There's a ton of information about all the Social Networks out on the web, but a movement has been afoot to bring some of the advantages of social networks to the Intranet as well. I did some research on the topic for a half-day social networking session I spoke at with the IABC yesterday and the findings were worth taking a deeper look at. I had to dig deep to find info and screenshots, but there are a few resources out there that target the Intranet.
The Intranet really fizzled and died at most companies prior to Web 2.0 technologies. It's unfortunate, because many companies bail on an idea never to return to it once it fails. The original Intranets were nothing but rudimentary web page builders that each department had to use to post news and information, without resources nor any automation. Microsoft launched Sharepoint, but the effort needed to automate and maintain the content was still over the skill level of the average employee.
With the advent of Google Apps, Social Networks, Wikis, Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 and other collaborative and networking tools, it's time for the Intranet to make a comeback.
Business Cases for Internal Social Networks
- Monitor and Drive Corporate Strategies – ensure employees, teams and projects are aligned with corporate vision.
- Flatten Company Hierarchy – provides a direct path from CEO to lowest employee and vice versa. This leads to the improved communications, transparency, trust and empowerment of employees.
- Promote Internal Networking – provide employees with a means to find other employees with common interests both within and even outside of the company – sports, Churches, hobbies, etc. Having a strongly connected workforce leads to increased employee satisfaction and retention.
- Ideation – Idea Generation – tools to generate ideas are common throughout a few of the major company's intranets. Digg-like tools for promoting ideas for real money and other prizes are common.
- News and Information – share company and employee news and press releases.
- Resources – provide libraries, tutorials, marketing material, product documentation, help, strategies, goals, budget, etc.
- Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration – provide wikis and shared apps to increase speed of project requirements, documentation, etc.
- Project-based Workforce – provide a means for employees to organize outside of physical location, skill level, department, etc. The ability to search and find key employees remove the chain of command from the process, allowing virtual teams to organize and execute quickly.
In reviewing the net, there were several ‘flavors' of how companies are deploying networks through their intranet – and the characteristics of the companies and their tools are telling. Please bare with me on my findings here – since I don't have direct access to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and IBM, I'm working with articles and screenshots that may be weeks… or years old!
Google's Moma isn't a simple search engine, Moma also allows human resources to be indexed and identified as well as digital assets. From some sites I've read, Google has an equally impressive web based code review system, called Mondrian.
Yahoo! Backyard appears to prominently display their missions statement as well as organize material supporting that statement for their employees to peruse. I'm kind of surprised at how polished this looks – and, judging by Yahoo's challenges in having a strategy, I'm not sure how well this approach is paying off.
In an organization as large as IBM, with hundreds of thousands of employees, it's probably a great idea to put a site up where folks can find each other! The Beehive appears to be a great resource for employees to identify and locate other employees.
Microsoft's site really appears to concentrate on resources for its employees on their products and services. Most recently, though, Microsoft has launched Townsquare – a social application for networking and collaboration.