Almost 5 years ago to the date, I decided that it was time to try something new. I applied for a position as webmaster for fairly large Danish company where one of the tasks were to implement a new intranet. My prior knowledge about intranets – although I had extensive knowledge about online stuff after 4 years as responsible for an international website – was rather limited and I did not quite know what I was getting myself into. That was probably a good thing but I am also very happy that I made this move.
Fast forward 5 years….. Two weeks ago I started at my third intranet job (many exciting perspectives, but more about that later…). Friends and colleagues have asked why I bother: ”Our intranet is rubbish! You can’t find anything and I only use it when I absolutely have to!”. A very understandable reaction and something that everybody passionate about intranets encounter from time to time – some more often than others!
So what is it that is so fascinating about intranets? You probably have your own reasons, but here’s my top 3:
1) It helps create a strong internal network.
The intranet is for everyone in the company! If you dare to stick your head out and proclaim that you are the go-to guy for intranet questions, you will be approached by all areas of the business. Not only does this provide you with great insights into what is going on in the company, but it also gives you a unique opportunity to build an extensive internal network. When I talk to fellow intranet people from around Europe, one of the things all have in common is a very good understanding of what’s going on in the company – much more than the position reveals when looking at it in the average organisation chart.
2) You gain knowledge of both business and processes.
This means that you have to cater for a great deal of needs and that all departments and business areas ideally contribute to the intranet and usually they need YOUR help! This also means that you need to understand their needs and their point of departure – and you have to understand this quickly. I have found myself in situation where you have to get a grasp of fairly complex processes through 3 minutes of Q&A and this is not always easy. Parts you can learn and parts come with experience.
The combined knowledge you get through this gives you a holistic view of the company, and just like the internal network, I see this as a great advantage for navigating in complex organisations.
3) The perspectives…
Digital Workplace, Intranet, call it what you like! Regardless of the name I’m sure that we are standing on the edge of a major shift in the way knowledge workers define work. Attending various recent events, listening to presentations from some of the most innovative companies have only reinforced these beliefs.
The sheer perspectives in what the internet means in this respect is a very important aspect of why I enjoy working with intranets. Some call me naïve when I we talk about this, but it doesn’t matter to me. The www had it’s major break through just 17 years ago, and look where this has taken us. I think the next 17 years holds very exciting perspectives indeed.
What about the negatives?
Of course you have downsides. Organisational inertia, office politics, time and budget constraints, etc. but this is not just intranets that face these, and all of these are waters that you can learn to navigate. With my top 2 advantages I even think you are better equipped than most to make progress. After all, an intranet well done is also a great mirror of the organisation. Understand that, and you understand business.
How about you? Where did your fascination start? Why do you find the work fascinating? …and if you don’t – why not?
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More intranet passion?
If you would like to read more stories about why people are passionate about their intranets, I suggest that you head over to IBF (Intranet Benchmark Forum) where you can see more statements and stories.