The deconstruction of the intranet

Deconstructed-PuzzleJust after publishing my last post, I found three interesting things that increase my belief that we are currently “deconstructing” the intranet and making it into something different.

1. No more Internal Comms department.

A Dutch bank and insurance company reported they have done away with their Internal Communications department. The rise of enterprise social networks (two-way communication – I wrote about this earlier) as well as the large number of customer-facing employees in webcare and other business processes had made them decide that communications is no longer a role for one department but for all the company.
English version of article.

Why is this important? Because it is often Internal Comms that has been the department that has introduced intranets to their employees as a communication tool for all the company. They have made sure intranets looked good, that people got training and that the corporate news got the best real estate on the homepage.  🙂

Most of them have realized that the intranet is no longer only a communication tool, but a tool to do your work. In that respect, it may be time to hand over the ownership of the intranet to a different part of the organization, and the digital workplace team may be the best candidate. They can take care of a proper technical installation, governance, training, app selection and development, usability etc. (which, incidentally, apart from the technical installation, are all things I really like to do :-))

If Internal Comms is no longer the owner of the intranet/digital workplace, it means that we can finally use that prime real estate for the most important work stuff, regardless of what that is. Perhaps we can also be less fanatic about design and branding, 🙂 and focus on usability.
But of course this is just one company. I have no idea if (m)any others will follow suit.

2. More talk about an app-store on your intranet.

I came across an article about Neil Morgan’s work for an intranet app store at Richemont. And that was done in 2012!

3. More proof that the app intranet exists! 

And then I found another intranet teaser video featuring a Windows 8 tile view with apps! This is the screenshot. (Please click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the desktop
A screenshot from 19s into the video shows the desktop, with various apps. Source: http://vimeo.com/98925422

Once again, all kind of tools are displayed on the desktop and several elements from the intranet are there (news (in the centre – prime real estate!),  time and weather, an HR app). But there appears to be no integrated website called “intranet”.

[Update October 17th, 2014: Unfortunately, the video was suddenly made private, so I removed the embedded link. I am glad I made that screenshot! ]

This feeds my theory that the “intranet” will be replaced by the individual building blocks of the intranet-as-we-have-come-to-know-it + other tools. I will call it the “deconstructed intranet” 🙂
This term has already been used earlier in a blog by Russell Pearson. I am not sure if he meant exactly the same thing though.

Is this the same as a Digital Workplace? I do not think so – this may be part of a Digital Workplace or a stage towards a Digital Workplace, but I think the Digital Workplace has more to it than just a set of tools.

Have you seen other examples of “deconstructed intranets”? I am ever so curious how this will develop!

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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The pick-‘n-mix app intranet

PicknMix-JellyBeansLong ago, our intranet was custom-built because there was no intranet software available. We always spent a lot of time integrating our third-party applications nicely into the intranet. Any application, e.g. travel booking or ordering office supplies, was built with the same user interface and style as our intranet, and of course they were all single-sign-on!

Later, budget restrictions, the availability of intranet platforms, our management’s decision to buy rather than make, as well as the rise of internet-enabled third-party applications resulted in a mish-mash of different color schemes, user interfaces and password requirements on our intranet. I hated the fact that our employees could not move frictionless from one application to another. But I learned to be happy with small things like seeing our company logo on the travel booking system. 🙂
I strongly believed that a consistent user interface is a prerequisite for an effective digital workplace.

Is consistency in design and user interface still relevant now?
That belief has been shaken recently by an intranet introduction video (unfortunately it has been deleted) where the intranet was replaced by a collection of different apps (Office suite tools, general apps and custom intranet apps) on the desktop in a Windows 8 tile view. The intranet as an integrated website no longer existed.

Although I was shocked at first, I now think this is not such a strange idea. In our private life we are managing many different apps with different interfaces without thinking. We love spending time collecting them on our devices, moving them around, updating them and learning different interfaces, because we want or need to use them. With the rise of Bring-Your-Own-Everything, is designing your own workplace not a logical next step?

What did I see in that video?
I have tried to recreate the video’s concept.  Since I know Microsoft Office suite and SharePoint best, I have used those elements, but of course this concept works with any Office and intranet suite.

At the moment, we generally make these big blocks of functionality available to our (new) employees.

New employee desktop
1. This is the software on the desktop for a new employee.

Over time, most employees adjust that by adding individual links to Office and other tools to their desktop or task bar.

This is the workplace that the video showed. All suites and the intranet have been broken up into building blocks to create a personal digital workplace, in this case for a Sales-type role.

The new toolset as seen in the video.
2. This is what I saw on the video – a selection of all kinds of specific tools, without any mention of the word “intranet”.

What are the implications of this concept?
I think this is a plausible direction, but it raises many questions:

  • If it is pick-‘n-mix, will some apps be mandatory or will you leave it to the employee? Or will you have mandatory or recommended sets for different roles within the organization?
  • Will people have the same patience to create their own start page and learn different tools in the work environment as they have in their private life?
  • Will more employees spend effort in personalizing their start page than the reported 5% that has ever personalized their intranet homepage?
  • Who will be responsible for management and governance? Will it be one role or will every department have responsibility for their own role apps? Or a mix?
  • Will the responsible have any influence on a consistent user interface for internal and external apps? Or will they only be responsible for a set of design standards that every department will have to stick to?
  • Will  “consistent design and user interface” still matter, or is it sufficient that apps adhere to common usability and accessibility standards? (And what would those standards be?)
  • Will the responsible brand apps and if yes, which ones? (after all, we all love email and spreadsheets, and nobody has ever branded those)
  • Will it mean that the employee can pick-‘n-mix another set of apps for their mobile or tablet device, if that works better for them?

What do you think?
I am building this theory on the basis of one deleted video, so I may be completely off the mark. 🙂  On the other hand, it may as well be a plausible and tangible example of a digital workplace of the near future. I certainly have never seen something like figure 2 in real life yet, and I am very curious if this will ever happen. Have you seen anything like it, or are you working on something like this? Or do you think this will take a different direction altogether? Please share!

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The oldest mobile intranet in history?

Mobile IntranetIt was the year 2004.
It was long before the iPhone was introduced.
It was long before the word “app” had the meaning it has today. If it had any meaning at all.
You could say it was the year 3 BA:  Before App. 🙂

The BlackBerry was all the rage in the corporate world. Everyone wanted one, and only senior management had one at that time. Having a BlackBerry meant you had arrived!

That year our team launched an “icon” on the BlackBerry’s home screen, that opened a small part of our intranet. That part of the intranet that we thought would be useful if you were not in the office.

This must have been one of the first mobile intranets. It was created and introduced by another part of the team I worked in, and all credit goes to the people who had the foresight and the skills to come up with the concept and make it happen. With this post I want to give them the applause that they deserve.

While reading about mobile intranets, and people proudly showing that they have features such as an employee directory especially for mobile use, I suddenly remembered our old BlackBerry app and that I still had some screenshots. So, for history’s sake, here are some more details. Remember that all information shown is outdated.

The intranet “icon” was automatically pushed to your BlackBerry, but not everyone was aware of it, or how you could use it. Of course we communicated, but we did not reach everyone. But everyone who knew about it, was very happy with it. It was still functioning when I left the company in 2011.

This was the icon. It showed our intranet’s logo.

BBAppHome
On the top right you see the icon leading to the intranet. It was the intranet logo, unfortunately not very well visible.

If you clicked it, you could choose 3 options.

1. Stock Quote

This was updated regularly throughout the day. I have not used this much myself, but I know there were people who could not do without it.

Stock Quote
The Stock Quote, updated every 15 mins. or so.

2.  News

  We showed Corporate News and External News only, because we could not target the regional and local news, as we did on the regular intranet Homepage. When I was sitting at an airport, it was good to be able to learn about organizational changes as soon as they were posted. I might have been on my way to a business manager who had made a promotion…or a sudden exit :-).

News
The News. Only limited news types could be shown.

3. Employee Directory

This was really useful for me, especially when travelling. You could search for someone, and their name, position, telephone numbers, email address and assistant would be shown. I have often used this functionality  when my plane was delayed or cancelled, or when I just wanted to email or call someone while being on the road.
If anyone in my audience is still  discussing an employee directory for use on-the-go: yes, this is useful. I think it should be one of the first things to implement on a mobile intranet!

Employee Directory
The Employee Directory. This has been really useful to me.

I hope you liked this little blast from the past! 🙂

If you would like to see more modern mobile or responsive intranets:

Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watch. Intranets. Innovate.

This watch just looks smart!
This watch just looks smart!

In the old days, it was customary to receive a gold watch from your employer, after you had worked there for 25 or 40 years or when you retired.

Today, it is more likely you will receive a watch when you START your new job. It will not be gold, it will be smart. 🙂

I really like watches, but I have trouble imagining how a smartwatch could add something to my day. I have already turned most PC and telephone notifications off, because I do not want to be distracted all the time. Do I really need another kind of noise? Is there any essential functionality that would not involve a notification?

Perhaps you have other ideas. Perhaps you already have implemented smartwatch functionalities or other wearable tech on your intranet. Perhaps you have something else which is really innovative on your intranet. If you have, please think about sharing this with the world!

I am proud to be one of the judges for the Intranet Innovation Awards this year, and I am looking forward to interesting innovations on intranets and digital workplaces. I am mostly interested in “things” that improve productivity, but I am open to all good ideas :-).

What is in it for you?

As you probably know, the Awards provide a really good insight into the current state of the intranet/digital workplace. Everyone will benefit from that. But there are also benefits for yourself:

  • Describing what makes your intranet (or part of it) innovative, will make you rethink your intranet’s goals and purpose. When is the last time you did that?
  • By sharing your insights and screenshots you will contribute to the collective knowledge of all intranet folks
  • You have the chance to win a nice crystal trophy and a lot of career-enhancing attention
  • You and your intranet may turn into a good example for your peers for years to come

So come on, make some screenshots, complete and dispatch the entry form before June 6, and feel good about yourself!

How to participate:

There are five categories for the Gold Awards, and organisations can submit for one or more of these categories:

1. Core intranet functionality

2. Social, collaboration and communication

3. Business and frontline

4. Enterprise mobility

5. Intranet rework

You can find much more information, as well as useful tips, on the site.

I am looking forward to all entries!