09 September 2010

The end of the intranet

The intranet, every internal communicators dream. With the rise of the intranet in the past 10 to 15 years we were in communicators heaven. Finally our news messages could reach every employee. And with a single point of entry, we could finally make all important information available to every single employee in the world!

Well, those of you involved in the intranet know what happened. Intranets are often rated 5 or 6 out of 10 in employee surveys, news messages are not read by the majority of the employees, and let's face it. How difficult can it be to find anything in the ever expanding intranets of major organizations?

With the rise of Google, social media and the unprecedented eruption of information available to us all, the intranet has lost its appeal even more. Why search through complex navigation, when a simple question in my social network is more effective? In our organization our intranet is competing with Facebook pages made by our local offices. Security risk? Maybe, but let's face it, how much information on our intranet is really confidential? And what an advantage it is for mobile employees to have access anywhere, anytime, anyplace, without having to go through our corporate firewalls.

O.K, let me be provocative: my prediction is that the intranet as we know it will have disappeared in the coming five years. All that will be left is a digital repository, an archive. And our dream? Well, it had all the makings of a fairy tale, but it is starting to look like a nightmare now.

Time for new dreams, what a great challenge ahead of us: life after the intranet. Question is: who dares to pull the plug on our old dream baby?


  1. Hi Jan, interesting question. The past decade I have seen large amounts money being spent on intranet development. Especially on the large enterprise CMS-driven intranets with an ever increasing level of custom made additions. Why do organizations want to safeguard the publication of intranet content? For a large part it is an instinctive drive that comes from the idea that information ownership is market dominance: e.g. patents. And for governments confidentiality is part of the law. The intranet carries the load of this shielding drive.
    It is better to separate the presentation from the data. The data is stored in repositories with simple tools to manage that data and the intranet is freed up to become about communication again.
    The future intranet can then be all about dialogue, openness and easy of use for everyone in the company. You need a community manager (a human :-) to tap into the company wide online dialogue and highlight what makes the company unique. In a technical sense the intranet is a layer for social media, access to applications and (secure) data access through a search engine. So goodbye to CMS-driven intranets (and maybe even your e-mail)? That’s the big challenge for the coming 5 years.

  2. Thanks for your comment and views Jeroen, I agree with every word you say.

  3. First of all, congrats on your first post! Looking forward to read a lot of your posts in the future.
    Of course I agree with you. ;-) I think it may even happen a bit quicker than 5 years, depending on ho you define the intranet. I think many intranet as we know them will shrink to what they really are: a newspage and a who-is-who database. All other content should move elsewhere: wiki, sharepoint, etc.

  4. Thanks Samuel,

    Indeed, it could well be that it might happen quicker than 5 years. I agreed, it depends on how you define intranet. I can imagine that the who is who and newspages become part of something that we would not call the intranet. Maybe the whole term will disappear.

  5. Hi Jan, nice to see you blogging and sharing your thoughts.

    I can only agree with your views, and I can also relate to Jeroen's and Samuel's thoughts. I think the next few years will be very interesting when it comes to changes regarding intranet, "social & 2.0-ish" trends, human interaction and information sharing. This has already been changing and it will change even more over the next years. We're on the edge of things!

  6. Thanks Fred, I think we live in very interesting times for communicators, and people in knowledge management and information management. We are all learning a new trade.

  7. I agree on your call concerning intranet. In my view it reflects the ongoing shift from the role of internal communications from centrally directed (sender) mode to a facilitating mode that enables communications across all levels in the organisation. We definitely are at a challenge here. This challenge exceeds the level of tools or platforms like the intranet, though. It is about a new way of looking at communications, stimulating a culture in which all employees feel committed (and welcome) to share their thoughts on relevant topics. In this process management will have to adopt profound (and for some scary) new attitudes to control, trust and motivation. Looking forward to your next posts. regards.

  8. Hi Metmanv, what a mysterious identity.. Thanks for your valuable comment. Yes, intranet is only part of the whole story for internal communications. I intend to write more blogposts about the future of IC. Our role is changing rapidly, and will change even more, I agree. Keep an eye on my posts, and I am looking forward on our discussion about this topic