Intranets were intended to copy the success of the Internet within an organisations’ borders. They were the embodiment of ‘small pieces, loosely joined’, to cut through the hierarchical control structures of a large enterprise, to allow local innovation, human conversations and direct access to expertise.
That’s why they needed a ‘hub’. A star-structure is just a tree-structure, drawn from above (and there are no longer any borders.) The enemy (your customer) has breached your outer defences. Beware, you may have to listen to them. The last thing you need now is your staff cooperating, without your permission.
This post was triggered (again) by @Euan writing part of a long-overdue rant I’ve been planning. OK, I may once have written a toned-down version of what I wanted to say on an internal corporate web-site on the re-launch of ‘our’ Sharepoint Intranet portal but there were all kinds of sitting-on-hands and biting-of-tongue contortions going on as I typed. Because that’s what ‘corporates’ do to people with non-compliant ideas.
My blog then was called ‘Outside the Box’. The title was intended to hint at both lateral thinking and that I was not writing as a part in the IT machinery; no longer running ‘boxen’ (servers) as a cog in the corporate infrastructure. I’d gone to work in the ‘skunk-works’ and I intended to make a tiny bit of a stink occasionally to try to persuade IT to do things better, because they were making quite a mess of things. Only good changes are good. There’s “Can do” attitude and there’s “Shouldn’t do” knob-headery.
This blog ‘On The Outside’ began as I prepared to leave. It is an oblique reference to something Lyndon B. Johnson is reputed to have said, possibly in reference to the toilet arrangements on a camping trip.
Euan covered well that an intranet is not a site. It’s a NET. “Intranet” see?
I’d like to move on to the other 5 letters of the word:
It’s internal! It’s ‘inside the family’. It doesn’t have to exhibit perfect behaviour so you aren’t embarassed in front of the neighbours. It’s something you knock up quickly to try stuff out on, in the privacy of your own home. It needs to be just good enough for purpose. Yes, you can build a corporate HR site and make it available ‘on the intranet’ but you must have the minimum number of controls on the intranet that allow it to function legally. It should be a living thing, undergoing evolution in tooth and claw. When Darwin said ‘Fittest’ he didn’t mean ‘best’. He meant the best fit. You may think some of the fashion choices look a bit slutty but the intranet is a dress-down day not an industry dinner dance. If you have a healthy corporate culture, it will ‘slut-shame’ only when necessary.
And for goodness sake don’t let ‘Corporate Comms’ anywhere near ‘it’ (though there isn’t a communications ‘it’ because ‘it’ is a network over which normal human comms will happen, if creativity and innovation aren’t strangled at birth.) It doesn’t need to be in corporate colours or approved font styles or to follow external communication standards because “this is only a test”. Please, please don’t corporately bland it.
Here’s what Euan said http://diginomica.com/2014/03/09/people-intranets/.