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  • Intranet Book: And Last but Not Least — An Optimistic View of the Future of the Intranet
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During the course of our conversation, both you and I have noticed how much there is to say about intranets in both a broader and a narrower sense. I certainly expected to spend a lively evening chatting with you, and now it’s almost over. It’s probably a good time to close by pondering what the intranet of the future will look like, what’s likely to remain, and what will continue to work. 

I’m fairly certain the news aspect will stick around. The top-down communication of news in a company works, and there’s no serious competition in terms of delivering it. 

Of course, you may be a proponent of Rolf Dobelli’s argument that the dissemination of general news is redundant and irrelevant to the workforce as a whole (see “Recommended Reading”). He sees the consumption of news as a tactic; in other words, others will let you know if there is something important for everyone to know. This in no way makes the intranet unnecessary, however. After all, someone will have to read the news before reporting it to everyone else. What’s more, any interest you may have in keeping a constantly simmering rumor mill alive must be close to non-existent. Everyone needs to know what’s going on in your organization. Whatever software you decide to use for it in the future, the news will always be there.

However, there’s another concept that will definitely disappear from the picture: the SAP approach of combining every conceivable function into a single system. I see a look of slight skepticism on your face now. Yes, I know that sounds a little strange – after all, we offer Linchpin as an intranet solution, which is very comprehensive when it comes to functions and applications. However, Linchpin is and will remain an intranet platform with all its limitations. 

For example, if you want to counter shadow IT where WhatsApp is used with an authorized messenger for real-time communication, you can’t seriously believe that the solution to this problem will be “included” in an intranet software package. That’s unrealistic and, in practice, it simply wouldn’t work. 

Lots of other examples demonstrate that an intranet simply can’t map all conceivable applications in one piece of software: emails, calendars, telephony, video conferences, meetings, tasks, room bookings, personnel management, vacation requests, complaint management, and so on. Whether you want it or not, you need additional software. 

And this is a  perfect point to transition to a key topic that internet providers and intranet teams simply can’t ignore in the future: establishing connections between the systems and integrating other solutions. 

An intranet can’t map all the applications a company needs, but they all need to be integrated into the intranet. 

And a personalized link is not enough to achieve this. For example, increasingly, your users will want to feel as if they’re chatting directly on the intranet, even though third-party software is actually being used. 

An intranet that’s ready for the future needs to be very good at displaying non-native content and making it editable. Employees will then experience the application as comprehensive and seamless. In this context, your intranet should offer simple and intuitive jumping-off points that allow users to access the separate solutions, but in the context of the application they‘re currently using. Each piece of software has its own interface – and for good reason. The task of the intranet is more one of integration. 

Intranets create identification. They create a digital home for new and existing employees. 

Home as a topic will always be around. It may even represent one of the core functions of an intranet: providing employees with a place they can go to get to know the company  better and stay up to date. 

This requirement can be used to explain the development from the state we call Intranet 1.0 to today (and beyond). If you put enough (centrally controlled) work into building a digital home, it will eventually feel like a five-star hotel. This is where you can always find the latest news, every last inch looks spotless and everything is perfectly set up. You can actively foster this feeling of home. This alone won’t be enough in the future though.

Feeling like you’re at home in a digital system, like a modern intranet, is fleeting. In large companies, it generally fades in the course of an average work day. The intranet homepage feels like yesterday’s news because it hasn’t changed much since your last visit about an hour ago. 

This is why it’s so important to create relevance on the intranet by using personalization and allowing bottom-up communication to take place. 

The activities undertaken by normal employees on their projects and teams should also be made visible on the launch page. And by this I don’t just mean news, but activities that may take place in completely different software systems because the topicality creates a connection and an activity. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that I’m not telling you all of this face to face, but writing it for an external blog article I’m preparing on the intranet. If you give me a tip about how to make my content clearer and more understandable just as I’m writing these lines, I’ll be extremely grateful to you. This kind of information is priceless! And if you see that I’m working on my text on the intranet, perhaps because a dynamic activity stream shows a change to my page, this same input can also take place. 

If you contact me with your tips ten minutes after I’ve finished work for today, I’ll still be happy. I’ll either go back to it right away because I still have the context in mind, or I’ll incorporate it tomorrow. However, if you propose the same change in three months’ time, I may not be as open to it. By then, it will no longer be a priority for me. I’ll have forgotten the context and your tip will quickly become just another irritating task. I might even think about ignoring it completely. 

All of this may sound a little rough. However, you know what reality is like. Being able to concentrate means you can achieve more. And part of this means being able to say no. If you think about the situation, you’ll quickly understand why relevant, up-to-date information is paramount for an intranet. 

If you can capture the “now” moment, you can create a more welcoming home. You succeed in creating more connections and more helpful interactions as an intranet project team. 

The intranet of the future won’t map new functions or completely solve problems with new applications, but it will create a feeling of home. It will bring people together and provide a kind of digital glue that bonds the workforce together. I’m talking about the same kind of feeling that you get when you and your family enjoy a relaxed dinner together and everyone is in a great mood. For me, that’s the ideal I’d like to achieve with an intranet, even though I know you may be rolling your eyes.

Companies today have to deal with a great deal of complexity. These days, more than ever before, the world is full of surprises and change. Outside it’s cold, inhospitable, and dangerous. Whether it’s competition from China or a start-up two blocks away, everyone wants your market share, your employees, and your customers, even when, in the worst of cases, they don’t even care if you collapse at the side of the road. 

Companies must create a protective  in-house umbrella under which their workforces can feel safe and secure. From time to time, you may need a rest. However, in reality, I want to be able to concentrate under this protective umbrella. And although the world outside is becoming more raucous and dangerous all the time, rapid, superficial measures help less and less. Quickly putting out a fire doesn’t solve the fundamental challenges that the market poses for us today. 

Real work and real value creation take place in projects. Interdisciplinary teams collaborate on an issue and bring in members with different talents. This is how a company moves forward. Your intranet is not your project management software, even if it does support your projects, communication, and documentation. However, this is not the core of the intranet of the future. 

Your intranet gives your company an identity. It creates a feeling of familiarity and a sense of togetherness. 

It manifests who is inside and who is outside. It’s a place where you feel protected and where you can clear your head. It’s where everything comes together. It’s where we help one another. It’s where we share all of our successes, and our failures too. It’s a place where optimal transparency, openness, and trust exists. A place where everyone is happy and everyone is accepted with all of their strengths and weaknesses. Being in a place where I feel safe helps me put my best work in the organization. 

Many companies exist that have absolutely no interest in creating safety and security. They believe it’s good when a climate of fear rules among their employees. Intranets of the future will become increasingly unattractive for organizations like this. At the same time, these companies will increasingly have to come to terms with the fact that their organizational models harbor extreme weaknesses when it comes to dealing with complexity.

Oh, you have to go? It’s been nice talking with you! Hmm, do you also get the impression that I’m the one who’s been doing all the talking today and not you? Well, you know how it is, a leopard never changes its spots. 

In any case, I hope you find the right intranet software and that you’re able to successfully implement with the applications that are so critical to your organization. Don’t let agile dreams of transparency and trust distract you too much. They’re important, but they’re also part of the “long-term project.” In large companies, in particular, it’s still the case that tangible, effective, reliable software creates the best foundation. 

If you can find and use the best solutions for your organization , you’ve already gained a great deal of ground. And maybe this will provide you with the building blocks you need to drive other topics forward. 

I wish you the very best in your travels. It’ll be hard going. But don’t give up! The results will justify a lot of the tears and useless meetings. But everything will work out fine in the end. I’m glad we had a chance to talk about it! 


Link to this page: https://seibert.biz/intranetbookfuture


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