Business & Value

Four ways Steve Jobs influenced intranets

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in October 2011 ……


I’ve read a lot of articles about Steve Jobs’ impact on the world and on technology. Several comments about Jobs struck me, and made me think about intranets.

I no longer remember where I read these statements, so have not quoted all the sources.

  1. “Steve Jobs saved technology from itself.”
  2. “Steve Jobs created everything I use to communicate with the world.”
  3. “Steve Jobs ignored market research. He developed what he felt was right.”

Steve Jobs, a model for intranet practitioners

The first two statements are easy to transfer to intranet practitioners. The third will be more controversial.

1: Intranets are not about technology. The technologies should be invisible to the users.

2: Intranets are becoming the entry point into (nearly) everything people need to do their jobs.

User research or creating and meeting desire?

3: Market/user research will not trigger the fundamental shift intranets need. Intranets need to become the iPhone of the workforce: an extension of me and what I need to do.

User research is not necessarily the best way to take your intranet to the next level. I’ll get hit for saying this, but there are lots of things we know today that we do not need to research. Detailed user studies are less useful today than they were back in the old days when intranets were still top-down and communication-driven.

Now we know people need to carry out tasks, find information, collaborate, find experts, exchange ideas and so on. We may need research for the details, but we don’t need research for overall design, information and user experience strategy.

Skilled IA (information architecture) and UX (user experience) experts can create concepts without doing specific research on “user needs”. Great IA and UX people can create and satisfy user desires that even the users would not know how to formulate. That’s pure Steve Jobs.

The iPad tipping point?

However, Steve Jobs’ biggest, most significant impact on intranets may be the iPad. Senior executives who have gotten their hands on an iPad are beginning to wonder why they can’t get enterprise content on their iPad. It may be the first time ever that executives are getting personally involved in the intranet.

I’ve heard many firsthand anecdotes about this, so why not give it a try. Get an iPad into the hands of a few of your top executives and see if they start asking for more, and, of course, start funding for more!