Within large organizations, employees usually have the facility of digital enterprise tools to collaborate on projects (connect with content) and collaborate with each other (generate ideas and engage each other around a virtual water cooler that transcends borders and organizational boundaries). The former is usually around a structured collection of information and the latter around unstructured and spontaneous conversation and networking. Most of the time, both the structured and the unstructured are brought together through a dashboard on the enterprise intranet – this digital space started off a a little over a decade ago as a digital bulletin board of standard corporate information (news, policies, employee benefits, corporate discounts, latest white papers, etc) but in its next incarnation is aspiring to get to a higher level by weaving in other useful elements – elements that go beyond information ware and into operational aspects of business processes and social aspects of collaborating across the enterprise. The enterprise intranet has the ability to be the seamless interface for the trifecta of an informational, operational and social hub (the order of the trifecta is obviously directed by the owner of the enterprise intranet, that can range from the Communications group to the Knowledge Management group to the IT group to the individual business units).
Most enterprise intranets today serve as add-ons to an already existing suite of middle office desktop communication tools like email and instant messaging and may not always be embedded in the path of business processes (well-tuned business-intelligent organizations have their transactional business applications tied together, but that is also rarer than one would think). The Intranet managers, wherever they fit in organizationally, will increasingly face the growing appetites of enterprise employees who are enjoying apps available on the consumer web market and unfettered connectivity offered through their own mobile devices (whether they are stuck in traffic jams or waiting at airports and hotel lobbies). These enterprise employees already expect (if not demand) similar experiences within the enterprise. However, the order of magnitude for the enterprise intranet to move from an information-only publishing platform to a multi-dimensional hub where the trifecta (above) meet is very high. Some companies like Lowe’s are doing this already and doing it well (was recently impressed by two members of the Lowe’s Integrated Workforce Experience group who spoke of their work in this area at two different venues - the Intranet Benchmarking Forum Live Meeting in New York, June 13-14 and at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, June 19).
The Enterprise technology masters will need to figure out how to match (if not out-do) the IT consumer market on the web which is catching up fast. This will need to be driven by a strong and clear vision of the future operational model and choice of IT architecture along with an unwavering commitment to infrastructure, resources and funding. The danger of not doing this is that employees will increasingly start using and even relying on their ‘external’ apps and mobility for convenience, which could come at the risk of exposing company information. What would be the top 3 things that are needed (without negotiation) for an enterprise to get and stay ahead in this game?