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Stage 3

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F R A M E W O R K ™

Stage 3



Collaboration-Driven Intranets

As intranets enter this stage, they move their focus to collaboration while continuing to improve the communication, information-sharing and self-service components. These intranets address the needs of project and department teams required to collaborate around specific initiatives and serve as a home for the communities of practices in an organization. Interestingly, social networking concepts like wikis, blogs and tagging are changing the face of intranets entering this stage.


Stage 3 intranets typically incorporate collaboration and document management tools so that employees have a single interface through which they can communicate, collaborate and share knowledge with one another. These intranets include single sign-on functionality and integrate with document and media asset management systems and project management software. Companies with a high concentration of knowledge workers invest in collaboration intranets since these intranets benefit them the most.


Current State

Going beyond collaboration, we are starting to see companies invest in prediction market capabilities. In accordance with the belief that the CEO may not always be right, companies are asking diverse populations of employees to weigh in on key company decisions and forecasts. For example, Hewlett-Packard is already using prediction markets to help drive sales forecasts.



Stage 3 intranets are often the first to be sponsored at an executive level, usually by business units. They are introduced as an enterprise-wide initiative with each unit sharing the funding burden. Funding comes out of capital expenditures, and the investments are expected to provide business returns for at least four to five years.



Like Stage 2 intranets, these intranets are also centrally managed. Typically, the HR department shares the ownership burden with the business unit heads, who strongly encourage their line managers to get involved. Given the cumbersome administrative overhead in managing the intranet, corporate IT departments play an important role in the governance as well.


User Needs:

Stage 3 intranets are “push” intranets. The users rarely demand or “pull” them, and they do not always fulfill any tangible business need. But organizations realize that for their employees to make the best decisions, they need to leverage the learnings of other project teams and departments within the company. To address these communication challenges, the companies set up matrix structures whereby employees performing similar roles, but in different geographical regions or product lines, are forced to collaborate with one another and share information. Once an imperative for collaboration has been established, the employees demand an electronic environment where they can manage the collaboration. That electronic environment is usually the Stage 3 intranet. Calendars, contacts, discussion databases, web conferencing, teamware and corporate instant messaging are some of the collaboration solutions in demand.


Experience Design:

Information architecture often maps to the company structure, which serves as the basis of the collaboration. This structure is not always a good idea because when company organizational structures change, changing the intranet can be difficult. More advanced collaboration intranets include spaces for communities of practices and allow employees to create new spaces based on specific topics. These intranets are common in research organizations where small teams work closely to solve a specific problem. What is clear, however, is that for a company to develop a successful Stage 3 intranet, it needs to have an enterprise-wide taxonomy in place.



The technologies used for these intranets vary dramatically from company to company. Choices are made based on the existing technology stack within the company, such as whether it is Java or .NET based. Software packages such as Documentum’s eRoom are common, though it’s fair to assume that IBM and Microsoft own this space. Increasingly, social software solutions like wikis are being used since they are cheap, extensible and extremely easy to implement. Many wiki packages also interface successfully with existing network infrastructures and entitlements compliance.



Since the collaboration features are targeted at narrow audiences, training is relatively easy. Advanced collaboration features are rarely made available to an entire employee population. Some training is recommended for these intranets, but it can be conducted by a project or a team when the collaborative environment is established.



Adoption of these intranets can be slow, depending upon the company’s learning culture. If the imperative to collaborate is strong, they are used as naturally and frequently as telephones. On the other hand, they may lie empty for years, waiting for a critical mass of employees to adopt and integrate them into their business lives. Extensive communication is required when launching these intranets, and employee incentives are needed to encourage employees to move their conversations online.


ROI Metrics:

Logical measures of the success for intranets in this stage are basic metrics, such as the number of messages posted, responses to a query, and the number of visits from specific departments or locations. Other metrics, such as user-driven ratings, can measure the value of specific contributions, or, on a broader scale, changes in time to market of a product or offering if the team behind the effort was collaborating through the intranet. For example, IBM includes a suggestion box on its intranet. The intranet team tracks the number of suggestions each month and, of those, the number that actually get realized as solutions. On the whole, though, according to industry analysts, measuring collaboration is difficult and can only be done with carefully selected activities.


Key Takeaways

Many companies struggle with collaboration, but the effort has little to do with how well or badly designed their intranets are. The key success factor is understanding the personality of the company and the existing communication flows. Only then can a company predict how successful the collaboration features will be. Intranets of this type need both executive champions as well as foot soldier champions to succeed.


Collaboration intranets have gotten a second life with the buzz around social media tools, such as wikis and blogs. The next generations of employees are growing up communicating and collaborating electronically far more than the current generation. As a result, collaboration has a bright future in the enterprise. The only question is whether employees will want to use company-administered and -directed tools to collaborate or whether they will gravitate to more informal, grassroots solutions that allow contributions from people outside the company as well.


"Enterprise 2.0 technologies have the potential to let an intranet become what the internet already is: an online platform with a constantly changing structure built by distributed, autonomous and largely self-interested peers. On this platform, authoring creates content; links and tags knit it together; and search, extensions, tags and signals make emergent structures and patterns in the content visible, and help people stay on top of it all. Enterprise 2.0 technologies are subject to network effects; as more people engage in authoring, linking and tagging, emergent structure becomes increasingly fine-grained." Andrew P.McAfee in Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration (MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2006)




External Resources


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