So what do I need to know about intranet technology these days then? [I have a whole different post about IA, content etc!]
Before I was ever a Web Manager I had a job where my title was Intranet Operations Manager – though as this was the late 90s this didn’t really amount to much more than some Dreamweaver created HTML pages, a shared file system and actually a quite clever (for the time) staff directory. In the years since then I have flirted with intranets but have never really been directly responsible for them – my old team at JISC did end up taking on the intranet just as I was leaving but I wasn’t that closely involved in the thinking behind that.
That said there was a tiny bit of my legacy in the brilliant intranet that Ben, Kerry and H ended up producing. I had been a strong advocate for making use wiki technologies for internal (and close to internal projects) and had introduced a product called Confluence to JISC. Confluence calls itself an ‘enterprise wiki’ (or at least it did) – as I tend to choke on the word ‘enterprise’ unless it is referring to a starship I didn’t use that term! After some failed attempts to get MediaWiki to work in the way I wanted (maybe/likely my own fault) I chose Confluence because it was easier to use and because at the time there was a growing community that was contributing to a plug-in architecture not unlike (though much smaller) than WordPress.
Anyway it was relatively popular and well used and when it came time to make a platform choice for the intranet it had demonstrated enough functionality that it was seriously considered and in the end became the foundation for the intranet. I love/d the idea of a wiki based intranet but that does rather reflect my prejudices and in fact for the most part the JISC intranet acts as a pretty standard HTML based site with pretty minimal collaboration or editing and its share of links to documents – nonetheless I like the fact it is possible to edit 🙂
I also had a little bit of experience with Yammer recently as well but I never really engaged with it to the level I felt I should have. I do like the idea of it and I believe it does add a useful layer of community above and beyond the standard intranet concept but much as I love Twitter I’m not quite sure whether this ‘micro-blogging’ idea works within an organisation – I’m not dismissing it at all just waiting for a light-bulb moment I guess.
My current organisation is now split over two main sites in different cities as well as several satellite offices (including two in Africa) for the first time with teams being split and an awful lot of new people (from what I can tell dozens of people have left taking with them enormous amounts of un-captured knowledge). I think the right kind of tools would relieve a little of the dis-join that is inevitable in this situation. Something like Yammer based in the cloud obviously has advantages in the speed in which it could be setup and some of its basic functions would be massive leaps forward from what we are currently working with (especially the profiles/staff directory) as well as the ability to have a bit of a back-channel. Unfortunately I think that is going to be too big a leap for many people and there is a much more likely solution – one that from my brief reading this week seems to be increasingly the default for most intranets – Sharepoint.
My encounters with Sharepoint have not been happy ones to date but I am willing to concede that is as likely to have been the fault if the implementation as the product – there do seem to have been moves to add a layer of ‘social’ to the tool and the fact it integrates with things like Confluence, Yammer (and Newsgator) as well does seem to open up some opportunities and I have always felt it was a useful document management tool so maybe it isn’t as evil as I have often portrayed it (though I’ll never accept it should be used as a web CMS!)
There doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as much up-to-date blogging or articles on this topic as I was expecting – or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places? Any pointers would be appreciated.