In October last year I was in Europe to present a range of workshops, and due to a last minute schedule change was also able to attend and present at Interaction 2012 on The Dangers of Pushing Collaboration Too Far. In a month I will be leaving my office and home in New Zealand to head to Interaction 2013 in London, and this year I have the privilege of kicking off the formal program. My session this year is on the theme of collaboration on the intranet.

We can look back to the mid-1990s and see the rise of intranets to support publishing of content and communication inside the organisation. At the time these were revolutionary capabilities. Over the subsequent years other main functions have been added to the list of functions supported by intranets, with support for workflow and collaboration being two of the most important. The perspective I want to think through at the Interaction Intranet Conference is the centrality of collaboration in this list of functions – that it is the first among peers – and what this means for our approach to intranets, the people we support inside our organisations, and the skills and competencies of our intranet teams.

Consider these two situations: your intranet is mainly for publishing corporate news, and your intranet is a place where people come to get their work done (sometimes alone and often in collaboration with other people).

What’s important to get right in each situation is vastly different – when publishing news you need to ensure the news is findable, readable, and relevant. When supporting collaboration on the intranet, you need to provide effective ways for people to share their own expertise and insight in pursuit of a common goal.

  • The nature and degree of engagement with people in the business is also very different – when publishing news it may centre around interviewing staff to get news from them. When supporting collaboration you need to understand how people work today and help them re-imagine a new way of working using the collaboration tools on the intranet.
  • The governance themes you need to pay attention to in both situations are very different. For publishing news, you will severely limit who can post news items to the intranet, and control (and often disable) any open feedback alternatives. When supporting collaboration, the key governance themes are who has the right to create a new team space, what happens to team sites when a project has finished, and whether or not to support non-business communities of interest.
  • Finally, your approach to user adoption is almost irrelevant under the first but central and critical under the second. For supporting collaboration on the intranet, there are a whole raft of strategies that can be used to encourage user adoption, from executive support (modelling), classroom training, facilitated group re-imagining, and stop doing / start doing patterns.

So this is what I’ll be talking about at the Interaction Intranet Conference. The difference between situations like this, and the consequences of those differences. Are you coming?

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