Social intranets become mainstream

From mundane to social: intranets are rapidly evolving into social media systems that greatly distance themselves from their former, glorified brochureware sites.

To be clear, for those still learning about a concept that has really only emerged in recent months, and was only formally defined this year (see The Social Intranet white paper), a social intranet incorporates multiple social media tools that are available to most if not all employees (with at least some minimal integration into the intranet or portal home page).

BC Government Intranet Screenshot

 A social intranet for government: the BC Government intranet home, @Work

Many organizations have social media tools (87% of organizations of all sizes have at least one social media tool on their intranet, according to the Intranet 2.0 Global Study), but often they are held separate and isolated from other parts of the intranet, or receive a nominal link from the home page. But more and more organizations are extending their intranet 2.0 tools, and opening use and participation to all employees.

Recent case studies and articles in the past few days reveal that this is not a geographic, nor industry specific phenomena: social intranets come in all sizes, industries, and on all continents.

Some recent case studies include:

Nor are social intranets merely for the big, rich technology companies. @Work is the Province of British Columbia's employee intranet portal for The BC Public Service of 30,000 employees. That's right, a provincial government has a social intranet for all employees – and a dam good one too.

Built with internal resources on the open source platform Drupal, the BC Government intranet, @Work, features abundant intranet 2.0 technology including:

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Discussion forums
  • Enhanced user commenting
  • User ratings
  • Multimedia
  • Mobile access
  • User tagging
  • RSS
  • Dynamic home page feeds (i.e. most discussed, highest rated, most viewed)

@Work is so popular that the new wiki platform, Wikilumbia, had 80+ entries in the first 30 days, and the volume of comments and the number of employees commenting on content have more than doubled.

Of course the success of a social intranet has little to do with technology, it almost never does. A successful social intranet is one supported by good planning, governance, and change management.

“The biggest challenge I think we'll continue to face is not on the technology side but on whether or not - from the employer and the employee perspective - we actually have the level of trust required to take full advantage of this new environment,” says Rueben Bronee, Executive Director, Public Service Initiative, Government of BC.

As such, just like BC, successful social media deployments on the intranet require well executed communications, marketing, and sometimes, training (if at the very least a simple orientation).


The final results of the Intranet 2.0 Global Study have been tabulated and the final report is being written. Survey participants will receive the final report shortly.

While not focused on social intranets per se, some of Jane McConnell's annual Global Intranet Trends survey looks at social media on intranets. The 2010 version of the survey is now open, and new participants are greatly encouraged.

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