As part of a series of blog posts, we are featuring some of the year’s best articles concerning social intranets. Today we feature Toby Ward’s “Guide to Social Intranet Strategy”. Toby is a thought-leader for enterprise intranets and his popular

A social intranet is only one part technology, and two parts people and process. In fact, technology is only an enabler, and may only be worth 20% of the total value of an intranet.

Truth be told, a successful social intranet is remarkably similar to an intranet. Not unlike like the high-performance sports car to the family car, a high-performance social intranet resembles the corporate, family intranet at first glance… but only when it’s not performing to expectations. A flourishing social intranet needs many of the requisites of a regular, run-of-the-mill intranet: well-defined governance and process(es), highly engaged people, and highly functional technology. But the devil is in the non-technical details: the process.

People and process drive the social intranet – governance and content make it sing.

People

The first ingredient to a social intranet is of course people: executives, managers and front-line employees who depend on social media to communicate and collaborate with each other on a daily or weekly basis. Unfortunately, executives aren’t quite pulling their weight when it comes to contributing regularly to Intranet 2.0 tools, stifling many organizations’ attempts at turning their intranet into a social intranet:

  • 58% of employees contribute to Intranet 2.0 tools on a weekly basis or more frequently.
  • Only 28% of executives contribute to Intranet 2.0 tools on a weekly basis or more frequently.

Many executives still do not embrace the intranet, even from a sponsorship or stewardship role. However, the most successful intranets have one common ingredient: active executive support and sponsorship. Without active executive support, a social intranet will fall short of its potential.

To be a true social intranet, access to these tools needs to be open to all or most employees. Only two-thirds of organizations with social media tools on their intranet allow all employees to access them. This means a large portion of the employee population doesn’t have access to social media tools and is missing out on an opportunity to help create a social intranet (source: Social Intranet Study).

 

Process

Giving employees free reign of Intranet 2.0 tools doesn’t come without risk. To mitigate that risk, you need to plan accordingly and support the tools with the proper governance, standards and policies before rolling out these tools and giving employees full access.

Key to the process component is establishing and defining a thorough governance model. Simply put, governance defines an intranet’s ownership and management model and structure including the:

  • Management team
  • Roles & responsibilities of contributors
  • Decision making process
  • Policies & standards

Like the content of your website or intranet, planning and governance is technology agnostic; whether it’s SharePoint, IBM or another portal or content management system, the necessity for and the approach to governance is the same. Given its technology neutral status in governance is largely applicable to any technology platform.

Politics and the issues of control, ownership and standards go hand-in-hand with intranet management and perhaps these issues, more than any other, have driven the requirement for planning and defined governance models. Sadly, very few organizations actually have a well-defined governance model, and many of those have spent hundreds-of-thousands to millions of dollars on their website or intranet – amounting to extraordinary investments left to chance and execution on a whim.

 

Technology

The best social intranets comprise a consortium of social intranet tools: blogs, wikis, user commenting, tagging and forums, to name a few. The results of the Social Intranet Study show a wide range of Intranet 2.0 tools being used in organizations today. The top three are:

  • Intranet blogs (present in 75% of organizations with at least one tool)
  • Intranet discussion forums (65%)
  • Intranet messaging (63%)

Given the low cost of Intranet 2.0 tools (38% of organizations spent less than US$10,000 licensing and installing their tools) it’s no surprise organizations are opting for more and more social intranet tools as they become available.

But each tool has different strengths, weaknesses, and adds varying degrees of value to your organization, so identifying which tool is right for you can be difficult. Often this means gathering business requirements for the social intranet tools to be integrated into your intranet from key stakeholders in your organization.

Keep reading to get Toby’s 10 Steps to a Social Intranet on the Social Workplace blog.

You may also like:

  1. The Social Intranet
  2. What is next for social intranets?

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