Intranets are not information dumps

The first step in creating a genuinely useful intranet is to ban the intranet team from using the word "information".

"'Distribute information' is by far the primary perceived role of the intranet, increasing by 7 points from 2006 up to nearly 60 percent saying "absolutely" in 2007. However, "facilitate collaboration" stagnated at 20 percent and "facilitate productivity" only increased 3 points to 22 percent in 2007."

The above is a quote from the second annual Global Intranet & Portal Strategies Survey, published in late 2007. It's a very interesting and solid report and well worth a read if you're involved in running a large intranet.

There is something in the quote that I find particularly interesting, and it goes to the heart of why intranets are not taken seriously by senior management. It's that awful word 'information.'

According to the survey, 'distributing information' is the essence of what intranets are about. But just why exactly do we 'distribute information?' What is the underlying purpose of distributing information? It would seem that whatever vague purpose 'distributing information' has, it has nothing to do with facilitating productivity or collaboration. Interesting.

Maybe we distribute information so that people can become better informed. But what are these things we want people to become better informed about? And why aren't these things we want people to become better informed about connected with productivity or collaboration?

Are these informative things, in fact, anti-collaborative and anti-productive? In other words, are they useless to people as they do their day-to-day jobs? Are intranets, in essence, giant and growing dumps for non-productive, non-collaborative information?

"The intranet has not yet fulfilled its potential and the top serious obstacles lie primarily with senior management," the survey states. According to the survey, here's what's holding intranets back:

  1. Intranet not seen as a priority
  2. Lack of awareness of the potential role of the intranet
  3. Lack of ownership at a senior level
  4. Lack of or insufficient search solution
  5. Not aligned to processes, not essential for daily work

The "top serious obstacles" do not lie with senior management. They lie with the intranet teams themselves who see their intranets as this vague way to "distribute information", rather than make the organization more efficient and productive.

When senior managers I speak to hear about "distributing information", they think of uncontrolled, unmanaged, badly organized, out-of-date information dumps. They think of vanity publishing by units and departments throwing increasing quantities of irrelevant and useless information at staff who have no time and absolutely no interest in reading it. They see the intranet as a giant, bulging waste of time. They see the intranet as the opposite of collaborative and productive spaces.

Intranet teams must stop distributing information and start deleting it. The vast majority of intranets would be far more productive and collaborative if they deleted at least 90 percent of the content they currently have.

Distributing useless information is how you destroy productivity and collaboration. How do you decide whether information is useful? Ask these questions:

  • Does it improve productivity?
  • Does it improve collaboration?

To find out more about the Global Intranet Trends survey, contact Jane McConnell:

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