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News round-up: IT trends and intranets vs ESNs

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News round-up: IT trends and intranets vs ESNs

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March seems to have kicked up the dust when it comes to IT and enterprise social collaboration, with news focussing on changes, challenges and debates that IT and knowledge teams face this year.

Trends and challenges for IT

Challenges to IT departments is something we cover often in the enterprise collaboration news round-up, and March is no exception. Several reports emerged this month revealing trends in enterprise IT.

In his article Why workers want self-service ITTom Kaneshige explains that employees are close to being empowered to make tech choices at work and away from traditional IT departments. He states that seven out of 10 office employees use online tools outside of those licensed by their IT department for work purposes. The reasons for going down the path of shadow IT may not be entirely the IT department’s fault, says Tom. There are signs the IT department is simply overrun by requests for business tech, and it can’t respond in a timely fashion. He quotes the K2-Harris Poll survey, which reveals that two out of five workers say their IT department is too inundated to fill their requests quickly.

Bryan Glick revealed the results of a Computer Weekly survey which revealed that mobility has leaped to be the top priority for IT leaders with 42% of respondents implementing mobility projects this year. It also shows that for the first time more organisations are increasing spending on cloud than for on-premises IT, which Bryan calls a significant milestone. He explains that cloud is not just a major shift in IT delivery, it is a signifier of greater intent to transform the IT estate using emerging technologies. He warns that for those IT leaders whose employers are still reluctant to invest in mobile and cloud, it may soon be too late; their competitors are changing the game at an accelerating pace.

In his article for Forbes, Joe McKendrick outlines some statistics that further back up Bryan’s points. In his article, Joe unpacks results from a survey revealing that one in four enterprises have seen “surprise” benefits from the cloud. In the survey of 1,000 executives, 25 percent say they unexpectedly experienced improved communications within their organizations. Another 22 percent report increased revenues they did not anticipate, and 22 percent say they experienced greater customer satisfaction. It’s also notable, Joe points out, that 21 percent say cloud has actually delivered improved security. Another finding from the survey that Joe highlights is that cloud isn’t being led by the IT departments alone. Sixty-eight percent say that moving to the cloud has involved individuals beyond the IT department, and 90 percent say that requests from other departments have influenced the decision to implement the cloud.

The debate rages: Intranets versus ESNs

Over on CMSWire, March was a forum for debate over the ongoing question: Which is better: an intranet or an enterprise social network?

Andrew Wright weighs in on the side of the intranet, arguing that the perception of intranets has changed significantly. He states that intranets “have come a long way since they were seen merely as static repositories of a few out-of-date policies and procedures and a couple of news stories”. People now view intranets as including discussion and collaboration places, wikis, personalized activity streams, employee profiles. Andrew asks, could intranets and ESNs be the same thing?

Laurence Hart passionately disagrees, saying that comparing ESNs to an Intranet site is “a little like comparing a wonderful room full of coffee and cookies with a corkboard on the wall; they just can’t compete”. ESNs are the future, he says, because they combine the static information organizations need with the dynamic interactions that help a person be a productive part of the organization. Laurence argues that even the name intranet conjures up memories of static information dumps whose time has passed. He urges us to focus on using ESNs to extend organizational culture online, and bring employees in all locations into the cultural center of the organization.

Rather than advocating one over the other, Sam Marshall describes how both can work in tandem. He explains that ESNs have sometimes been positioned as being ideologically at odds with intranets, but in practice most organizations have embraced both. Sam argues that ESNs work best when introduced in alignment with the existing intranet. He explains that the ideal arrangement is for intranets to be rigid information repositories, while ESNs should be community spaces, governed by users’ choice of what they consider important.

Carrie Basham Young agrees with Sam, stating that in the world of modern employee communications, large organizations will have both an intranet and an enterprise social network. Companies cannot get away with one and not the other, she says, as they serve, in many ways, polar opposite functions. Carrie argues that the management of the intranet is about pushing official content efficiently, whereas the ESN is simply a tool that allows employees to broaden their relationships and converse.

Oscar Berg takes a different stance. He argues that instead of worrying about whether we need an intranet, an ESN or both, what we should be asking is what do people need to get work done. Focus on the work, Oscar says, not the tool. He explains that the conversation needs to turn to what digital services do people need to get their work done, and how do we design these tools to fit people’s work styles and working conditions. He says that we need to view IT systems as ecosystems of services, where we quickly assemble relevant services into applications and provide them to users in a way that fits both their work styles and work situations.

Steve Bynghall agrees with Oscar Berg’s perspective, and states that instead of thinking about platforms, the starting point needs to focus on organizational and user needs. He says that the ESN versus intranet question is a red herring because of the blurring lines between what the two do. He argues that you can use either or both an intranet or an ESN for the same purpose depending on the needs of the organisation, and the decision must be made on a case by case basis.

Where do you stand on the intranet versus ESN debate?

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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