a company to sit idly by, and as innovative as ever (IBM received 4,914 U.S. patents in 2009, the highest for the 17th consecutive year), the IBM marketing machine is not as aggressive as Microsoft’s. Nonetheless, WebSphere is due for a marketing makeover and may get more attention and marketing dollars in 2010.

3. Social media will become mainstream at the enterprise level

Social media on the intranet – collectively referred to as Intranet 2.0 – is now present on about half of all intranets (in the Western World). Once a nice-to-have or a future wish, intranet 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and other vehicles have become mainstream.

Despite the low cost of entry, most intranet 2.0 tools are merely experiments, pilots or limited to a very small audience. Social media has only been deployed at the enterprise level in about 25% of organizations (see the results of the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey Intranet 2.0 becomes mainstream).

Many of the experiments and pilots, the department and team level tools will be rolled-out to the rest (or most of the rest) of the enterprise in 2010. Still, more organizations that are sleeping through the social media revolution will jump on the bandwagon. Look for an explosion of user-generated content on the corporate intranet.

4. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

The “kitchen sink” design approach to the intranet home page is standard, but it’s stupid. The more you throw on a page, the more you confuse and distract users. It might work for, which relies on brand and SEO, at the expense of user-friendly design.

People like Google for a reason – it’s dead simple. I’ve had the pleasure to test dozens of intranet home page designs, in many dozens of focus groups. The highest rated and appreciated home pages, are the simple ones. The least popular designs are the busier designs that are best exemplified by IBM and Cisco (very good, and popular intranets, but for highly web-savvy audiences).

I’ve seen a trend towards simpler intranet home pages, just as we’ve seen on the Internet, and the trend will really start to proliferate in 2010.

5. Outsourcing the intranet to the cloud

Although it is only the beginning, some companies will finally begin to realize that professional hosts (ASPs) are better at hosting and security than their IT department.

The “cloud” refers to cloud computing that, at the risk of over-simplifying, is simply hosting – computer, server, software, and other hardware and infrastructure hosting. You’re already a cloud customer, probably many times over (someone is hosting your email, website, blog, etc. In fact, 56% of internet users use webmail services such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo! Mail – hosted email in the cloud).

Microsoft is aggressively pushing its cloud services. MS already hosts the gigantic 200,000 user SharePoint intranet for GlaxoSmithKiline (and it estimates that the hosted solution has delivered big ROI and reduced “IT operational costs by roughly 30%”).

Very few organizations have their intranet hosted in the cloud today, but perhaps as many as 5% of medium to large organizations will look to outsource their intranet to the cloud over the next year or so.

6. Death to the portal

Microsoft stopped calling SharePoint a portal solution sometime ago. To Microsoft, and most of the rest of the technology world, SharePoint is a web development platform.

Oracle killed all of its portal solutions. Now there’s just simply “WebCenter Suite.” Ditto with eXo which is no longer eXo Portal, it’s now eXo Platform.

Now the word portal hasn’t disappeared from the marketing literature or the feature sets: all of these platforms and suites still have portal functionality and features. Compared to five years ago, however, there are very few companies left selling portal products. They’ve been gobbled up by other products, other companies, or swallowed by the platform.

The only big name left with a standalone portal product is IBM, with WebSphere Portal. Per my second prediction above, look for IBM to give WebSphere Portal a marketing makeover that might include the dropping of the ‘portal’ name from the product label.

Additional Reading:

Intranet Planning
Intranet 2.0 becomes mainstream
Intranet Blueprint