Guidance & How To, Strategy & Decision-making

Social intranet “how to” from E2.0 Summit in Paris

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in February 2012 ……

What came out of a 45-minute round table discussion on “How to get from an information-based intranet to a social intranet”?

Read on to see lots of ideas, based on firsthand experiences from 18 passionate intranet people.

I led the group through a 5-minute brainstorm on major obstacles and we regrouped into the 3 categories below.  Then we went into 3 huddles to identify ways around the obstacles. This was fast work, all wrapped up in 45 minutes. The three obstacles:

  1. Management resistance (top and middle, each with different concerns)
  2. Culture and change resistance (which is a bigger question than the intranet itself)
  3. Internal communicator resistance (uncomfortable losing control)

The rest of this post is in short note form. The ideas and approximate wording are from the participants themselves.

Obstacle 1: Management resistance

Top and middle do not the same concerns.

Top management is focused on numbers, outcomes, added value.

  • Therefore, show them good practices, success stories, direct benefits so that they say “yes, it makes sense”.

Middle management fears lack of control, don’t fully understanding what’s happening, wonder who is working if everyone is using social media.

  • Therefore, show value added but on a more granular level.
  • Work with them to develop guidelines (for IT, for HR) so they feel involved and “safer”.
  • Have people on your team they can talk to if they need support for their processes.
  • Provide on-hands training for them so they understand how to use the different tools from the beginning.

Find KPIs that relate to business.

Help them make social collaboration part of the KPIs but not by saying “please micro blog, discuss in a forum, etc.”. You need to speak about business:  “Maybe you want to raise client satisfaction with your team. How can social media be used to do this?

It’s OK to make it “cool”.

If you can make the use of social media “cool factor” it might help. Imagine your CEO sitting in the business lounge at an airport and saying to a peer: “Look at my iPhone. I have 50,000 followers on my internal blog.”

Obstacle 2: Culture and change resistance

It’s about something bigger than the intranet.

Because this is about people, change and culture, we’re talking about something bigger than the intranet. Your intranet is not going to change everything.


  • Whatever you do, it has to serve peoples’ needs.
  • You have to be out there listening to people.
  • There’s no point in delivering something you have not involved the employees with.
  • Otherwise why would they use it? Of course they will be resistant to change if we have not listened to them.

Start early with the people who will cause the biggest headaches

Involve work councils and other people who will cause the biggest headaches because once you get them on board, they are the ones who will  help drive the culture change and drive change in their departments.

Figure out why they are resisting. Identify the problems they see. Fear? Lack of clarity or understanding?

The culture change needs to be around “it’s OK to make mistakes”

You can call someone up and say – “Oh sorry I didn’t mean that, or I didn’t get that.” That’s OK verbally but the minute you write that in a discussion or comment, it becomes more of a threat.

It’s around enabling innovation and change through “It’s OK to make mistakes. Put those ideas out there. They might get knocked down but they may also be really good!”

Obstacle 3: Internal communicators

Internal communicators often resist this change, saying “We own this part of the company, this process, the intranet itself.” They have a traditional way of doing things. They push information out and are not used to the social approach.


Find a top level sponsor early on.

  • We need to find a top level sponsor from the outset.
  • Then we can go on an individual level to the internal communicators, offline, in one-on-one conversations to try to educate them, to reassure them.
  • The need to understand it does not mean the end of their jobs, the end of control, the end of validated information.

Bring other voices into the steering committee.

Bring in people from the business, HR and other departments so that there are other voices besides just the internal communications.

Try to get a balance so that all these people can decide on a high level road map together.

There can be a happy coexistence.

  • Social media can also help them reach their goals.
  • It is complementary with what they already do.

Start small. Think how things fit together.

It’s not easy to agree on what the intranet is.

  • Is it just the corporate communications stream?
  • Is it the portal with all the systems people use to communicate internally?
  • All of these things can happily co-exist. There still remains a very traditional, validated corporate communication stream that can be improved and made better by social features.

There also needs to be some full tilt social aspects and systems that exist along side the corporate stream. It’s a question of complementary co-existence.