The DW in the Netherlands…

A week or so ago I attended an intranet get-together in the Netherlands, where attendees could show eachother screenshots of their intranets, and discussed what worked and what did not.

In general, the attendees were from smaller Dutch organizations, many from the non-profit and government sector. It was very interesting to see those intranets, because it made me realize that I am rather spoiled by the polished global Digital Workplaces from large international profit organizations that I usually come across. The Digital Workplace concept appears not to have found its place yet in smaller organizations.

Some of the lowlights included:

  • A beautifully styled online-newsletter-intranet,  guarded by a Communications-Medusa © who did not want anyone to write any content for fear of deviating from the style standards. OK, Blogs were allowed, but only behind a tab. By the way, I saw that one Blogger was a neighbor! 🙂 I am curious to learn if they will ever move to a concept of “user-generated content”.
  • Another digital newsletter showed large photo’s as headers for every topic, which looked absolutely beautiful but took up a lot of space. The links beneath the headers were static.
    The IT page explained the roles and responsibilities of IT. There was no information on what to do with a broken PC, if you wanted to request software, etc. But somewhere above the fold it said: “if you want to know more, there’s a contact link for more information.”  Every page showed the most popular links of the page. Interestingly, on the IT page, it was…”Contact”.
    I could not help asking if that might be an indication that this page might not be displaying the information that people were looking for. A helpdesk phone number on top of the page, or some links on how to fix the most common problems would have been appropriate.

The good thing about these is that it shows there is enough work to do! 🙂

But of course there were also some good examples:

  • One city council used a wiki to quickly assemble all information (pre-reading, pictures, workshop materials, minutes) of their twice-yearly works council event. The site looked very nice and inviting, and was quickly updated during the event.
  • One very small consultancy organization (50 people) had their main business process on the homepage of their Intranet: requests for consultation proposals. It is mandatory to set a notification, as is discussing every request on the Intranet. Every name showed presence, as in “online in office”, “online not in office” and “offline”. There was not a lot more, but this was still impressive and showed that they have really embraced the idea of the Digital Workplace.
  • An installation company had a 10-year old, custom built Intranet that looked very outdated from a design perspective, but it was in fact a DW avant-la-lettre, with various applications built in, based on the employees profiles. Next to that, every employee can add information to their profile, such as interests and “Ask me about”.

I also heard that some intranets are based on open source software. The Dutch Government uses open source software for their (joint) internet sites, and now some are using this for intranet as well. It has already been calculated that it does not save much money, since licensing costs are only a small part of every project. It will be interesting to learn what the reasons (and learnings) are to go open source for intranet. Another item to investigate!

All in all, I was a little disappointed with the intranets shown. But as I said, I have been mostly exposed to streamlined global corporate stuff, so this was a good experience!


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