Intranets in “no-where land”

February 28, 2006

A story straight from Intranets in “no-where land”. A situation I witnessed recently:

An international company decides to delegate responsibility for deciding how much bandwidth should be bought by a country and of course, asks the countries to pay for it from their local budgets. At the same time, the company has imposed significant cost reduction goals for everyone.

The  company sets three levels of priority for bandwidth: (1 = highest priority)

1. email

2. applications

3. intranet

Senior management in the  company state that the intranet is a must, that it is the primary driving force for enabling the company to achieve it’s goals, building a shared culture, and working efficiently together.

The communications department – in charge of the intranet – did not even know that the IT department had established the priorities.

Users in outlying countries – far from headquarters – say the intranet is too slow.When asked if they would have problems if the intranet went down for one day, most say no, which of course is fortunate for them, because if the intranet had business critical information for their work, and was last priority for bandwidth — good luck doing their jobs!

This is a real story.

One slide worth a thousand words…?

February 22, 2006

I used the slide below in a workshop I ran in London in December 2005 on globalization and large, complex intranets.

Intranet is a process

A participant in the workshop told me I could run an entire workshop around this single slide.

Sounds like a good idea.

The three arrows refer to something I believe strongly, having seen hundreds of intranets in as many different organizations:

1. You need 3 flows of information – top down, bottom up and horizontal.

2. If one of the three is missing or weak, your intranet (and your organization) is missing something.

And losing business value.

Vocabulary hurts or helps

August 12, 2005

I have trouble deciding what word to use to talk about intranets serving an organisation with people located in different countries around the world.

Global” is often used, especially by Americans. Consultants talk about Global IA (global information architecture), companies talk about globalization of their web sites.

One problem with this word is that it has very negative connotations for many people: globalization is perceived to be part of the offshore manufacturing strategy, the Wal-Mart effect, what people riot against during World Trade Organization meetings.

International” is a word often used, but it triggers mixed perceptions also. A company I know has renamed its division outside the US as  “(Company name) International”.  The people making this change perceive 2 parts of the company: here at home, and everything else. Other people will perceive the “(Company name) International” as the headquarters, with the US-based as a country division!

So, we may be left with the word “worldwide“. So far, I have not found any downsides to using it. I plan to do a quick audience opinion survey in San Jose and London this fall (intranet conferences) and see how / if perception differs from continent to continent.

Hole in the Wall or “the leader takes the mouse”

May 11, 2005

An article appeared on the BBC web site May 2 about the Hole in the Wall programme in India where computers are made available to dispossessed children in a shanty town. Sugata Mitra broke a hole in his office wall and made a computer available to children who had never before seen one. Within a few days, they had taught themselves to use it, working together with no help from any adults.

This extraordinary story tells us a lot about collaboration and the power of collective experimentation. Among his comments “”Groups of children given adequate digital resources can meet the objectives of primary education on their own – most of the objectives.”

Sugata observed their behavior: “You find that the noise level begins to come down, and from somewhere a leader appears. Often his face is not visible in the crowd, but he is controlling the mouse because suddenly you see the mouse begin to move in an orderly fashion.”

“And then suddenly a lot of children’s voices will say ‘Oh, that pointer can be moved!’ And then you see the first click, which – believe it or not – happens within the first three minutes.”

Take the time to read this amazing story, and think about what it suggests for our own work on intranets and collaborative projects. For me it illustrates how leaders emerge naturally and groups are capable of self-regulation and self-teaching  given the opportunity, time and motivation.

Teach-yourself computing for kids, BBC

The Hole in the Wall web site

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