Intranets: Wild West of Info Age

Intranets: Wild West of Info Age

By Siobhan Chapman

Far from being the answer to improving the efficiency of workflow they were supposed to be, intranets are the “wild west” of the information world where anything gets published and anything can go missing, according to an industry survey. However shelling out big bucks for new intranet software is not the primary solution.

Most intranets used in organisations today have a great deal of room of improvement, a survey conducted by intranet and knowledge management support services firm CIBA Solutions revealed.

CIBA solutions, which stands for Contextually Integrated Business Applications, concluded: “If the corporate intranet were suddenly removed, the organisation would continue on with little or no disruption”.

The firm received 476 respondents from 15 medium to large enterprises across different market sectors for its September 2002 Intranet Benchmark Survey. Respondents claimed to use intranet technology from various vendors, including Microsoft, LotusNotes and systems built in-house.

“The biggest challenge for intranet professionals, knowledge managers and IT professionals is to transform the intranet into a key decision driver for the organization,” CIBA solutions said.

Yet first generation intranets were built with little to what they were trying to achieve. As a consequence, many intranets have evolved into a kind of ‘wild west’ of the information world, where anyone can publish anything in any form. This causes problem with content search, accuracy and duplication.

Andrew Wright, director at Ciba Solutions and report author, said “many of the comments we received were along the lines of ‘our intranet is structured by department, rather than across the organisation’. A lot of departments created their own intranet without consulting with other departments which means there is an inconsistency within the department, leading to [content] duplication”.

Traditional paper based content has been simply transferred to the intranet, with no thought as to how to use the online medium to enable users to do tasks such as access the content from different contexts, implement electronic workflow and provide automatic procedure branching, the CIBA study claims.

The firm described most intranet publishing in companies today as “ad hoc”. There has been no thought as to how to make staff aware of new content, how content development is initiated and how it will be maintained, CIBA claims.

Whilst the initial answer from respondents to improve intranet performance is to purchase more software, CIBA said significant gains could be made with non technical initiatives such as training, and process development such as change management and publishing.

Some of CIBA’s key findings include: finding content on the intranet is a “frustrating experience” for most users; similarly, it is difficult for the typical user to get information onto the intranet; most intranets have little or no logical structure; there is a significant amount of organisational content missing from intranets and content duplication on the intranet is a major problem.

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