Intranet Remains Poor Stepchild Of Corporate Websites

Blogs, wikis gain role in corporate intranets, but few enterprises have a Facebook-style or Twitter-like home page, survey shows.
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Enterprises are adopting social tools like blogs and wikis for use inside their companies, but having a social media style home page for the corporate intranet is still rare, according to a study.

In other words, vendors like Jive Software and Socialtext still have a lot of work to do to convince companies that a Facebook-like experience is the right way to support corporate communication and collaboration.

"If you're asking on how many internal corporate websites the home page looks like Facebook or Twitter, the answer is not very many," said Toby Ward, president of Prescient Digital Media, a consulting firm that specializes in intranet design and implementation. "Some organizations will use something like Socialtext as the home page, but that's really determined by the culture of the organization they are."

A corporate activity stream that anyone can contribute to sends a message of openness, but that's not the message every organization wants to send, Ward said. "If you've got a real buttoned down culture--bank and insurance clients come to mind--that have more of an old school atmosphere where we're going to watch you on your breaks, you can't take too much time for coffee, and you're supposed to come to work in a suit and tie every day--companies with cultures like that are not going to embrace social media and social networking behind the firewall."

Other companies may also want to project a more task-focused personality to their intranets, as opposed to one focused on open discussion. "The clock is ticking differently at work than when we're at home," Ward said, and there is less time for chatter and idle browsing.

Ward conducted the Web-based survey in June with the help of the The International Association of Business Communicators, getting input from 1,401 participants in organizations of all sizes. This year's Social Intranet Study follows a similar survey he had conducted over the past two years, known as the Intranet 2.0 survey.

The social software that has most taken root within the enterprise includes blogs, discussion forums, and wikis, according to the survey:

-- 75% have intranet blogs and 26% have them enterprise-wide.

-- 65% have intranet discussion forums; 26% enterprise-wide.

-- 61% have intranet wikis; 19% enterprise-wide.

-- 63% have intranet instant messaging; 44% enterprise-wide.

-- 43% have intranet social networking; 19% enterprise-wide.

Ward did say he thought the last category was under-reported. A lot of intranet social networking initiatives "start in some little corner of the enterprise, so the people I surveyed may not know when one business unit is using a private Facebook group, or using Yammer. Frankly, I know that it's higher than that," he said.

Still, the most common social software for enterprises is what comes built into Microsoft SharePoint. While Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts may point to SharePoint's shortcomings as a social platform, it is by far the most widely used technology for enterprise collaboration, cited by 55% of the respondents in the survey.

"Nobody really owns the market, aside from SharePoint," Ward said. "It does a lot of things, even though it may be a mile wide and an inch deep."

In contrast, only 3% reported using Jive, while Socialcast and Socialtext were down at 1%. Lotus Connections (now known as IBM Connections) was cited by 9% of those surveyed.

NewsGator, a SharePoint application that adds social features to the Microsoft portal platform, had been adopted by 3% of those surveyed. Reflecting the diversity of social software solutions, the "Other" category also had a big showing, cited by 22% of the survey takers. Open source systems in enterprise use included WordPress (23%), MediaWiki (9%), and Drupal (7%). Private Facebook groups was reported by 22%, and use of Google Sites by 20% of those surveyed.

One thing holding back more ambitious use of enterprise social networking is money, Ward said. "The intranet remains the poor stepchild of the corporate website." While companies often invest millions in a public website, 38% of survey respondents estimated that less than $10,000 had been spent on their current intranet implementations. Asked what was the biggest barrier to broader adoption, 18% said lack of executive support, while an equal number cited completion with "other, bigger priorities."

At a high level, most respondents (55%) believed their employees currently have a "social intranet," defined for purposes of this study as an intranet environment including multiple social tools for collaboration and knowledge sharing. The sharing environment is one where any employee can contribute, according to 68% of participants. Yet the frequency with which top executives contribute "in their own words" through a blog or podcast is rarely or never for 47%, and monthly for 25%, while 4% said daily and 2% said more than once per day (with the rest falling somewhere in-between).

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