Intranets Battle Enterprise Social Networking

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Intranets Battle Enterprise Social Networking

By | 2017-09-15T09:49:34+00:00 November 21, 2013|Intranet Software|

I recently read an article in CMSWire titled “Are Intranets Becoming Irrelevant?” (see article link below) that brought about some strong beliefs surrounding the use of social networking tools in the enterprise.

I have to first admit that I am not privy to the author, Tom Petrocelli’s research data and can only speak to the subject based on my own experience with our more than 1,600 customers, as a provider of intranet software for over 14 years which consists of both business tools and social utilities, as well as a dash of my own opinion, to which everyone is entitled.

The statement of debate is that enterprise social networking tools such as Yammer have taken the place of business intranets. The article states that “Ultimately, the goals and usefulness of an intranet can be achieved by the enterprise social network but not the other way around”.

I disagree. Intranets are far from obsolete and I’ll tell you why.

Resistance to Social Tools

I haven’t done a lot of data analysis on Yammer and Facebook functionality in the enterprise other than reading articles and blog posts like everyone else, but I have had my share of conversations with other experts in the field of intranets, and like us they are experiencing the same resistance and confusion of using social tools by real-life businesses facing real-life business problems.

How is a twitter-like feed of activity updates going to streamline and automate the intake of patient data within a hospital? Or help to organize vacation and leave requests for HR? How will it manage course registrations for the Maternity Ward nurses to learn how the new digital mammogram machine uses direct capture and HTC grid technologies? Or assist with the bare basics of publishing the new workplace injury policy as a mandatory read for everyone in the company?

Social networking tools help to facilitate communication surrounding the somewhat static but extremely relevant resources of documents, forms and applications full of functionality that are available on an intranet. Rather than replacing the intranet, the goals and usefulness of enterprise social networks should support the intranet’s relevance and effectiveness.

Social: An (Optional) Intranet Sidekick

Tom Petrocelli was kind enough to respond to my comment on his post but in doing so made a reference to SharePoint and the emergence of Yammer. SharePoint, like every other intranet vendor is attempting to capitalize on the power that social networking has in our personal lives. But make no mistake SharePoint has its customer base firmly rooted in Document Management and other business related tasks. SharePoint is an intranet, not a social networking tool. Yammer is a subset of SharePoint just as social networking tools are a subset of the intranet, not the other way around.

The emergence of social tools and the intranet today is a mandatory function of marketing to be quite honest and while I am hearing the collective gasp of that statement the reason I am bringing this to light is that small to medium size businesses in the United States and Canada (our market) seem to still be struggling with not only how to use social tools within their organizations, but if they even need to use them in order to drive better business. Our customers are far more interested in the ROI of Form Builder and eLearning, finding ways to bring manual paper processes online and creating shortcuts to better productivity.

The Future of Social

Personally I would love to see social tools take hold in the enterprise as I have a passion to show how the use of those tools can foster leadership, mentoring and connections. Two-way communication is a must for employee participation and engagement in any workplace. I see a huge leap forward in facilitating on-boarding tasks through the use of social networking on the intranet, but this is in conjunction with the resources, documents, forms, courses, tests, surveys and task related functions that are the very heart and center of a business intranet.

So are intranets irrelevant in the face of enterprise social networking tools? There are compelling arguments toward the opposite and that intranets are really just breaking stride in the potential productivity they can offer to employees.

Check out the article “Are Intranet’s Becoming Irrelevant?” on CMSWire and share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I welcome input into the ever-ending debate on this topic.


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By | 2017-09-15T09:49:34+00:00 November 21, 2013|Intranet Software|

About the Author:

Carolyn Douglas, Founder of the software Intranet Connections, started her endeavor of creating intranets out of a passion to cater to employees rather than technology. Her philosophy is your intranet can have all the bells and whistles but without employees using it, your intranet is gathering dust. This commitment to simple and easy to use intranet software, combined with amazing customer service that delivers the best of employee engagement ideas and practices, has secured Intranet Connections as one of the leading intranet solutions since its inception in 1999.


  1. Andrew Wright November 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    I would have to agree with you Carolyn. While there is a lot of excitement and interest around social tools within organisations, my research has shown that quality, ‘official’ type content such as forms and procedures – while perhaps not as exciting – is more valuable to an organisation.

    I’ve written about this research in the following article:

    Intranets: the signal and the noise and the need for a ‘content miner’:

  2. Alister Webb November 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Interesting post, Carolyn. For the most part I agree.

    I think to talk about irrelevancy of Intranets, or the subsuming/taking over of Intranets by social networks, is the wrong starting point. Too adversarial, too black and white. I tend to think in terms of ‘centre of gravity’. I.e. in past years the centre of gravity of Intranets has been around a single repository of process artefacts (docs, forms, etc) with a bit of social wrapped around it. I think that centre of gravity will shift towards social being at the centre (i.e. the first place people go), with formal artefact management wrapped around it. There is an argument that says that social works best when it’s also the place where common documents are found, since it brings the audience into the social ‘ecosphere’, and social ecospheres work best with high numbers of participants. That’s a tough one for large enterprises to come to terms with, with all the work they’ve done in recent years to centralise process artefacts.

    I also think there is a huge difference between the role of social in large versus small organisations. I know of one sub-100 staff organisation that tried getting social up and running (‘Here it is, now everybody use it!’ cried the CEO) but people found it easier to walk across the floor to the person’s desk and ask them directly – very low tech.


  3. John Hamilton-Smith November 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Thanks Carolyn, a good and measured retort to a mis-guided post. I totally agree with you and I am an advocate for social intranets and using social tools – in and out of the enterprise where they can encourage engagement, communication and access.

  4. Carolyn Douglas November 29, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Thank you Andrew, Alister and John, for taking the time to add your comments and thoughts on the debate between the social enterprise movement and how that relates to the conventional intranet. Alister has many great points and so true that it is too adversarial, too black and white. I have often heard the comment of its just easier to get up and walk to the next door cubicle or office to ask the question. This maybe lends itself to better education to employees of the power in putting that conversation online, when it makes sense, and benefits the greater good of knowledge preservation and sharing.

    Wouldn’t it be great to see more examples of addressing these hurdles than blanket white and black articles on why social is so pertinent. If it is, tell us how with real-world examples on ways in which organizations can use these valuable tools. That’s our goal anyway … let’s start showing the how instead of reinforcing the why. My good twitter-friend Andrew of the WIC has a wealth of research and incredible insight into all things intranet. Very smart and fair guy, he tells it like it is. Be sure to check his article and website at

  5. Peter Barron December 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you Carolyn for this balanced post as it touches on something we’re wrestling with in our own organization.

    The difference (as WE see it) is in the NATURE or FUNCTION of the communication occurring. Social tools provide an immediacy of communication for things that are of a temporary nature. Mature intranets provide an alternative to that in the form of more permanent types of communication. They are 2 different animals and the more permanent communications are what organizations depend on for legal, marketing, development, project management, training, and a dozen other uses. I think most organizations would seriously think twice about relying on social communications for anything mission critical. Intranet Connections does a marvelous job setting up tools (Form Builder, Calendar, Training, etc.) that provide SUSTAINABLE communications in the enterprise for which social communications are just not designed.

    Social communications (chat, tweets, etc.) tend to be for water-cooler conversation needs and are not as permanent (typically, or not optimally!), and are why some organizations (including us) struggle to deploy them because most folks either “walk the floor” or find the tools too cumbersome for such “immediate” communication needs.

    So I see a need for both, and a differential deployment of both. Trying to make employees use social tools for the wrong purpose or function will fail, and vice versa! So Alister Webb is right in the sense that it IS unproductive to draw a black-white dividing line when each has its purpose, IF deployed and used in the right way. Thanks for the article Carolyn!

  6. Kindra Clamp February 16, 2014 at 9:38 am - Reply

    I enjoy what you guys are up to, keep up the good work!

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