More Trends for the Sustainability of Your Digital Workplace

An intranet is a company’s image. With things evolving rapidly both socially and economically, it’s important to recognize the trends that occur within companies as well.

Not every societal trend will find its way into the economy and companies in the near future, but with the way things are looking now, those in charge should monitor trends and at least consider them for their own intranets.

We covered these intranet trends in the first part:

  1. New Work
  2. All Industries Affected
  3. Geographically Dispersed Organizations are Especially Affected
  4. Blue Collar Goes Intranet
  5. “Social” is Normal

There are, indeed, more intranet trends for your future digital workplace:

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6. App Stores Also in the Workplace

Within the last few years, IT systems have moved to more extensive “programs”. Attempts to tailor such systems to each individual employee via authorization systems were hardly successful. One reason is that an outside perspective might not have anything to do with what individual employees need. There are oftentimes small, very specific challenges employees face, for which they need their own small, specific solutions.
Apple, with its iPhone and App Store, showed us years ago in the consumer arena that users are very good at “finding” their own solutions. Many intranet systems have successfully followed suit in the business world so that employees can select and use their own solution for desktops and mobile devices.

7. Orientation Towards the User: Mobile and Comfortable

Classic intranets have been implemented to meet the requirements of large departments such as corporate communications and thus mostly meet the needs of users. However, the success of intranets is determined by whether or not employees use them. What users require and demand is gaining even more significance:

Employee experience will become the heartbeat of digital workplace strategies.

(My 10 digital workplace predictions for 2016 – Paul Miller)

Modern intranets also need to be mobile for employees. Not to mention, there needs to be responsive design, small applications for smartphones and a way for every employee to work comfortably with the intranet.

The digital workplace is often a priority for IT workers.

(Mobile in the Intranet of the Future – Frank Wolf)

In the end, it’s about comfortably involving all employees in the communication and collaboration process within the organization as a whole.

8. Organizational Communication

In recent years, the focus has been on terms such as “social intranet” or “social collaboration”. Companies have often introduced corresponding software to map the respective communication and work practices.
As a result, organizational communication (“corporate communication”) lost a great deal of attention. Often this leads to two parallel systems:

  • The traditional (and thus not the least bit modern) intranet, which is based on a content management system and in which the official communication and documentation takes place.
  • A modern collaborative and “social” Intranet 2.0, which has its focus in cross-hierarchical network communication and collaboration.The capabilities of the different systems are beginning to match one another. For their “next intranet,” those in charge are asked how their employees get a reliable portal from both worlds. The technical solution chosen is subsequently added. Intranet managers should ensure that employees have an intranet with both network orientation and organizational communication (“official” communication by the company or business units).

9. Agile and Fast Development of Intranets


The increasing freque
ncy of economic and social change is reflected in the way that managers have to deal with their changing intranets. Last year, Elske Ludewig stated in the Usability blog:


A trend from last year, which is steadily increasing, is the launch
ing in iterations. Instead of coming up with a huge, ready-made, new intranet, it is more likely to be launched at shorter intervals without claiming completeness or perfection. The agility in the development processes is increasing and becoming more effective. This enhancement of processes leads to shorter development cycles, which saves time in the end. Nielsen also writes about an alignment of processes. Goals become clearer and more realistic. Shorter iterations make them quickly verifiable.


(Intranet Trends 2015: More Agile, Mobile and comfortable)

The trend continues. Instead of traditional “waterfall projects,” where the intranet has already been set up several months in advance, companies are starting to rely on an agile project approach, which is goes step-by-step, taking into account feedback from users.

10. Merger of Intranet, Extranet and Internet


Increasing project work as well as growing daily business with external partners (customers, suppliers, cooperation partners) poses even more challenges for traditional intranets. On one hand, intranet systems and technical infrastructures are not designed for it. On the other hand, companies are not oriented on ideas and their regulations (for example with service instructions, operating agreements, operating procedures) to communicate with external parties – for instance, via “quasi-internal”.


A
growing number of collaboration and intranet platforms are opening up to the invitation of “guests”, who work and communicate with defined employees in communities or workspaces.

Example: Office 365


Microsoft
is redesigning its Office 365 – like other manufacturers with their own productsto be more of an “intranet out of the box.” An example is Office 365 Group, which can be used to create discussions, news, calendars, files, and plans within a company or project. So far, though, it‘s only possible for members of your organization to join such  groups.


@fwhamm @BastianWi group membership for external comes soon


– Ragnar Heil (@ragnarh)
February 7, 2016


For example, if you want to plan and carry out your trade fair presence with a PR agency and a stand builder, you can do this well organized in a separate group with the external guests.

Example: Cisco


The successful, large international company, Cisco, is currently conducting a merger of various platforms:

Instead of starting behind the firewall on some arcane internal IP address, Cisco employees now access internal tools and content via Cisco.com. Upon hitting the website, the technology platform recognizes the individual’s role — whether employee, customer or partner — and serves up the necessary access and information architecture.


(Why Cisco Converged Its Intranet, Extranet and Website – Toby Ward)

If such a large company is going through such effort, it should be obvious that sooner or later small businesses will not be able to skip this step.


Overall, there is a conglomerate of services, which
together form the digital workplace. “The intranet”, as we know it, will increasingly fall into the background and be replaced by a “digital workplace”. The “digital workplace” will be employees entry into work and will be available everywhere and adapted to their needs and working styles. It won’t matter anymore whether they are working through browsers, software, or apps.

Enhanced intranets as “front doors” into the wider digital workplace will gain importance.


(My 10 digital workplace predictions for 2016 – Paul Miller)

Recommendation

Presently with these trends, it is easy for me to make a recommendation:
Be curious and alert. Look at the trends and ask yourself which ones could your company follow (or if any should be followed), and then try it!

Example: Hamm Reno


I was actually finished with this article and I wanted to stop writing. But on March 2nd, I attended a Social Media Club event in Frankfurt (smcffm Insights: Social Collaboration at IBM and Hamm Reno on March 2). Gerrit Welling, Project Manager of Retail Tomorrow, unveiled a “Social Collaboration” program at the Hamm* Reno Group, one of the largest European shoe traders.1 As stated in Wikipedia:

Reno is currently represented in more than 20 countries […] Reno currently employs more than 5000 people in 750 stores.

A few years ago, Hamm Reno introduced the intranet solution to improve communication and collaboration between the stores (including one another) and the headquarters.

  • Industry: Retail with many operations.
  • Dispersed company (several store locations), mostly with just two employees working together in each store (except for probably flagship stores).
  • “Blue Collar” – Ok, retail workers probably don’t wear blue overalls, but they’re also not traditional office workers.
  • Social – how else do you put it when employees from the stores post photos in their Halloween costumes?
  • Mobile and comfortable: The employees in the stores use company iPads and an iPad app as standard software.
  • Organizational communication: Daily sales are openly visible within the company’s intranet.

Recommended/Additional Reading

Here is a little bit of recommended reading in relation to trends, intranet, collaboration, and the digital workplace.


*The name similarity (“Hamm”) happens to be a coincidence. There is no actual connection between myself and Hamm Reno.

 

Frank HammOriginal article “Noch Mehr Intranet-Trends für die Zukunftsfähigkeit Ihres digitalen Arbeitsplatzes”  published in German by Frank Hamm.

Frank Hamm is a consultant for communication and collaboration who supports companies in their digital transformation. He has written for INJELEA-Blog about social business, intranets, enterprise 2.0 and company communication practices since 2005. Frank is an avowed nexialist and writes about this at Der Schreibende.

You can find more articles by Frank Hamm in our intranet special.

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