It’s an intranet Jim, but not as we know it!

Yesterday saw me battling my way across London despite the tube strike, to head up to Birmingham for CommsCamp15. It was well worth the effort, as I found myself inspired and enthused by the conversations. Congratulations to Dan Slee, Darren Caveney and Emma Rodgers and all the other supporters for a really well organised day.

It’s hard to pick out key highlights of the day – aside from the cake (huge well done to all the cake-bakers)! So, I’ve included a few of my tweets from the day to give a flavour. I was struck most by the animated discussions around culture and employee engagement, particularly in the session entitled ‘my intranet is worse than yours’.

Dare to dream

This was a session where we dared to dream about a day when traditional intranets were a thing of the past and staff were sufficiently engaged – both digitally and with the organisation as a whole – that they proactively seek out and use a set of digital tools provided for them to work together and get the job done, to access corporate information, to consume corporate news and to collaborate with each other.

For many in the room, this dream seemed distant, as the list of problems with the intranet piled up:

  • Not all staff can see the current intranet (some cited a third of employees without access).
  • The intranet is the poor relation to the website – the front facing website gets all the resource.
  • There’s no dedicated resource to support the intranet – and that doesn’t just mean the technical part, that means building the engagement too.
  • The search is poor – you can’t find anything (many cited intranets with thousands and thousands of unused documents and pages).
  • Lack of understanding about what the intranet is actually for and what it has the potential to achieve.
  • Nervousness from management about social interaction on the intranet – are people allowed and enabled to contribute?
  • Control – who has it? Who should have it? Should we give more (shock horror!) to our people?

For some organisations in the room though, the ideal wasn’t the pipe dream it appeared to be. There was a great example of using Yammer as a conversational style intranet, that’s mobile accessible and backed up by document sharing on Sharepoint. However, the key point about this case study was that the technology was completely irrelevant. It was the people and the enthusiasm with which they adopted digital to support their work and get things done that was the important bit. This ethos of organisational knowledge sharing and an ability to collaborate to support day to day work was an emerging theme. In some cases it was working so well that the ‘intranet’ could soon be a thing of the past meaning that staff simply get on and use a suite of collaborative tools available to them do their work. Included in this was the notion that senior managers could get involved too – meaning that there’s no more ‘them and us’ and much more just ‘us’.

From culture shock to culture change

So, after we all got over the shock that there were actually ‘intranets’ out there that work really well and support an open collaborative culture, we all agreed that it was the culture of an organisation that needs to change first, before any kind of internal collaboration is going to work. The top tip in the first instance was to ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR USERS FIRST before you do anything. In relation to this, there was some discussion about taking a top tasks approach as discussed in the recent Socitm Insight report ‘Better Connected Intranets’. The report recommends consulting with those using your intranet about what they use/want to use it for.

It seems that we were also in agreement about what would make a good internal collaboration tool:

  • Not locked down.
  • Mobile friendly.
  • Social not static.
  • Able to support document sharing but not solely devoted to it.
  • Primarily aimed at conversations and working together collaboratively.
  • Empowering the individual to take control rather than central control.
  • Balance between organisational communications and individuals sharing knowledge to support their work.



Enter the Social Hub

Interestingly the above list backs up the work we’ve been doing on our Social Hub recently. We’ve consulted with a range of organisations about what they’re looking for in an intranet and we’ve come to the same conclusions that the technology is the enabler to help people collaborate and that internal culture and a willingness to engage is an essential part of making your intranet a success.



That’s why we think we’re on to something with the Social Hub. It uses existing Knowledge Hub technology, so it’s familiar and provides a range of tools for individuals to proactively use and engage with. It balances that with an opportunity for the organisation to communicate news and information. In addition, and taking the point about culture change, the Social Hub also offers expertise, support and training on getting started and encouraging members to engage.

We’d love to hear more about people’s intranet experiences, which is why we’re working with Comms2point0 to find out more via our intranet survey. We’d love you to participate – it only takes a few minutes and you could win chocolate brownies! Submit your responses here.

We’d also like to invite you to participate in our intranet hotseat on Monday 20 July 12-2pm in the new Improving internal comms group. More news about that live discussion following soon, so save the date.

Finally, check out our Social Hub page for info and send me a direct message if you’d like to know more.

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Former Member 7 Years Ago
Very interesting, LIz. I chose not to attend this session, as we're about to launch our new intranet, so no point starting to think now about what it should do. But a lot of the conversation I saw coming out of this session made me think I should have attended. Having read your blog post I now feel like I did! Ours isn't going to be particularly social. I have tried over the past year to get more an internal social culture going on, trying to get people to embrace Yammer. But, as you say, it's more about culture than tech, and I realised we just didn't have that much of an appetite for internal social media.
Former Member 7 Years Ago
Great post, Liz. I've always hated the old 'You said, we did' line so thank you for 'outing it'. I said recently that my theory is that poor intranets are actually a symptom of poor internal comms which was really part of a much wider problem around genuine staff engagement and trust. Anecdotally, this appears to be missing from so many organisations. A great intranet would be a pretty good place to begin to tackle this. cheers Darren
(You) 7 Years Ago
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Sarah Atkinson 6 Months Ago

Intranet is power...ex LA employee, all our fears are shared ones


Emma Taylor-Hill 6 Months Ago

This was the easiest one to find so far!!