In part 1 of this series (see Social Intranet Technologies, Part 1), I talked about many different technologies or systems that make up a social intranet. In this post, I want to expand the list of technologies, and discuss briefly several technologies that often get overlooked, but can be an important part of a great social intranet.
When we talk about the social intranet, connecting people to people is one of the most important features we can provide. In the main list of technologies, things such as Profiles, Search, Activity Streams, and Blogs are all intended to help connect people together.
The following technologies have been around a long time and their main purpose is to connect people to people:
- Instant messaging
- Web conferencing
- Video messaging
- Unified telephony
Instant messaging is one of those consumer technologies that has had a hard time moving into the corporate world. Yes, many companies use instant messaging, but it has always seemed to be an afterthought. In a lot of companies I’ve been at, IT seems to use some form of IM, but it is not widespread. I’m not sure why instant messaging is not more ubiquitous in companies. But when you look at social networks, you have instant messaging built into Facebook. Yahoo and Google have huge instant messaging platforms. At one point, many people joined AOL just for instant messaging.
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Web Conferencing has become pretty commonplace on the internet, but this is another technology that has less penetration into corporations than I think it deserves. Nearly everyone has heard of WebEx. If you look on Wikipedia, they mention dozens of web conferencing vendors. The benefits of web conferencing can be pretty obvious – reduced travel time and costs is a common benefit. I think many companies use some form of Web Conferencing for working with outside partners, but I’ve come across few companies that have implemented a web conferencing system on their intranet.
eMail is still the defacto social intranet in most companies today. eMail is how we’ve connected with other people for a decade or two (or three if you were an early pioneer). Its just very easy to create and send an email to anyone inside or outside our company. While most social intranet efforts are aimed at reducing the use of email, it is still an important part of everyone’s intranet experience.
Video messaging has been touted as a great way to connect people, but in general, it has not gained much traction. Youtube is probably the most used system for video messages – you post a video and I can post one in response to you. The appeal with video messaging is that you can make it more personal than email – I get to see your expressions – and longer than twitter. I think that video requires too much effort and infrastructure for most companies to deal with.
Unified Telephony can be described as integrating your telephone system with other parts of your intranet. One very cool feature of UT is have your phone know where you are, what device you are using and then forward calls to the appropriate place. If you are out of the office, you can automatically have calls routed to your cell phone. Or you can have voice messages delivered to your inbox or converted to text messages.
Which of these additional technologies you may want to implement in your social intranet depends on your vision, culture, and certainly your employees desires.
In the next part of this series, I’m going to talk about some major features in a social intranet, such as communities, and explore how some of these technologies can be used to enable them. Then we’ll finish up the series by talking about how the major vendors are delivering social intranet technologies.