Magic 8 Ball

How right were our #intranet 2012 predictions?

A year ago, Team Intranetizen had a punt on what we felt would be the biggest changes in the intranet industry in 2012.  So were we right? Let’s take a look back at those and see if we were on the money.

1. Austerity measures and the Olympics will drive companies to enable more home working

We said: The intranet as a ‘digital workplace’ will become a step more real and more people will be encouraged to stay home and use the intranet to share documents and collaborate.

Were we right? Yes. Existing trends towards greater homeworking, supported by improved digital workplace systems continued throughout 2012. As expected, the Olympics provided an additional driver for this for London-based businesses, but for many the productivity gains and cost savings this produced meant businesses no longer see place-independent working as a skiver’s paradise but simply as sound business sense.

2. SharePoint maintains position, but 2012 is the year of the augmented social

We said: The benefits of collaboration through dynamic community sites and micro-blogging are become more accepted and expected. SharePoint 2010 doesn’t quite cut the mustard in this space and in 2012 we predict many firms will ‘top up’ the social capabilities using tools like Yammer, Newsgator, Chatter, Jive, etc. 2012 will be the year when heterogenous intranets will be common even in large enterprises.

Were we right? Yes. The long-anticipated arrival of Sharepoint 2013 has yet to make a splash in enterprise social. Existing Sharepoint users have not yet been rushing to upgrade, and those who have are yet to be bowled over by Microsoft’s social offering, meaning the trend toward the heterogeneous intranet continued apace.

Meanwhile the not-so-anticipated Microsoft buyout of Yammer has muddied the waters for many. As we blogged about back in the summer, the Yammer acquisition came too late in the Sharepoint development cycle to be included in the 2013 release, but the tie-up brings the potential of seamless integration between the two, for the benefit of existing Sharepoint houses. However, this integration is still some way off, meaning intranet managers are still looking to top up social functionality using other tools.

3. Measure it with Metrics

We said: Continuing financial crisis causes companies to drive savings and benefits from all of their spend. Intranets will have to prove their worth and demonstrate what’s being used and what’s waste. Good metrics that clearly demonstrate positive and productive outcomes – not outputs – will be key.

Were we right? Yes. Challenging economic times have placed greater emphasis that ever on the intranet’s role in delivering business value. Across our networks, peers have talked about the need for better metrics and ensuring these are aligned to corporate objectives. We’re pleased to see vendors responding to the challenge with improved metrics functionality (such as recent changes to Google Analytics, and the impressive benchmarking functionality fr0m Interact), and better availability of (and diversity to) metrics and evaluation consultancy services. We are still seeing companies struggle with effective measurement of outcomes.

4. 2012 is a year for ‘sweating the intranet assets’

We said: Companies will look for programs designed to increase awareness and adoption of existing tools, rather than add new. When budgets are cut, intranet teams will look for opportunities to get more from what’s there already. The metrics will provide the insight as to how the tools are used; intranet teams will likely develop programs to inform and shape corporate culture.

Were we right? Yes. As the economic recovery has failed to materialise, companies in Europe and the US have looked to maximise the value of existing assets in order to boost productivity and deliver business value. In short, this was a year of entrenchment and a push for adoption, not one for pushing the envelope with design or functionality.

5. Improve intranet governance; reshape the role of intranet manager

We said: The last 3 years have seen an evolution in intranets, changing from simple internal communication publishing spaces into business-critical collaboration, social, transactional platforms. Your intranet manager is really the Director of Business Enablement.

Were we right? Sort of. As the digital workplace has continued to evolve rapidly, so too has the role of intranet manager. Yet this doesn’t seem to be evolving in the way we expected. Research we conducted for our piece on US intranet managers suggested the role of the intranet manager is perhaps in decline, with many intranets (in the US in particular) being managed by digital or communications specialists responsible for both internal and external sites, and decline in intranet-specific roles. This year also saw a slight decrease in the number of intranet specialists on LinkedIn, although this was countered by an increase in digital workplace specialists and a significant growth in digital skills overall.

While this concurs with a lot of what we’ve heard anecdotally from our network – that organisations are shifting their focus away from channels and back towards content, design and experience – the role of the intranet manager, and the career path for intranet specialists is an area in need of further study. Look out for a future guest post on intranet careers.

6. Search

We said: The demands on search will increase in 2012. Intranet managers everywhere will hear, “I want our search to be more like Google!” Trying to explain to Execs and employees alike that Google spends millions of dollars to deliver dynamic search will fall on deaf ears. Companies will want their search functionality to deliver better results with little investment. The results are likely to underwhelm. One (possibly unintended) result will be the growth of localised search linked to specific intranet content or functionality, such as expertise search through better employee profiles.

Were we right? Not really. While it’s certainly the case that demands on intranet search have grown while results continue to underwhelm, things have been pretty quiet on the enterprise search front. Instead, more companies have been turning to social intranet functionality to improve findability of key content; popular social platforms such as Jive use Google-like algorithms to signpost content accessed most frequently by those in your social graph.  It’s too early to say whether the heyday of traditional search is passed – we’d suggest not – but with investment in intranets (and in search) hard to come by,  for most 2012 was a year of inaction and increased frustration with search.

7. News will no longer be the star of the intranet family

We said: In the last two years, intranet managers have witnessed a shift in the importance of news. Companies are moving away from news centric homepages and putting the focus on collaborative tools . This is evident in Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s monthly IBF Live sessions. In 2012, we will see even a bigger move. Corporate news will no longer be the primary focus of intranets; instead, users will actively visit to use tools that will help them to achieve results. 2012 is the year when intranet functionality becomes king, and not content. It’s through delivering real business value that the intranet will become an essential tool, not simply a nice to have. By 2013 internal communications will cease to be the primary stakeholder for the intranet.

Were we right? Partly. The continued growth in enterprise social over 2012 meant that for leading organisations news was often de-prioritised in favour of social in order to boost adoption and improve relevance. Those organisations which have ESNs have seen a significant change in homepage design (as seen in IBF’s My Beautiful Intranet goes social), as well as changes in site governance. But where social collaboration hasn’t yet arrived, corporate news remains dominant, and this is reflected in site management and priorities. We’ll stand by our assertion that corporate news is losing its stranglehold on the intranet, but for those organisations who have no plans for a social intranet this might be a long time coming.

So are your Intranetizen bloggers sheer ruddy geniuses or what? Well, not really. While we’re confident most of our predictions turned out to be largely correct, you could argue many of them were pretty obvious.

The aim for our 2013 predictions, then, is to try and challenge a little more, and not be afraid to be proved wrong next year. Look out for  our next attempt at soothsaying, to be published later this week.

Photo credit: bark on Flickr

There are 4 comments

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  1. Kareem

    Really interesting read, looks like your crystal ball was pretty accurate. However I had a little smile when I read the comments about SharePoint 2013 is yet to make a splash in corporate social….it was only officially launched a few weeks back, so I would expect to see more of an uptake in the next six to twelve months after the early adopters report their findings and opinions.

    Yammer is a very interesting proposition…I am looking forward to seeing how that develops in line with future SharePoint releases.

  2. DanishDo

    I think another important trend is ‘intranet is getting smaller’. Look at incredible success of Bitrix24 last year where Yammer and others have failed (small business). I think in 2013 we’ll see both smaller intranter providers and smaller users. Having intranet will be as ‘normal’ as having CRM. In fact most intranets will probably have a CRM module

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