When tasked to rethink an Intranet, it’s almost impossible nowadays to ignore the wider concept of a Digital Workplace and solutions offered by the cloud. Both dimensions force Intranet managers to think beyond their comfort zone and bring new challenges and opportunities in a career.
Even if your organization does not allow the use of cloud solutions for security or privacy concerns, your employees are most likely already using some cloud solutions to work in a more productive way.
They just go to ‘google’ or to their mobile device’s app store and can immediately start to discuss with partners, share files, manage tasks or collaborate. That these solutions are in the cloud is the least of their concerns.
Cloud solutions are attractive and the organizations that have been opened to them already know their benefits while keeping organizational standards for security, quality and consistency:
- regular flow of new features and improvements,
- improved user experience developed through constant user testing,
- reduced costs for the maintenance of servers,
- connected environment that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and with any devices.
But even in organizations that have adopted an open approach, cloud solutions can be disruptive and cause a few headaches to Intranet managers trying to maintain a coherent and usable set of tools for their Intranet ecosystem.
What’s more, it’s sometimes difficult to cope with the constant arrival of new tools within your ‘official’ cloud solution environment. Users don’t have the time nor the willingness to digest them all, creating large adoption problems. And you might even discover that you’ve just spent months to develop internally a solution that is suddenly available for free tip in the cloud…
Policy wise, we are evolving in gray (shall I say ‘cloudy’?) situations.
Even organizations that decided to officially use cloud solutions often lack policies on the use of other publicly available cloud solutions. Think of organizations that have Office 365 and its vast array of tools but where Facebook groups are nevertheless also used for purely internal discussions (and not Yammer)… or where purely internal webinar recordings are being posted on personal YouTube accounts (and not the Office 365 video channel)… Sometimes I wonder if people are ignorant of the risks or simply ignoring them?
Whatever the answer is, I am not sure that being restrictive is necessarily the right approach. I am starting to be very much in favor of creating internal ‘innovation labs’ where experimental cloud solutions initiated by employees are encouraged. Once submitted to the ‘lab’, the solutions would be analyzed according to their organizational fit for purpose and to see whether they meet the necessary boundaries set by the organization in terms of security and system integration requirements.
In any case, the cloud is still new and when I look at the speed with which solutions like Office 365 evolve, I wonder if all the ‘new kid on the blocks’ solutions that emerge in the market will not become standards in products like Office 365 within 2-3 years.
The other element that can’t be ignored while rethinking an Intranet in 2015 is how your Intranet will fit within the broader concept of your Digital Workplace.
I like to use the term Intranet-led Digital Workplace, as I believe that there should be a place where employees can start their working day.
However, this view is very much centered only around one of the elements of the Digital Workplace: technology as, looking at the Digital Workplace model from Jane McConnell, we clearly see that the ‘Tools’ (technology) is only one of the three elements that we need to consider.
If the Digital Workplace lies at the intersection of ‘People’, ‘Tools’ and the ‘Organization’, who should be taking care of the dimensions linked to ‘People’ and the ‘Organization’? For example, who should manage senior management sponsorship or the way an organization should rethink how its employees work?
As this role is often left vacant, should we, Intranet managers, size this opportunity to lead the development of our Digital Workplace? But do we have the right skills for doing this?
I’ll be talking about these questions during my presentation on ‘Rethinking an Intranet in a cloud and Digital Workplace era‘ at the forthcoming JBoye conference on 5 November. Hope to see you there to exchange on the subject!