I love to connect with industry peers... There's little I find as gratifying as sharing experiences and learning from like-minded folks.
I was chatting with such a group last week and the topic of Intranets came up. They mentioned a very common problem and asked if we suffered similar pains. Specifically, they're struggling with hundreds of disparate Intranet sites across their company... No standards, no common infrastructure, no commonalities whatsoever. A common story, right?
We suffered similar in recent years. I'd be misrepresenting if I suggested we've completely nailed it. We haven't - but have indeed make tremendous progress around unifying the once disconnected experience. While culture is always a dynamic ingredient, I think the path towards unifying your internal web experience can be relatively straightforward.
Rewind the clock to say early '05.
If only I had a dime for every Intranet site in play. Everyone with a copy of FrontPage was an instant webmaster. Spinny graphics abound and enough blinking logos to send even the toughest of employees into a level 3 seizure. Even our primary Intranet left a bit to be desired as internal offerings tend to take a back seat to more public facing sites.
So what did we do? We gave it just a bit of love.
First step - Get yourself a good design.
We took the then dated look / feel and added some design love. Nothing too fancy - no external agency help here - just a fresh update to bring your main offering into the new millenium. In my humble opinion, the overall look & feel of what we have today is pretty darned cool.
This is a key first step - Create something that people WANT to be a part of.
Second step - Invest just a bit in infrastructure.
Remember that kid in school who had ALL of the fishing equipment? He may not have been your best pal - and perhaps you didn't even WANT to go fishing with him... But man, that Curly Tailed Grub of his sure did bring in the big'uns (I was that kid, btw).
Use this to your advantage... "Oh, you want to take advantage of our search engine? No problem - come play in our sandbox and you can index your content to your hearts content."
Third Step - Perhaps the most important - ENABLE people to do it themselves
More often than not, folks aren't looking for a free ride. They have content and an audience to share it with... That's their driver. They don't want to be subjected to nasty content review cycles, they don't need people to check their messaging, etc;. Most of the time they don't even WANT to be running their own little site... Rather just need a delivery vehicle.
In our world, we enabled a very simple self publishing model. We'll set you up, we'll even help customize our templates to meet your needs... Then, we'll train you on the tools and you're off - completely responsible for your own little online presence.
See the value adding up here?
You get to be a part of something cool... Something attractive and compelling. We're not going to drag you here... You WANT to be a part of it.
And by playing nice nice, you get to save some $$$ by not running your own gear PLUS you get to take advantage of things like centralized search, RSS, etc;.
Lastly, it's the classic do it yourself model. You're on a tight deadline? No problem... You control your own destiny.
I've simplified for point here - but you get the jist. This has worked masterfully for us and dated rogue sites are being retired at a regular clip. There's resulting cost avoidance as business teams disengage vendors, retire web servers and refocus their staffs on running their core business - not supporting web sites.
Our employees win big as they can now traverse a vast ecosystem of internal information without feeling like they're getting tossed from one disjointed experience to another.
Our journey continues but the approach has worked well for us to date. How about you? Is this a problem for you? If not, how'd you overcome it? Anything to share from your experiece?