Summer has come and gone – some argue that it was never really in Denmark – and today I was reminded of an article from N/N Group that was published in the slow summer weeks. It was about inertia in the organisation. I sat in a status meeting which inevitably moved on to discuss budgets, or maybe the lack of the same. In the midst of this, I remembered this passage:
Although big organizations get the biggest ROI from intranet improvements, they might suffer under a particular type of ambition inertia: upper management has often been in the same company for a decade or more, so they’ve never experienced how good intranets can get in other companies. This can make them reluctant to sponsor a new portal.
I both agree and disagree. True. You need input from “the outside”, but could the inertia be rooted somewhere else? Let’s look at the IT departments. IT is a cost, right? Over the last couple of years we’ve had to spend less on everything from heavy machinery to paper clips – surely we can use a little less IT while we are at it. The problem is that IT is not a commodity. You can work smarter, negotiate better contracts, etc. but in the end it’s a bit like trimming a tree. If you do it carefully it will look nicer next year, but if you cut off too many of the big branches it will take many years for it to recover, let alone look nice.
In my opinion this is what has happened in many organisations. Some of the “strategic” branches have been cut so far back that there’s hardly anything left and all there is to do is to wait for it to grow back. You may have a nice strategy for your portal, but with no ressources to back it up you are not going to get very far. Add to that the notoriously difficult task of justifying investments in knowledge sharing – You might as well get the camping gear out now since you’ll be staring at that tree for a loooooong time!
The fact that management never saw a proper intranet may have caused ambition inertia, but a very unnuanced view on IT may (inadvertently) have put IT (and the Intranet team) in a position where they are stuck with an old, decimated ‘tree’ and have no chance to create solutions that support business goals and in turn this is very likely to reflect poorly on – guess who – the IT and/or intranet team…
All there is left to do is to hope for someone to stop by with a beautiful new tree – someone who believes in change for the better.