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Corporate intranet – deserted for more workable sites

Nadine Gordimer said “A desert is a place without expectation.”  The same could be said for intranets, in that employees have come to expect very little from these internal online landscapes.  As something that became common place less than 20 years ago, never really succeeded in a critical-mass-kind-of-way, and is already on its way out (supplanted by social platforms, true portals, and cloud capabilities) intranets never evolved beyond barren wastelands of static HR information and corporate policies.

The slow death of the intranet can be attributed to three factors:

  1. Evolving worker expectations
  2. Workplace demographics
  3. Technology

We want what we want, and we want it now!

Like so many other things in our lives, technology is changing the way and frequency in which we access the data we want and need. People want Google, Facebook, and Pinterest when they want it, including while at work, and want to be able to use equivalent tools within the firewall do get their jobs done.

Anytime/anywhere online access is also changing employees’ place of work expectations. Going by the wayside are the days of cubes and assigned workstations. Employees want the option of working remotely, on their own schedule, to connect and collaborate with their colleagues online, and develop ideas/processes/products through true crowd sourcing – tapping into the knowledge of people on and outside of the company’s payroll.

The Next Generation of Workers

The biggest proponent of this 24/7 connectivity, the Gen-Y workforce, is infiltrating companies, large and small, across all industries, and are bringing trends (and expectations) of openness and social collaboration with them.

In Cisco’s 2011 Connected World Technology report, one in three recent college grads prioritized access to social media sites like Facebook and the ability to choose their own devices (mobile and otherwise), over salary when considering a job offer. Amazing when you consider this is the generation that is graduating with the more debt than any group before them.

So much technology, so little choice

And while these Gen-Y’ers may not have two nickles to rub together, they (and other generations) certainly are not lacking for technology in their back pockets (only uncool Dads carry their smartphones in a holster on their belts).  With smartphones and tablets outselling personal computers in 2011 (Canalys), people want to choose which technology they use to connect and work on. This creates turmoil between employees, and IT and the corporate decision makers that won’t allow employees to connect to company systems from their own devices, or if they do, it is such a complicated, restrictive, and convoluted process that most employees just don’t bother. This pushes them (employees) further into the external web to connect and collaborate with their peers.

Adapt and evolve

So what does this mean for the corporate intranet? The tools certainly exist to support an evolution of the intranet into the a “digital workplace” environment with comprehensive services for knowledge workers. But unless the intranet owners — whether Communications, HR, or IT — can appreciate and respond to the new workplace expectations and demands, employees will continue to take matters into their own hands, pockets, and wallets, using non-sanctioned (and potentially unsecured) alternatives that allow them to connect, collaboration, and create when and how they prefer.

Listen to the audio version of this blog post here.

Music by: Lino Rise
Title: “Fall of the Prism”


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