Where are all the US intranet managers?
The four Intranetizens really value on- and offline networking for intranet specialists. We read blogs written by other practitioners, share thoughts on Twitter, and regularly attend intranet conferences and meet-ups – all part of the burgeoning intranet networking and knowledge-sharing scene here in Europe.
But what’s always been surprising is how little of this networking seems to take place in or emerge from the US. Of the regular contributors to the #intranet hashtag on Twitter, just a couple are from the US. Our top intranet bloggers are almost all based in Europe or Australasia (with the exception of some key individuals and organisations in Canada), as are all the best known networks and thought leaders. There are around 1,000 firms with over 10,000 staff in the US – that’s around the size at which organisations tend to have a sizable, complex intranet. We imagine there’s plenty of people working as intranet specialists in the US. So, where are they all?
We wondered if there really are fewer intranet managers in the US, or if our viewpoint is skewed by being thousands of miles and several timezones across the pond.
We love a bit of analytics, so we took a look at Google’s Insights for Search. This is a powerful little tool which shows relative search volumes – that is, levels of interest in – any search term over time, and broken down by geography. These trends are used by economists, for example, to accurately forecast economic trends such as unemployment rates before they filter into official statistics.
Who is searching for intranet?
First we looked up ‘intranet’ on Search Insights. The results are surprising- search volumes are biggest in Peru, followed by Uganda, Cuba and Chile. But that only tells you about interest in intranets generally. The volume in Cuba, for instance, is due to access to the internet being restricted, leaving Cubans access to a national intranet instead.
What terms would be looked at by intranet managers and practitioners? Well, how about intranet manager?
India takes the top spot for that term – hardly surprising given India’s 1bn population and huge, English-speaking IT industry. The UK takes second place, but the US trails at 3, with less than a quarter of the search volume of the UK (despite having a population four times the size).
We found that surprising, but to validate this we tried other terms that might be searched for by people working with intranets. Like intranet jobs. Again, the relative volume is lower in the US than we’d have expected.
Intranet managers and specialists on LinkedIn
Pretty much anyone working in online in on LinkedIn, right? So we thought we’d take a look at that too, especially as it offers a few different data sets to choose from. First we took a look at intranet groups – there are a handful of very active groups on LinkedIn which (as we’ve noted on our networking page) can be invaluable sources of help and advice. Using the group statistics feature, we took a look at the composition of intranet groups and found similar patterns – large numbers from the UK, Australia and Scandinavia, and comparatively few from the US (especially given its larger population).
Finally, we looked at LinkedIn’s ad builder tool. This allows you to target advertising based to those most likely to respond based on the information they’ve provided in their profile. First, we tried looking for numbers of people with Intranet Manager as their job title. It turns out there’s less than 1000 of these out of 150 million LinkedIn users worldwide.
That’s not all that surprising – we all manage intranets and none of us four have that job title either. So how about if we look under skills instead? Well this is where it gets interesting. There are 250,801 people on LinkedIn with Intranet listed under their skills. Of these:
- 69,712 are in Europe
- 12,413 are in Oceania
- 12,723 are in Canada
- …and 125,174 are in the US.
That’s half of all of those who claim to be skilled in intranets. That suggests there are plenty of people managing intranets in the States. So where are they and why don’t we hear from them?
What do US intranet specialists have to say?
Intranetizen put this question to some of the US’s leading intranet specialists.
William Amurgis replied:
“I’m sure the U.S. has its share of intranet managers. I’ve met many of them. I’ve visited or hosted intranet teams from dozens of U.S.-based organizations. So, I know they’re out there.
“But my title doesn’t indicate that I am responsible for our organization’s intranet. Perhaps that is why you see less people from the US with the intranet manager title: we either have slightly different titles, or we have included the intranet in the broader function of internal communications (as is my case).”
Candace Cahill from Philips Healthcare concurred:
“Perhaps the job description is not as commonly used here as in other global regions. Something I see more and more is the intranet being integrated into the customer-facing, ‘digital marketing’ team. My role has been called several things, often dependent on where the position falls within the organization and who owns the budget. It has moved from what was originally called eBusiness, to Marketing & Communications and now Global Integrated Communications and called Employee Digital Workplace Manager.”
The indications seem to be that the US has plenty of people managing intranets, but they have different different job titles. A quick scan of current job vacancies would appear to back this thesis up; they suggest there is a preference for focussing on digital, IT or communications skills in general rather than specific platforms – with people seeing intranet as one of a number of skills in that area rather than their primary focus.
This different approach to job titles and skills might also explain why we don’t hear so much from intranet specialists in the US – if people don’t define themselves by the platform they manage, they might equally want to participate in the communities of web, design, or communications professionals as intranet ones.
Is it a cultural thing?
Amurgis suggests there might also be cultural forces at play:
“The US, for better or worse, prides itself on rugged individualism and personal freedom — or, as a critic might put it, individual self-interest at the possible expense of the greater (societal) good. Other nations, such as the Scandinavian countries, are much more participatory and in pursuit of the greater good (for all). The latter form of culture clearly lends itself better to a thriving intranet community”.
Again, there could be something in this. So we took a look at Forrester’s social technographic profiling tool, which classifies consumers into seven overlapping levels of social technology participation.These categories include creators (people who blog or create content) or critics (people who comment on blogs, tweet, etc) – that is, the type of people who make up the online intranet community.
This revealed significant differences in the propensity to participate rather than passively consume (what Forrester terms ‘spectators’) – but not in the way we thought. If you take a look at the interactive tool Forrester’s research suggests people in the US are more likely to be creators or critics than those on this side of the pond.[learn_more caption=”Forresters interactive social profiling tool”]
If the tool doesn’t load for you here, visit the Forrester site[/learn_more]
An important corollary to this is geography; those countries where the intranet community is thriving, like the UK and Denmark, are also physically much smaller, so meeting up is simply easier to do. It’s worth noting that where geography is less of an issue in the US – where there’s a concentration of intranet specialists relatively near one another – face-to-face intranet communities have sprung up, such as the thriving Twin Cities intranet group.
We spoke to Kelli Carlson-Jagersma, who founded the Twin Cities group, to get her perspective:
“The intranet is not owned by one person (aka manager) nor one department. In most cases you will find someone in HR or Communications managing the business side of the intranet and Technology managing the infrastructure. Then of course you have the people that manage the content, all the contributors to the intranet.
“Since 1999, I’ve started the Twin Cities Intranet Forum in the Mineapolis-St Paul, MN area. Today when we meet quarterly, we have representation from companies large and small. None of them have the ‘intranet manager’ title. Now with the introduction and expansion of social in the enterprise, we likely will not see ‘social enterprise manager’ either.”
In summary, our research suggests intranet practitioners in the US view themselves differently from those in Europe, for reasons of corporate structure and job title, so are less likely to define themselves as ‘intranet people’, and as such are less inclined to network on that basis online. Their European cousins, on the other hand, are more likely to be platform-focussed, and perhaps more likely to take part in face-to-face networking for reasons of culture and geography.
But it’s unfortunate this means we don’t hear as much from our peers across the pond – with 50% of Neilsen Norman’s top intranets coming from the US, it’s clear there’s a huge pool of intranet expertise and best practice to learn from. So how can we encourage experts in the States to join the intranet community? Or how best can practitioners in Europe and elsewhere reach out to peers across the pond?
If you have any ideas, or have any questions or comments, give us your perspective in the comments below.
What we didn’t ask
We’re also all too aware that our research throws up far more questions than it provides answers. We could equally have called this post ‘why are there so many Intranet folk in Australia?’, ‘Where are all the Asian intranet specialists?’ or ‘Is Peru really the intranet capital?’, but this post is already too long.
We’re fascinated by the variety in the worldwide intranet community, and would be interested in exploring the topic further. If you’ve got any thoughts on any of this, let us know.