Thursday, 2 June 2005

The Intranet Imperative - Part 1

This is the first part of new "thought piece" I've been working on, but rather than overload you in one go I'll post it in a few parts. It builds on many of the ideas I've been blogging and presenting on in the last few months. Feel free to give me some feedback along the way! (Of course, if you really can't wait just drop me an e-mail and I'll send the complete article in a PDF)


What exactly is an intranet?

The nature of intranets is changing. In fact the term intranet itself is rapidly losing meaning as the Internet interpenetrates organisations through a mixture of business-to-business marketing, extranets, hosted application services and of course personal use of the Web at work. The traditionalist view of intranets, one that concentrates on static information built around an impregnable information architecture, creates a risk for organisations that may be oblivious to the rise of collaborative and dynamic “application-nets” that connect users to people, places and things.

Consider for a moment - what exactly is an intranet? The most simple or basic definition defines it as a restricted, private computer network that uses TCP/IP (Internet) network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange within an organisation. But when we look at modern intranets (and extranets), this definition raises more questions than answers – for example:

  • Restricted or private to whom – does this include business partners or even customers?
  • What is the computer network - does it end at the PC on your desk, the mobile phone in your pocket or a kiosk on the shopfloor?
  • Does data include self-service systems, rich media, access to Web - and video conferencing and business intelligence tools that empower staff to get their work done?
Clearly the potiential demands placed on intranets are moving well beyond their original scope of simple access to information and documents. In fact paralleling other changes in our working environments, intranets now need to support always on, always connected access and provide flexibility and interactivity on demand. The technologies to do this already exist and the key challenge for many organistions is how to manage the evolution of an intranet into a multifaceted application-net in a controlled manner.

Of course while you can choose to ignore this imperative, be aware that technology has a habit of winning. You may find your users taking the path of least resistance (like returning to the dreaded network drive) or they will pick their own user-driven tools that will ensure they can get the job done.

In part 2 - How to take a strategic view and apply it to the evolution of intranets

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