Guidance & How To, x-Early Perspectives

Your intranet language reveals your intranet attitude

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in September 2010 ……


The words people use when talking about their intranet often reveal more than they realize. At the risk of over-simplifying, I’d like to share some impressions.

1. Which word do you use when talking about your intranet?

(My impressions in parentheses!)

  • Users (Sounds passive, very IT-oriented, makes me think of “user manuals”.)
  • Clients (“They are outside, we are inside.” “They are separate from us.” IT often use this term to refer to the business managers in their organizations which suggests IT and business do not work hand-in-hand.)
  • Staff (I dislike this collective noun –  like sugar, coffee, etc. –  not a group of diverse, living individuals.)
  • Employees (At least is has an ‘s’ on it!,  still on the receiving end because opposed to employer, reminds me of now, out-dated B2E portals.)
  • Co-workers (We work together. The intranet is for us all. However, disadvantage is that it may exclude management, in which case, it’s not so good.)
  • People (Perhaps too vague, but has the advantage of not being limited to employees. It also does not put a label on people.  Very appropriate for co-innovative ways of working. I prefer this one.)

2. How do you react if I ask “Do you have any user-generated content on your intranet?”

  • You say “no” or “not yet”. (You don’t have social media features yet, which puts you in a very small minority!)
  • You say “all content is generated by users”. (You realize that content comes from people, and that everyone is a user in one way or another, but we really know what we mean! It’s clearer to refer to managed and unmanaged content.)

4. Do you have an overall intranet role called ‘”editor” or an “editorial policy” for your intranet?

  • Yes. (The intranet is most likely owned and managed by the communications department and positioned  primarily as a communications tool. You work in a culture of control, because these terms originated from the world of paper, where it was actually possible to control the message, as well as when, how and to whom it was sent.)
  • No, but we have a news section on the intranet with an editor.
    (Much better, but hopefully the section is not completely controlled by the “editor”!)

5. Which of the following terms do you use?

  • Knowledge management (Long gone in theory, but I still hear it even though most KM initiatives fail. This reflects a top-down philosophy.)
  • Knowledge sharing (Definitely better, more horizontal. More realistic, but still abstract.)
  • Connecting people (We know this is the way it happens. It’s  question of how: how to support people, and how to provide some structure, context and stability to the exchanges.)

Of course, there’s no “perfect language”. Every word has connotations.

What are your likes and dislikes in intranet-speak?