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Social Intranet Technologies, Part 3

In the past two posts (Part 1 & Part 2), I list many of the key technologies that make up a social intranet.  In this post, I’m going to talk about how you might combine those different systems into an overall social intranet platform for your company.  In the next post in this series, I’ll talk about what some major vendors are offering for a social intranet solution.

Assume that you’ve decided to replace your old, circa 2001 intranet with a new social intranet.  A good place to start is to understand what features are going to be important in your new intranet.  What features you implement are going to depend largely on the corporate culture you have and the culture you want to build in the future.  I’ll layout a few different approaches here and talk about the different technologies that would need to be implemented for each.

In our first scenario, you are pretty top-down.  You want to communicate with employees and you want them to have some dialogue back with you.  But you are concerned that maybe they’ll be distracted from their real work, so you don’t want them to do too much.  You are ok with publishing content to the intranet, having employees provide comments and ratings, but that’s it for now.

That is certainly a cautious entry into a social intranet, but that’s OK.  So what technologies would you need?  Here are my suggestions:

  • Content  / Document Management will be your primary technology.  Publish and managing content is what these systems do day-in and day-out.  You can create a home page with news, announcements, etc.  You may want to set up a page for each department and designate someone in that department as a content author who is allowed to post content to their department page.  Most vendors now offer features such as commenting, rating, and moderating in these systems, which will help implement that two-way communication.  
  • Blogs should also be considered.  In this top-down organization we may want to allow a few senior people to post information without having to go through the formal content management approval process.  Most blogging software is easy to use and includes features such as commenting, rating, and moderating.
  • Of course you’ll need some of the basics like security and search and mobile.

For scenario two, lets say you want to have some top-down communications, but you want to allow employees to do more than just comment.  You want to encourage people to connect with other colleagues like you do in Facebook.  You want employees to be able to find other people with similar interests or with expertise. Here are my suggestions:

  • Content  / Document Management will be an important technology.  You can manage your intranet home page, add news, announcements, etc. through the content management system.  
  • Profiles become much more important in this scenario.  In order for people to connect, they need to know more about you than an email address or your phone number.  You want a profile system that displays company-related information about each person, like their work address, their reporting structure, etc.  So the profile system has to interface to your corporate HR system(s) to synchronize data.  But you also want to allow people to enter and update personal information, such as their interests, their expertise, etc.  A good profile system will also link to a person’s activities, so you can see what they are and have been doing.
  • Activity Stream or microblogging provides your employees a way to update their status (I’m working on…), make comments (Joe’s presentation was awesome…), ask questions (Has anyone done…), and keep employees informed about each other.  Microblogging is short and takes little effort, so it won’t interfere with other work.
  • Blogs and Wikis should be considered as a way to have employees share more information than can be done with microblogging.
  • Portal could be important too.  In our social intranet it is often desirable to display corporate information alongside some personal information like a favorite blog or my activity stream. Portal makes it easy to combine different features into an easy to use system.
  • Instant messaging and Web Conferencing should be considered in this scenario.
  • Of course you’ll need the basics like security and search and mobile.  SSO is also going to come in handy as we start to integrate several systems together.

In our final scenario, our company wants a full-blown social intranet.  Not only do we want to connect people and have top-down content, but we also want to enable communities to be formed spontaneously by employees.  We want to take advantage of our connections and communities to improve sharing of files.  We want our many, many, many project teams to collaborate better amongst themselves and between teams.  Here are my suggestions:

  • All the technologies!  I’m sure you guessed that I’d say that.  
  • Many social software vendors also offer excellent ways to build communities through either pre-defined content management templates or by bundling several of the technologies mentioned above.  For example, in one system, you can create a community with the click of a button.  That community is created with a blog, a file library, an activity stream, a forum, member profiles and an easy way to manage membership.
  • I didn’t mention gamification as a technology, but you should consider how gaming can enhance your intranet and drive adoption.  We have some posts right here on our blog about this topic – see Gamification of Social Environments and Gamification of the Intranet.

Of course, your company won’t fit neatly into one of these three scenarios.  So you want to be pretty thorough about finding out what are your company’s wants and desires in this area.   Only after you understand that should you look at which technologies, systems or vendors will help you reach your goals.

As I mentioned, in my next post I’ll talk about some of the vendor solutions for social intranets.

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2 thoughts on “Social Intranet Technologies, Part 3

  1. Angie Mclester

    I am a business owner of a small company. I have used content management systems for over a decade such as SharePoint and a few other open source system. The idea for my company as a small business owner is to offer an enterprise content management system with social capabilities. SharePoint was much to confusing for someone with a limited I.T. Staff that required a fix budget. The new online version was cost-efficient but not to user friendly. Open source was an option until we found out that the support for it was beyond our staff training. Then we found a one stop solution and alternative to SharePoint’s public sites, private sites and sites that are subsites of others, Centralpoint by Oxcyon.

    We found social capabilities and powerful search, Centralpoint is as natural to manage as it is to use. It is simple and easy for the end user to use. You can setup polices and administrate with ease. The user interface is as easy to use as Microsoft Office. I would recommend Cenralpoint by Oxcyon for any company.

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