Monday 6 June 2005

The Intranet Imperative - Part 2

This is the 2nd part of the Internet Imperative. Part 1 takes a critical look at our understanding of what is an intranet. This part provides a framework for developing a strategic view of intranets that encompasses our new definition.


The Strategic View of Intranets

Organisations need to control how their intranets will evolve into application-nets. The right approach for achieving this control is a management response that starts with developing a strategic view of their intranet. This strategic perspective does not prescribe the exact future form of the intranet as an application-net, but it provides the basis for creating a system architecture that will facilitate it. The critical point of difference between this new architecture and the old approach is that the intranet imperative forces us to broaden our horizons in order to understand more fully the fit between people, places and things.

This new strategic view should be built from understanding four key elements:

  1. People and Process - understand who the current and future users of system will be, where they are located and what work activities the system must support;

  2. Content - not just documents and information, but the collection of applications and other data in the system;

  3. Infrastructure - The basic technical structure or features of the system (e.g. servers, networks, content management software, etc) and also the human support functions (e.g. helpdesks, trainers, technicians, etc); and

  4. Governance -– the management controls (standards, committees, etc) that deal with the form of the infrastructure and the nature of the content in the system to ensure it meets the needs of the organisation and its users.

But like any type of strategic planning, the application of this strategic view must take into account the overall context of the organisation. Steps for understanding the strategic context and incorporating it into the design of the new architecture include:

  • Business and Technology Analysis - Develop a strategic understanding of the intranet and how this technology, at its most fundamental level, relates to the overall strategy objectives of the organisation;

  • System Audit and Gap Analysis - Complete a review of the people, processes, technology and content that already exists within your organisation to identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be;

  • Manage expectations - Negotiate performance outcomes with your stakeholders to link the evolution of the intranet to the organisation's objectives; and

  • Innovation - Look outside the organisation to learn from leading practices, understand the different options that are available in the market, and emerging trends.

These steps take us beyond simply asking how users will contribute and access information in the intranet and instead make us focus on the bigger picture, resulting in an architecture that is better aligned to the needs of the organisation.

In the final part of the Intranet Imperative - pulling it all together: trends, strategy and where to with next generation intranets.

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