Intranet, Internet, Extranet merger imminent
It all used to be so simple: your corporate intranet would be owned and managed by your internal communications team; your corporate internet site by your external communications, by your investor relations team or your marketing team; and your extranet managed by your sales and customer development departments. Whilst each had a technology foundation, it was likely that there was no common CMS, little commonality of content or functionality. These three were technological islands, organisationally distinct and with clear strategic differences.
The times are changing and we’re seeing the start of a merger of intranets, internets and extranets that raises some interesting governance challenges, as well as realise some enterprise efficiencies.
The influence of Social Media
Many companies have set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts primarily for customer or consumer interaction but given that many of their employees have private and professional access to social media, many companies are finding that their social media spaces are becoming de facto extensions of their intranet. Publishing a news story via Facebook and allow followers to comment is no different to your corporate intranet except that the conversation may not be entirely limited to employees. Closed internet spaces, like LinkedIn company spaces, or Yammer, blur the boundaries of internet and intranet still further.
Unified Content Management Systems
Most Content Management Systems (CMS) allow for the management of multiple websites and those websites could be intranets or internet sites. Given the unification of this CMS foundation, it’s not a huge leap of faith to imagine publishing materials directly, to both locations, with a single click of the send button. At the recent EPEM event, I saw exactly this from the Italian company, ENI Group who employ a single CMS and have a broadly singular intranet/internet experience.
Many companies are somewhat hesitant about using their intranet CMS for their internet sites falsely believing that their internal CMS is somehow incapable of the slicker interfaces needed. If you’re in that position in your company, consider these internet sites that are powered by SharePoint, a very common intranet CMS: Ferrari, Dell, US Olympic Committee and countless others. Your CMS is very capable of handling both your intranet and internet materials.
Professional Collaboration Communities
In most Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies, there will be a team of people dedicated to selling and marketing their products into a given grocery store. At the grocery store HQ, there will be a dedicated team of people to manage every supply chain detail of those given products. These two groups of people have entirely different hierarchies, work in entirely different buildings, are paid by different companies and in some cases, may not even be in the same country and yet, they are actually one team who own the chain from design, manufacture, sales, distribution and finally consumption. It will not be long before these people are connected via online community spaces. But what are these online spaces? Extranet, where inter-company sharing has been done in the past; internet or intranet?
Extranets have always been seen as an extension of a companies intranet but the nature of enterprise collaboration and a broader definition of team, will help merge these two concepts still further.
If extranets are becoming intranets; and intranets are becoming internets then …
It’s clear that the once clear distinctions between intranets, internet sites and extranets are blurring somewhat as the technology evolves and business needs develop. Traditional distinctions between internal and external communication teams (and outputs) will also likely diminish, mirroring this application of technology. This merger though will bring some clear advantages.
- A single design with a single user experience for all places, giving a clarity of corporate identity with smaller overall design bills
- Publicly listed companies are obliged to publicly reveal some materials to the markets before telling employees (see our intranetizen post on laws and intranets). A single merged space could limits the chances of a mis-timed publishing.
- Employees read the corporate site too! Merging ensures that there is no chance of mixed messaging especially if the former intranet and internet materials were managed by different teams. Consistency of content is critical when information consumers can compare and contrast.
- Reduced licensing and support costs as to you move to using a single technology foundation.
How far down the merger have you gone in your company? Share your story