Every once in a while it is very reassuring to hear your hunches played back to you. I had a very interesting discussion with an IT systems head for a 200-person legal firm today and we got to talking about Intranets. Now honestly, this conversation can go one of two ways. A useful discussion about what it is that the company wants to communicate to all staff. Or a 500 line item request for mostly nonsensical features that have not been in active use since the Stone Roses played Spike Island (“we’d like a wiki so the chef can update the daily menu: he has some basic HTML”).
The more useful discussion today has if and how as part of an implementation, could BCSocial replace the Sharepoint Intranet feature that they had. His opinion was that the Intranet was essentially in active use to share a relatively small number of policy documents in a secure environment. Everything else, with modest behaviour changes, would be better served by actual and active collaboration by users.
Which is where the hunch came in. I have been surprised by the number of times we still see the over-specified feature request when people come to talk to us about Intranet. And we as an organisation that is eager to please have had to swallow hard and say no to developing those features. And the reason? Because a well-executed collaboration environment should almost definitionally revolve the need for a ‘one to many’ broadcast tool This is the hunch.
It is a simple matter in BCSocial at least to create a space where critical documents and company-wide announcements can be made and recorded and even possible to record who has and who has not read it. But we are about moving beyond a one-to-many conversation culture and instead want to drive the more productive and engaging culture of many-to-many participation.
So it was reassuring today as it has been with other clients to hear that we are not outliers on this. The challenge seems to be to get people to think ‘outside of the Intranet’. Adopting technologies like BCSocial means information flow becomes part of how we do business rather than something we conduct through a specific tool like the Intranet. This requires something of a leap of imagination but the reward is a relieving of the burden of a the dust-gathering, expensive and never up-to-date Intranet.
There are more and more of us who think that way - where do you stand?