With the success of our seminar, the future of intranets, key note speaker, Tyson Nutt wrote this blog for us. Well worth a (re)read.

If you take a look at the ‘way back when’ engine web.archive.org, it’s pretty clear to see a significant change in the external web sites of most business over the last five years.

But what about our intranets? If we way-back-when-ed our intranets how much have they changed in five years? What about five years ahead? Will we be solving the same problems or will we laugh at the immaturity of our current mindset?

I believe the most important intranet elements for the next five years will be:

  • social integration of intranets for staff
  • role of search
  • mobile devices
  • location targeted information
  • user centric design

Five years ago the first iPhone had only just been released and the iPad was still another three years away. Facebook had only recently opened its doors to public users, and Twitter was in its infancy. The pace of technological change can be frightening, making it difficult to forecast even five years ahead.

Having said that, in terms of probability these elements will have an impact on our business in 2018. None of these are in the realm of science fiction, they are being done right now. And come 2018, it’s reasonable to expect that these ideas will be a ‘given’ for any reasonable sized business, much in the same vein as email, telephones or internet access are today.

Social integration of intranets for staff

All the big kids have spent the last few years building or buying their way into this space.   It doesn’t take too much industry knowledge to see key players creating (or buying) their own social platforms. Microsoft have been building social features into SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013, they paid $1.2 billion for Yammer, and also have strategic partnerships with NewsGator; Salesforce built Chatter; VMware have Socialcast; Cisco have built/bought a collection of collaboration tools; Atlassian built Confluence; TIBCO created tibbr; SAP bought Success Factors. All the cool kids are doing it. Why? They’re doing it because it’s going to be big. Organisations will use social business platforms and tools to revolutionise the way information is created, shared, consumed and retained.

Connected organisations and user-generated content improve information sharing and retention in a way we haven’t seen before. Social business tools take the groundswell of social media adoption, and use it to share knowledge, generate engagement, and store retained business knowledge in a way that makes our existing tools look primitive. I see many uses for social business tools, they will become the backbone for the way we create, share, consume and retain business knowledge.

Role of search

Every minute, 72 hours of video content is added to YouTube. There are 340 million tweets per day. There are close to 29 million pages of content on Wikipedia. Inside the organisation, we’re also seeing unprecedented growth in content creation. With more and more content being created, we need to create better ways of aggregating and finding information.

Search will play a critical role in connecting staff with the information they need to do their job. Searching across multiple systems, repositories and farms will become a key technique for managing the ‘findability’ of the exponential explosion in content we are creating.

Ask yourself, would your organisation be more efficient if all resources available to staff were to become searchable and actually findable?

Mobile devices

The mobile revolution is already upon us, but its growth and impact will still dictate the next five years.

Regardless of whether companies provide them, or staff bring their own device, employees will use a collection of devices to access work content. Smart phones, tablets, ultrabooks and a collection of devices that seem to be hybrids of each of these are commonplace in all areas of business. This is the case across all business verticals, not just corporate executives. Retail staff, manufacturing/ engineering, mobile sales representatives and restaurant staff are all using mobile devices for key business processes. There is a shift in user expectations, and staff are expecting that these tools will be available to them.

At the moment, email and calendar applications are by far the most used mobile applications. Over the next five years we will see huge developments in applications and tools that allow staff to add value and carry out business activities while away from their desk, mobile access to the organisations intranet being one of them.

Location targeted information

We are yet to really take advantage of the potential of mobile devices in the area of location-based information. Location-based social media sites like Foursquare (and Facebook to a lesser extent) have paved the way for location targeting.

Devices will be context- and location-aware, allowing notifications and alerts to be pushed to staff when they are in their vicinity. Manufacturing plant operators will be alerted to upcoming plant maintenance schedules, retail operators will be alerted of low inventory/stock levels, engineering staff will be notified of safety alerts when arriving on site or when servicing potentially dangerous equipment.

This style of contextual information publishing will feed directly into our social information stream, giving us the information we need at the time we need to do something about it.

User-centric design

In the past, IT departments built systems based on functional and technical requirements, delivering functionality that meets the documented business rules. In many ways, this process is flawed. Over the past few years, we’ve started seeing a significant shift in the way we deliver projects, and an increasing adoption of user centric design techniques.

User-experience and user-centric design techniques address these requirements from a user point of view, rather than a systems view. Who are the people who will be using the system? What do we know about them? What are their goals, motivations, experiences, and expectations? What information do they need to perform that task? How can we design a solution that best meets their needs?

In the next five years, we will (slowly) see intranet and IT teams shifting away from point-to-point system solutions, and understand the role that user-centric design plays in developing holistic and usable tools to help people do their job.

The wrap

These predictions are here and now. There are companies pioneering these new areas of intranet innovation, and reaping the rewards.

As a business professional, what does this mean for you?

  • If this is the first time you’ve thought about some of these things, you need to find out more about them.
  • If these things aren’t on your radar for the next 2-three years, they should be. Start making a mid-range plan for how they will impact your business.
  • If you are already walking the path, congratulations and godspeed.

Want more information?

Register for one of our regular complimentary events.

As the keynote speaker, I covered in more detail, where intranets are heading, what the benefits can be to your business and the key areas all intranets should be embracing now to revolutionise the way businesses create, share, consume and retain information.


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