How confidential is an intranet design?

ConfidentialWhen I was developing snack products,  I was never allowed to talk about my work with people outside my company. Others might copy our ideas! I always felt this was a real pity, because I was convinced that other product developers would have exactly the same problems that I had and we may have shared  solutions. Of course I am not talking about sharing secret recipes, but about topics like: how do you do consumer tests, how do you set priorities, how do you work with marketeers who want new products NOW while you, as a developer, want GOOD QUALITY products?

Now we all had to re-invent the wheel ourselves. (Which I hate with a vengeance!)

But now that I find myself in the wonderful world of intranets, life is suddenly very different! Intranet managers continually share knowledge and experiences with acquaintances and strangers, at home and abroad, online and offline, because we share a profession.
Is that because many intranet managers have a background in Knowledge Management? Because we have learned how inspiring, comforting, or just easy it is to listen to the experiences of someone else? Do we all have the same “evangelist gene” that causes us all to passionately change our organizations for the better? Or are we all just lazy, er…I mean efficient, and do we all hate to re-invent wheels :-)?

Or is it perhaps because we realize that this profession does not have many secrets? Our secrets are in the content. Our secrets are NOT in our design, our platform, our governance or information architecture. What an organization does with its intranet is always based on the strategy and culture of that organization. (Well, at least I hope it is!) So copying another’s  design, navigation or position of the  web parts  on the page is useless, because it will never fit with your organization.
But you can always learn from other intranets of course – if only that you have made the right choice for yours!

Of course I have also had my doubts about the amount of information I could share in my presentations. I have given lectures and removed the screenshots from my presentation for the handout. But later I have just hidden any sensitive information from my screenshots and just left them in.  (Screen capture tools like Snagit allow you to “erase” confidential information easily)
A picture really says more than 1000 words! And whether your company news is in the center or left, with a summary or not, is interesting, but it is certainly not mission-critical information.

What then is your confidential content? In general: sales and customer data, financial data, employee personal data, and information about projects in such areas as innovation, lawsuits, contracts and acquisitions. This is generally information that an intranet manager will not have access to, anyway. We may facilitate the collaboration, but we do not own the content.

So…let  screenshots do the talking and let’s share more screenshots of our intranets!

Image courtesy of thanunkorn at


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