Intranet trends 2010

  • A wide spectrum of technology solutions: there’s no single way to build a great intranet.
  • Better-structured intranets based on task-centered IAs, often breaking up a legacy of information silos.
  • Reliance on user research methods — including user testing, personas, and card sorting — both for design decisions in general and IA decisions in particular.
  • News as a main homepage feature, but with increasing emphasis on the usefulness of news stories.
  • Better employee profile pages. In addition to offering information beyond plain contact listings, profiles were typically coupled with a more structured way of finding employees with specific expertise.
  • Blogs by both executives and regular employees.
  • Emphasis on search and on initiatives to improve search quality (which continues to suffer on many intranets).
  • The use of pre-designed page layouts and a CMS to establish and maintain content consistency.
  • Training for site managers and people in charge of individual areas, in recognition of that fact that UX quality derives from people and not just technology.
  • Content curators assigned to keep specific pages up-to-date.
  • Intranet branding, typically with somewhat functional names, such as BenNet, BrandPortal, the Hub, InnovCenter, kate2.0, My.Habitat, the Portal, and Wooby.

From Jacob Nielsen’s Alertbox

6 successful social features of Intranets

  • Knowledge sharing. Offering repositories for case studies, samples, and other existing information can help people with similar problems avoid having to start building their solutions from scratch. Examples range from Habitat for Humanity’s fundraising templates to Bennett Jones’ Share Your Work widget. Sometimes, knowledge sharing can be as simple as a Q&A tool to connect employees with questions to colleagues with answers.
  • Innovation management. Companies managed and encouraged innovation by offering users tools for taking ideas and improvements from conception to completion. Indeed, this is the sole purpose of Mota-Engil’s winning InnovCenter. Verizon offers a mobile version to capture ideas as they occur, which is often on outside jobs, far from any old-fashioned suggestion box.
  • Comments. The simplest way to inspire user-contributed intranet content is to let employees comment on existing information, ranging from news stories to knowledge bank resources. Commenting features reduce the fear of the blank screen; systems that force people to create content from scratch every time inhibit user participation.
  • Ratings. Giving a grade requires even less work than writing a comment, and thus rating systems can further broaden user participation. Sites that use ratings can list top-rated resources first in menus or give them added weight in search listings. Mota-Engil and Verizon offered an even simpler approach by noting how many users had previously accessed a resource (even if they had not rated it). Sometimes, bad content gets substantial use simply because it addressees a key need; on average, however, better stuff gets used more, so a usage count is a reasonable proxy for quality — and has the huge benefit of requiring no extra effort from users.
  • Participation rewards. We know from research on social features that user participation increases when contributors are visibly rewarded, such as by adding points or badges to their profiles. Many winning intranets did exactly that. Because there’s real business value to features like knowledge sharing and innovation management within an enterprise, some intranets went beyond the symbolic value of visible recognition and offered real prizes to employees who gathered sufficient participation points.
  • Customized collections. The default intranet information architecture (IA) must be based on the average employee’s tasks and usage patterns, but can never predict any individual user’s information needs with 100% accuracy. To contend with this fact, designers often allowed users to customize content collections.

From Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox

Social intranets

“The social intranet is not just about adding a layer of social collaboration tools; it is a platform that combines the powers of push with the powers of pull to supply anyone who participates and contributes within an extended enterprise with the information, knowledge and connections they need to make the right decisions and act to fulfill their objectives. It equips everyone with the tools that allows them to participate, contribute, attract, discover, find and connect with each other to exchange information and knowledge and/or collaborate. It connects information demand with information supply in knowledge-intensive businesses, something which can only be done by involving all employees in the information supply, removing bottle-necks created by the production model (such as approval workflows and that everything must fit in a central taxonomy) and enabling employee-to-employee information exchange.”


“The social intranet also has an important part to play when it comes to supporting serendipity; enabling people to find both information and people they didn’t know they were looking for. To do so it must have mechanisms that allow information and people that might be useful to us to be pulled to us. Spending time and effort searching for relevant information and people where there is information abundance just won’t pay off. We must have ways that “automagically” attract useful information and connections to us. We just need to implicitly and explicitly share what do and know to other people in our networks, to people who share our interests, or to people who happen to pass us by at any other kind of cross-road.”

Oscar Berg: Why traditional intranets fail today’s knowledge workers

Wikis in Organisations

A wiki is a highly democratic medium. There is no easier way of killing it than imposing layers and layers of management upon it. Avoid managing your employees’ interest by making them “page patrons” or the like (so that each employee is responsible for some particular page or pages). If they are experts in some field, they will want to pass on their knowledge in one way or another. And if you can’t get some of them to put down what they know on a wiki page, well, maybe then a wiki is not the right way to do it (try making an interview-type podcast, most experts just love to talk about their work). Instead of putting up roles and rules, think of irritating a wiki by introducing a code of conduct (but be sure to put it in the wiki itself).

Steffen Blaschke: Wikis in Organisations

DMS versus Collaboration Tools

“All of which brings me back to my meeting with the retail bank. When asked about the relationship between DMS and collaboration tools, what I said was that some of the content in a typical DMS really belongs there. These are the documents associated with highly regulated processes. But most of the content in a typical DMS–to-do lists, meeting notes, press clippings, conversations, working papers, personal observations–doesn’t really belong there. It’s in the DMS because there was no good place to put it. That’s where a collaboration suite can do a much better job. A good collaboration suite can liberate that content from the tyranny of documents and nested folders, and will encourage people to use it for actual working materials.

In many cases, you will want to integrate the two. Law firms, for example, are absolutely dependent on their document management systems to manage their filings and other legal documents. But we’re increasingly seeing them set up collaboration suites to capture all the discussion around the documents, how to use them, what they mean, and so on. The two systems are integrated with links from the collaboration suite into the corresponding DMS records.

What I’m saying amounts to this: Use your document management system to manage documents, and use your collaboration suite to collaborate.”

Michael Idinopulos DMS and Collaboration Suite: Friends not Foes

Wiki for enterprises

“A wiki is a collaborative website where users can create and edit pages. Wikis fall conceptually under the broad concept of content management, and you could certainly use your existing CMS to create a wiki-like site. However, wikis bring unique characteristics that differentiate them from a run-of-the-mill content management systems.

Wikis emphasize ease of content creation. This simplicity comes mostly from many sources:

  • A wiki markup language that provides a short-hand way of formatting text and linking documents.
  • The ability of users to create and edit pages directly and independently.
  • A bottom-up approach to site structure and navigation.
  • Very simple templating.
  • A conscious decision to eschew workflow or even simple approval steps.”

From: Mark Choate (2006): What makes an enterprise wiki?