Between the 20th-22nd of May, Intranätverk 2014 will take place in Gothenburg. In this article series we present the speakers who will share their knowledge at the conference and hear their thoughts about intranets today and in the future.
Profile of the day: Martin White
Just after getting his degree in chemistry, Martin 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 him as a speaker at Intranätverk 2014.
What would you say is the most interesting with intranets?
Getting inside a company and, very quickly, try to understand how it works and what its culture is as well as how people do their jobs.
How do you find out how a company works then?
I think it’s a question of listening and looking. Try to be alert to the small things: what are the posters in the corridors, how do people in the staff restaurant communicate? It’s basically about seeing how people work with each other.
Which is the prime challenge regarding intranets today?
I think the prime challenge has always been the same, which is that companies don’t see information as an asset. They see money, costumers, people, buildings, and they take great care over those. But with information it’s simply just information to them. They don’t really see the importance of quality information and that people are able to use it and make good decisions. It’s a question of putting the right investment into an intranet.
Why do you think the situation is like that?
Because there’s no one on the main board who’s actually responsible for information. And I’m talking about information quality, information access, making sure people share information – all those sorts of things. We lack that commitment to making sure that we make the most of our information resources.
Could you share any success factors when working with intranets?
I think the key thing with an intranet is that is has to be very aligned with the direction of the business. So the idea of an intranet is not just to be a collection of all the information we have, but a reflection of in what direction the business is going.
Have you experienced any mistakes that you have learned from?
I think the mistake continues to be around information – not giving people the support they need to publish information on the intranet. So the intranet becomes out-of-date and then people don’t trust it. And in my view, the key metric of an intranet is that you trust it. The minute you doubt the information it’s a big issue.
Why have you chosen to participate at Intranätverk 2014?
I’ve worked for a number of Swedish companies and I know that there are some good intranets in Swedish companies. Also, I’m very interested in learning from the experiences of the people who come to the conference.
What are your expectations?
That it will be very well organized.
If we have a look at the future regarding intranets – what do you think will happen?
I think that they are a place where a lot of the work around a digital workplace will cover. And what is a digital workplace? It’s a place where I can do any task in any location with any device. That task could be working with suppliers or with customers; it’s not just about pushing information around my own organization. I think intranet managers know a lot about the requirements but because the lack of investment, not just in technology but in information management, it’s still a long way to go before being able to achieve that type of very fluid location independent working.
At last, is it anything that you would like to add?
I very much encourage intranet conferences because intranet managers are the loneliest people in the world. If you’re a web manager, it’s easy to talk to others about your website because it’s in the public domain. With intranet managers, though, it’s very difficult. Even if they move to another company they can’t show the new company the intranet they’ve been developing and managing. So I think a really good intranet conference, organized by people who understand intranets, is very important.