Today we live in an always-on, always-connected world. Technology is ubiquitous and omnipresent in both our personal and professional lives. It comes as no surprise that technology is the #1 priority for CEOs. In a recent survey of CEOs, 86% believed technology would transform their business more than any other global trend in the next five years.
Typically, external factors are influencing the need for digital transformation. Accelerating “industry disruption”, or, if you are an incumbent, staving it off, is often quoted as key driver behind business transformation. Market-research firm IDC states that “it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all the CEO proclamations related to digital transformation.” Even when we strip away the buzzword veneer that currently comes with the mention of digital transformation, there is no denying that we’re experiencing a fundamental, technology-driven change in the business world.
What does this change mean for modern collaboration and the future of intranets? Here is my take on it.
The adoption of digital technologies and the rapid growth of data has transformed the way we work, within and without the walls of an enterprise. Business transformation has traditionally focused on operational efficiency by improving the output-to-input ratio. The explosion of email, social media, e-commerce and mobile apps has reshaped the world of business and empowered a new generation of digital entrepreneurs. Additionally, the Cloud enables speed and agility like never before and provides the platform to fuel innovation in business.
Converting internal and customer-facing interactions into digital experiences
Gartner defines digital business as “the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.” Fundamentally, I see it as a shift in the focus of information technology from operations to the creation of new value, enabling companies to do things like deliver new apps and services geared to the digital economy. Business leaders are now considering how they will reimagine their core assets based on technology, and many are actively working to convert internal and customer-facing interactions to digital experiences.
What I believe is most significant and compelling about the rising tide of digital transformation has a lot less to do with technology and a lot more to do with mindset and management:
- How is your business being changed by digital technology?
- Do you have the right people and the right culture in place to build your digital vision?
Companies that deliver groundbreaking apps and are in the process of becoming digital enterprises have long realized that business innovation depends on a strong foundation of transparency, openness and collaboration. Digital leaders are striving to reinvent the workplace, and employees are benefiting from a more connected work environment that reflects the way real people engage and communicate with each other.
Silos of information and disjointed systems don’t cut it anymore. Employees need accessible and consistent knowledge wherever and whenever they engage. In the past, Intranets were mainly used at work, within working hours and with the corporate PC. Many of them turned out be static repositories of out-of-date corporate content, providing little value to employees or organizations.
First-generation intranets were all about hierarchical navigation, with hyperlinks to department sites; and they were treated, more or less, like a single corporate website. The top-down approach to company communications and knowledge management improved substantially with the inclusion of search refiners, activity streams and more employee-generated content. While the technology that drives collaboration and employees’ expectations of their Intranets continues to advance at a rapid rate, corporate portals have not kept pace.
In my opinion the challenge is twofold: 1) overcoming the legacy perception of the intranet as a storage tool for corporate information, and 2) picking the right strategic approach to make it a truly transformative experience.
SharePoint is the world’s most popular intranet platform, used by over 78% of Fortune 500 companies. However, many organizations lack the knowledge, solutions, tools and experience necessary to leverage the strengths of SharePoint across the enterprise. As result, there is a legacy of Intranet projects that have been complex, long-lasting, expensive and, at times, painful experiences.
Investment in a platform or a toolset is not a strategy
More to the point, investment in a platform or a toolset is not a strategy. Modern collaboration is more than just “the latest and greatest” IT tools. It is about people, culture, working habits, governance, goals and business outcomes. The interesting paradox here is that there is no such thing as an “intranet” in SharePoint. Instead, SharePoint offers numerous building blocks from which an intranet can be crafted. Delivering a great Intranet experience is arguably one of the best examples of the move towards IT as a strategic business partner.
Creating an intranet that achieves all of your company’s objectives and meets your business requirements is a resource-intensive task requiring a wide range of skills. The starting place is to establish a dedicated team that can drive the adoption and growth of the intranet. That said, the driving force behind a modern intranet solution will always be a clear vision and a well-executed plan.
Fortunately, SharePoint has come a long way, and there are many ways to deliver a sophisticated and cost-effective Intranet solution that doesn’t require extensive IT support. The next generation of SharePoint Intranets will be simple to use, intelligent and untethered.
Information finds you, instead of you having to find information
The new intranets will make it easy for employees to identify experts, solve customer issues, work across multiple locations and devices, and connect to the latest conversations and company news. Information finds you, instead of you having to find information; and content is protected and backed by enterprise-grade IT control, security and compliance.
The real value of a modern Intranet experience comes to life when it is integrated with the tools and applications that employees need to be productive. Take Subaru Canada for example, they have cloud applications built on top of SharePoint which transform how they interact with their prospects.
The line between internal- and external-facing content is blurring. The Intranet of the future will become the glue that brings these varied and siloed digital properties together in an easy-to-buy, easy-to-use, beautifully designed and more contextually relevant way.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, which will be a deep-dive on the power of SharePoint Online with insights gathered from Microsoft’s Ignite conference.
Interested in learning more about the value of modern collaboration and how the future of Intranets can transform the way work gets done? Contact us or sign up for one of our SharePoint webinars.