From My Perspective – important topics for intranet managers

As the final point of Intranätverk 2014, information scientist Martin White summarized the most important outcomes of the presentations and discussions. He also commented on topics that he noticed were not covered in the presentations but which he feels are important for intranet managers to take note of.

In 1998, Martin White wrote the book “Intranet Management” along with some colleagues. At that time, they thought they had a pretty clear idea of what the lessons for intranet best practice were. Martin explains that the principles laid down back then were generally accepted, not only by him and his team, but also by basically everyone in the intranet field. The biggest concern for Martin, though, is that about 15 years later, people are still discovering them for the first time. One interesting thing, according to Martin, is that out of the 20 books or so published on intranets; only 3 have been published since the year 2000. So, it’s actually quite fair to say that much new hasn’t been brought to our attention over the last couple of years.

Teamwork

Something that has changed since 1998, though, is that we work together. We work in teams, we work in groups and we work in communities. But using the word collaborate would not be appropriate in this sense. Martin explains that collaborate refers to a group of people coming together to solve a common objective. Saying that the people who built Stonehenge or the pyramids collaborated would be correct, but in terms of people working together on the intranet it doesn’t apply that easily. So, we work in teams, and Martin points out that you’ll notice that these teams have tablets and cell phones. What’s interesting, according to Martin, is how small of an effort is put into meeting the needs of tablets and smart phones in teams. It’s only been about the great-unwashed sitting at desktops in corporate headquarters, making the decisions that will change the lives of millions. But the fact is that people in corporate headquarters rarely make money for the company. Instead, it’s the people close to the customers that make the paydays possible.

Martin White of Intranet Focus presenting at Intranätverk 2014

Successful intranets

In 2011, Jane McConnell issued a survey among 450 organizations, looking for the components of a successful intranet. Martin explains that these things aren’t necessarily the ones that bring a smile to your CEO. Why? Because you have to be user focused.

The ease of publishing and location independent intranets

With intranets, you’re not just looking at the users of the intranet; you’re also looking at the users who have to put stuff on it. According to Martin, no one usually bothers to find out how difficult it is to publish. The team can show you how well it works, but they’ve actually never published something from their own CMS. And giving them the task to publish a simple press release can be devastating. So, publishing has to be made much easier. Another thing that’s crucially important is mobile access. And, if we are to believe in Martin, there’s going to be a transformation in mobile access when the chief executives realize that this is the way people work. As mentioned before, the people outside of the office use their smart phones and tablets instead of their laptops. Location independent is most definitely a word for the future.

Focus on decisions

According to Martin, an intranet is a decision support tool. It’s not a communication tool because we only communicate to help people make better decisions. When we understand what decisions we have to make in our organization, we will build much better intranets. And we’ll also realize that the intranet doesn’t stand alone. Martin explains that you always have to focus on decisions, and when you do that, you can link it directly to the performance of the company. If you can make a decision more quickly, you’ll usually improve your margins.

The future – digital workplaces

According to Martin, it’s fair to say that intranets aren’t everything. In order to really connect your organization, you have to take a view across all the streams you have – the blogs, the wikis, the document management systems, the intranets and the HR systems. Martin explains that a whole lot of stuff is going on in all organizations today and most people are doing multiple tasks at the same time. They need to find a way to balance their work, and so far, intranets don’t do that since they’re single-tasked. Instead, we should direct our minds toward the digital workplaces. Interested in finding out more about Martin’s approach to digital workplaces, as well as several other topics brought to our attention at Intranätverk 2014? Please have a look at Martin’s presentation in the video below.

Information is key

If we are to believe in Martin, thinking in terms of content, structure, information architecture and search isn’t necessarily the right way to go. Instead, we have to understand that intranets are about information. Martin explains that 48 percent of the early adopters of successful digital workplaces have either managed or optimized their information management. So, according to Martin, information is where we need to put our focus. Information helps people make better decisions, and with better decisions, the organization will progress. Putting the digital workplace in the context of information management will surely make the difference.

Bio Martin White

Just after getting his degree in chemistry, Martin White decided to do something else. For the last 40 years he’s been working as an information scientist, making sure that people use information in the best possible way. In 1999, he set up his company, Intranet Focus, and most of his work today is focused on intranet strategies for large multinational organizations. Described by Tony Byrne as one of the wise men in the field, Martin has achieved more than you can imagine during his successful career. And we’re privileged to have had him as a speaker at Intranätverk 2014.