The Social Intranet

by Toby Ward - The original intranet, intranet 1.0, typically began as nothing more than a technology outpost under some techie's desk in the corporate basement. The first version of this intranet was nothing more than a welcome page, perhaps a name and a phone number, and a simple welcome message.

Intranet 1.0 grew and evolved rapidly, more so at some organizations than others, but in some respects, faster than corporate websites who had a few years' head start with the advent of the 'super information highway':

  • Version 1.0:  Welcome page (a welcome message and a phone number)
  • Version 1.1:  Bulletin board (simple communications)
  • Version 1.2:  Corporate newsletter (structured news & limited document management)
  • Version 1.3:  Help Desk (simple transactions like the employee directory)
  • Version 1.4:  Corporate Store (more complex transactions such as e-HR and self-service)
  • Version 1.5:  The Portal (authorization, authentication, application & database integration)

Though not every intranet has followed such a clear evolutionary path (in fact, only 15% of organizations have a full portal solution, according to the 2010 Intranet 2.0 Global Survey, conducted in the Spring of 2010 by Prescient Digital Media), the technology itself and many leading organizations (IBM, Cisco, and Verizon to name a few) have blazed this enterprise trail.

The trail has lengthened considerably as of late with the advancement of social media, and the intranet has made an evolutionary leap to version 2.0 – the social intranet.

The Social Intranet

The phrase social intranet has only appeared in recent months (late 2009) to describe an intranet with social media features. Although with any emerging technology there is likely to be disagreement on the precise definition of a new term, I describe a social intranet as the following:

An intranet that features multiple social media tools for most or all employees to use as collaboration vehicles for sharing knowledge with other employees. A social intranet may feature blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, or a combination of these or any other Web 2.0 (intranet 2.0) tool with at least some or limited exposure (optional) from the main intranet or portal home page.

However, a few employee or executive blogs do not make a social intranet. A social intranet requires wide participation, or at minimum, opportunity for participation, by most or all employees that have intranet access. Social intranets require social media: blogs, wikis, and user comments, to name a few. More advanced social intranets may incorporate multimedia, user-tagging, and social networking that are integrated into multiple channels including user profiles.

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