Global Intranet Trends for 2007

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in October 2006 ……

I have finished the analysis of the data coming from the Global Intranet Strategies Study I conducted over June and July of 2006.

101 organizations from around the world participated by answering a very detailed, 20-page questionnaire, and by generously providing many comments in the free text areas.

My overall conclusions – in three short points.

1. The intranet is still in its infancy.

It has achieved a first milestone of being a primary information tool. Its benefits as a collaboration platform and productivity tool have not yet been fully achieved. More importantly, it is rarely perceived to be a tool to bring business value to the organisation.

2. The intranet is moving towards the individual.

This is clear seeing trends in personalisable portals, feeds to hand-held devices, implementation of web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, and initiatives in the area of PKM (personal knowledge management).

3. Senior management has a stronger role to play in the intranet.

Numbers and comments throughout this report repeatedly show that senior management in most organisations is not yet fully aware of  the role and potential of the intranet nor of their own responsibilities regarding the intranet.

Findings developed and illustrated with facts and figures in this report include:

  • The intranet has entered maturity as a primary information tool. However its value as a productivity and collaboration tool is not yet fully established, and its potential for creating business value is far from being understood. Whereas 52% responded “absolutely” on the first point, a mere 2% said the same for the last point.
  • Senior management perception of the intranet is out of sync with reality on the ground. They are largely unaware of the usefulness of the intranet for employees for their work. 55% of the respondents say that if the intranet were unavailable for 1 to 2 hours, employees would be disturbed in their work, yet only 13% of the respondents say that senior management perceives the intranet to be “business critical”. Ironically this is the same percentage who consider it “nice to have”.
  • In general, intranets lack sufficient funding and resources, although almost half of the respondents say they expect their 2007 and 2008 budgets to increase. There is a trend towards centralization and more HQ control of budgets (cited 24 times) compared to only 7 who cited “become more de-centralized and unit-controlled”.
  • Decision-making is an issue for most organizations. It is slow and suffers from political issues. “Lack of awareness of the potential role of the intranet” is cited as the top obstacle for decision-making.
  • Customer-facing functions are largely missing from the intranet, both in content (information and applications) and in decision-making roles.
  • The primary strategy drivers for the intranet are “building a common culture”, and facilitating knowledge sharing, collaboration and teamwork. “Business needs related to products, services & customers” and “creator of value for business such as innovation and time-to-market” are the lowest on the list.
  • A primary obstacle for the intranet achieving its full potential is that is it too communication-oriented and lacks integrated applications.
  • Intranet evaluation is irregular and inconsistent, and many respondents are currently working on ways to improve this. The top indicator used is “user satisfaction” and “contribution of the intranet to corporate and/ or business strategies” is ranked at the bottom.
  • Only 1 out of 4 organisations is obliged to demonstrate ROI to justify new or current intranet investments although regions vary slightly with approximately 1 out of 4 in North America, 1 out of 5 in Asia Pacific and 1 out of 6 in Europe.
  • Organizations (roughly 1 out of 3) are beginning to integrate specialized profiles such as information architect, taxonomist, usability expert, etc.  into job descriptions.
  • Information flows are strongest in the top-down direction, with both horizontal and bottom-up still limited.
  • Although 3 out of 4 organisations have a single (or consolidated) directory containing all employees, these directories contain information about peoples’ expertise and skills in 1 out of 5 cases.
  • Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis are making their way into the intranet: Almost 40% of the respondents have or plan to have internal blogs, significantly higher than the current or planned external blogs (around 15%). They are primarily used for “experience and knowledge sharing” and providing “expert views on a subject”.
  • Organizations who consider the intranet to be “business critical” or “very useful” vary in their profile compared to the full survey population. They are also those who have adopted web 2.0 technologies (blogs and wikis) the most extensively and have stronger communication flows (top-down, bottom-up and horizontal) than average.
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