Smarter Smart Intranets and Digital Workplaces

Its no secret that innovation in enterprise IT is following innovation in the consumer space. And its not just about the demand for better enterprise IT created by employees with first-hand knowledge of what a great user experience looks like – the fundamentals of IT are being disrupted from the outside thanks to companies like Amazon (an online bookstore equally famous for its cloud servers) and Facebook (one of the world’s largest social network, also famous for the way it’s software engineers push new code live to its servers).

But if we look at the state of intranets in 2014, there are still many that have changed very little in the last decade other than perhaps receiving a few upgrades here and there to keep up with Web browser standards and visual design trends. However, this is slowly changing with more and more organisations jumping ahead to take advantage of the opportunities being created by mobile, social and cloud computing (I won’t list all the examples here, but the case studies are there if you look).

Despite this progress, this is not the end of the journey.

I am now thinking about what the next generation of intranets and digital workplaces will look like in the future.

To the roster of disruptive technologies we can add ubiquitous computing, in the form of wearables, gesture based computing and the “Internet of Things“. For example, our team was recently in Canberra as supporters of the +INSPIRE Centre’s first Google Glass meetup in Australia. Google Glass is one of many new ideas beginning a renewed cycle of disruption to how we interact not just with each other but also our relationship with the the places and things we do where we live and work.

It is also only a small leap from thinking about the role of big data in the general community (“the quantified self”) to its impact on the workplace (“the quantified employee”).

Of course there is every chance that ubiquitous computing and big data inside the enterprise will fail deliver to a user experience that employees want and find useful. Or as Alan Lepofsky joked on Twitter:

“Intranet of Things. Where employees, conference rooms, projectors and coffee makers are connected, helping people get work done.”

(Emphasis added)

To avoid this, I draw inspiration from this great info-graphic created by NESTA in the UK who challenge conventional thinking about “smart cities” and say:

“The ‘smart cities’ agenda is mainly focused on top down technological initiatives (embedded sensors, data integration and analytics). The real smart cities of the future will mobilise human intelligence as well as artificial intelligence, bottom up creativity as well as top down control.”

Smarter Smart Cities by NESTA

Our future intranets and digital workplaces should be based on similar principles – loosely connected corporate systems and smarter ways for employees to coordinate and cooperate on how they use corporate resources (people, places and things).