[David Strom's Web Informant] June 6, 2012: What ever happened to Intranets

David Strom david at strom.com
Wed Jun 6 07:36:28 EDT 2012

Web Informant, June 6, 2012: What ever happened to Intranets?

Back in the mid-1990s when the Web was young, we had corporate
Intranets popping up all over the place. These were typically internal
projects that were used to disseminate information to employees about
projects, products, and customers. They were quick and dirty efforts
that often involved off-the-shelf parts and little (if any)
programming. The idea was to produce a corporate Web portal that was
just for internal use, to enable staff to share documents, best
practices, customer information and the like.

But they are mostly historical artifacts now. What happened? Well, for
one thing, TCP/IP happened. Back in the mid-90s, corporate networks
were a hodge-podge of protocols, including SNA and Netware. No one
talks about these anymore. Having an all-IP network made it easier to
adopt more Internet-native technologies. Remember when sending emails
from one company to another was a chore and not always successful? Now
we take it for granted that we can communicate with anyone.

Secondly, the tool sets got better. Many companies migrated their
Intranets to Wikis or Wordpress when it became clear that these
products were easier to maintain and use. And then a whole class of
products now called enterprise social networks arrived which have
ready-made discussion groups, microblogs, news streams, and social
media. For example, you can share files with comments attached to
them, such as if a team is collaborating on a presentation slide deck.
Or use them for customer support actions. Or tracking competitors. All
the things that we once used Intranets for.

Then Twitter took off, and many of these products modeled their user
interface on the simple 140-character "what are you doing now" dialog
box. That made it dirt simple to add content and for a work team to
collaborate together.

The final nail in the Intranet coffin may be the announcement this
week from Socialcast. They are offering a fully-featured version for
free and forever for up to 50 seats of its software. Expect that
others will jump on board this model.

These enterprise social networking tools mean more than a “Like”
button on a particular page of content: it is a way to curate and
disseminate that content quickly and easily. Let’s look at a few of
the distinguishing features for this class of products.

•	Team workspace. You can segregate your work teams by project and
have all the materials for that project in a single place for easy
access. These spaces can be persistent to serve as an archival record
for completed projects, too.
•	Activity stream. The Twitter-like stream is useful to keep track of
what your colleagues are doing in any given day.
•	Presence detection. Like corporate Instant Message tools, you can
keep track of when your co-workers are in the office or ask them quick
questions via text or video chats.
•	Document collaboration. You can edit documents in real-time to shape
a particular deliverable for a client without having to do serial
•	External services connections. Many of these products can search and
interact with CRM systems, SharePoint servers, Salesforce, emails, and
other external services.
•	Mobile clients. Most products have specialized clients that have
been optimized for iOS and Android phones.
•	Public or private deployments. You can start with a public cloud
deployment of the product to try out, and then move your system to
your own server behind a firewall for the ultimate security.

So say goodbye to Intranets. It was nice to know them. Certainly, the
new breed of social network products makes it easier to communicate
and collaborate. Now we just have to use them.

Comment on this here: http://strom.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/intranets/

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