Intranet Trends in Australia: 2012 is no time to stand still

I’ve never been much of a futurist, which you might find odd since I spend a lot of time talking about new fangled ideas like ‘social business’ and ‘government 2.0’. From my perspective, none of this is futuristic – it is happening right here, right now if you look around. Reflecting on this week’s Intranets2012 conference and Dion Hinchcliffe’s visit to Australia, I thought it might be worthwhile identifying some of the ideas and trends that I see impacting intranets right now and into the immediate future.

Social Intranets… Social Workplaces

Other than a few early adopters (some of whom I’ve worked with), Australian business has been lagging in terms of the deliberate implementation of social intranets (this is a different story from what users are doing). I think its fair to say that ‘social’ inside the enterprise has finally arrived and its time for us to get to work. Lots of business leaders in Australia are talking about trying to eliminate email, but now they do it with a serious look on their faces.

However, the local industry is still pretty immature focusing on only a couple of vendors. Here at Headshift Asia Pacific we’ve been trying to lead the agenda on social intranets by defining them and highlighting the best leading vendors in this space. We’re proactively engaging with those vendors, working with them to make our expertise in social intranet design and adoption available to their clients. If you aren’t sure what option to pick, come and talk to us.

The other big challenge we see organisations are starting to face in the social intranet space is the question of who now owns the (social) intranet? Social intranets are no longer the sole domain of IT, internal comms or the KM function (if you have one). However, this reflects a deeper shift (what we call social business) that is forcing different parts of the value chain to work together. As result, the ownership issue is morphing into something more complex. Social intranets and extranets aren’t about idle chatter, but about getting actual work done more effectively.

(Over on my personal blog, you might like to read about the still immature next generation of enterprise social tools, social action frameworks).

BTW Before you tackle me on the terminology, appending ‘social’ is simply shorthand for rolling up social computing/software/media/business. Organisations are already social, but we’re trying to rehumanize them at scale.

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

I’m currently working on a report for the Ark Group on mobile apps for the enterprise, which builds on a workshop Anne and I ran at the beginning of the year and will be repeating in July (with new and updated content). If you aren’t already thinking about the impact of mobile on your intranet, then you need to start now! There is absolutely no doubt that mobile computing and mobile devices represent the next revolution in technology in the workplace. And the fact that the take up of tablet devices looks like it is moving even faster than smartphones means that intranets have to stop operating with a rear-vision approach to technology change. If you don’t, your users might just replace your intranet with Yammer!

(Over on my personal blog, you might like to read my post on mobile first for the enterprise).

Design Thinking

With so much happening and all these new social and mobile technologies, how are we supposed to keep up with user requirements and deal with business constraints on how fast we can move? Luckily we have some techniques that have been used by some intranet designers for years but we have expanded this suite of methods to create a design thinking toolset that is social business ready – they include:

  • Visual thinking;
  • User-centred design (hopefully you’ve heard of this one already);
  • User experience design;
  • Service design; and
  • Social experience design.

In the past these tools might have been considered optional or nice to have. But the pressure of social technologies and mobile means that not only are there more moving parts to deal with, but the scope of the design problem has changed as I’ve outlined above.

For example: In our work we are dealing with staff working outside of the traditional office environment, in organisations were their business partner network is as much as critical group as the internal users and where we need to help completely reengineer companies to be social inside and out. These aren’t traditional intranet projects by any measure.

I’ll be in San Francisco at the end of the month talking about the value of social experience design in supporting the adoption of Atlassian Confluence, an enterprise wiki platform. But don’t worry, you don’t did need to fly to the US to learn about this – just drop us a line and we can schedule an introductory workshop or let you know when we are running public events.

This is an exciting time to be involved with intranets, but more than ever there is no time to stand still.