Tuesday 10 February 2009

Collaboration on intranets

In the last couple of months I've been working on number of different projects - with one major piece of contract work keeping me busy in Canberra right now - and while each has a different start and finish point, there has been a common theme in each related to the overlap of intranets (as we traditionally think of them) and collaboration.

Now, don't get too excited. I hesitate to re-brand this space as Intranet 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 because its simply not as clear cut or as straight forward as that (after all, that's why I'm involved). But there is no doubt that Web 2.0 is in some way influencing both what is possible and what people think is possible. The net result is a growing acceptance that intranets aren't just places where you look for information but they are places where you can actually do work too. So collaboration doesn't have to be something else or something different from the rest of the intranet, instead it is something that is either part of or has a clear fit with the overall intranet.

Still, every organisation is a little different. Even if collaboration on the intranet sounds like a good idea to people, there are always barriers that can get in the way of such a vision. Some of these barriers are justifiable, others are simply a fact of circumstance and occasionally because people are just stuck in old ways of thinking. But regardless, the process of change and our ability to work within any constraints while still providing an improvement to the state of the information workplace in an organisation is always more important than subscribing to a prescriptive model of pure enterprise social computing. Otherwise if we always aim for social computing perfection we might as well give up and go home.

What do you think? Is your intranet become more collaborative?


  1. Yes, I do think it should. Basically an intranet is about news and people-finding. If you get these right, you've got a pretty good intranet. But why do employees use the people-finder? To call or email them mostly. Why to they call or email them? To collaborate with them. And this is where most intranets go silent and say: "Go use your email for collaboration."

  2. Anonymous2:00 pm

    Well, at the risk of being a broken record, I've been highlighting for a while that there are four fundamental purposes of an intranet:

    * content
    * communication
    * collaboration
    * activity

    More on this:


  3. @James Robertson - I think many of us working in this space have been banging on about this for while, but I think the shift that is finally starting to happen is that users are adopting that perspective too. I would like to think its us that have influenced this shift, but I doubt that. However, hopefully models like yours have at least prepared intranet managers for this change. What do you think?

  4. I work in an environment that has implemented a sharepoint based solution, that has taken over part of our intranet. While that element of our intranet is more collaborative (because it has also replaced shared drives), the overall pattern of usage is very passive.

    2.0 enterprises need to engage the masses not just the internal geeks.

    All I am sure about is that sharepoint isn't the tool to bring that kind of engagement about.

  5. I think organisations are starting to 'get' the need to support collaboration in their intranets. It saves money (travel/staff time), helps protects against knowledge walking out the door and helps increase staff engagement at a time when companies do not wish to raise wages to buy loyalty.

    However companies have not yet 'got' how to make staff collaborate via an intranet. There's the need to encourage edge thinking, reward risk takers (those who speak) and focus on usability to make collaboration as easy and as useful as possible.

    It takes time to change corporate culture - particularly when the systems and processes undermine the goals of the organisation and half the staff are digital migrants at best!

    It will take time to build collaboration via intranets.

    Most intranet managers I know want to use their intranets for collaboration - it's more senior management who is still engaged in 20th century thinking.

  6. @Australia Music on Tour - unless you can change that, I'd classify it as a "a fact of circumstance" that SharePoint has been deployed. Have you looked at add ons for SharePoint like Newsgator Social Sites? It might give you an idea of what's possible at least.

  7. A model for collaboration?

    Disclosure: My frame is from change management and process improvement.

    As organisations grapple with how to best implement Web 2.0 tools, surely they need to understand the context in which collaboration occurs? To embed the use of the new tools will require them to become part of a new way of working.

    I wonder if there is a accepted/ useful model for the processes around successful collaboration?

  8. While there isn't any agreement about the process of collaboration (probably because I think fundamentally most people would agree that it isn't a linear process), there are plenty of frameworks and guides to help make collaboration more successful, particularly in the domain of collaboration that is mediated by technology. Its probably important to consider the need to separate out two major collaboration meta-processes - setting up the actual collaboration environment itself and then collaborating in that environment. Most advice and research focuses on the second part, but the first is also important - see the work by Evaristo and Munkvold referenced here http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2008/11/recommended-reading-for-next-generation.html. However, one particular article that might interest you is, R&D collaboration: role of Ba in knowledge-creating networks by Malin Brannback - see http://www.palgrave-journals.com/kmrp/journal/v1/n1/abs/8500006a.html

  9. Also worth looking at is http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2008/11/brief-guide-to-successful-virtual-teams.html


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