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A Definitive Guide to Social Intranet Strategy

Original Source: The Social Intranet Infographic: 10 Steps to a Social Intranet, The Social Intranet Infographic, Prescient Digital

A social intranet is only one part technology, and two parts people and process. In fact, technology is only an enabler, and may only be worth 20% of the total value of an intranet.

Truth be told, a successful social intranet is remarkably similar to an intranet. Not unlike like the high-performance sports car to the family car, a high-performance social intranet resembles the corporate, family intranet at first glance… but only when it’s not performing to expectations. A flourishing social intranet needs many of the requisites of a regular, run-of-the-mill intranet: well-defined governance and process(es), highly engaged people, and highly functional technology. But the devil is in the non-technical details: the process.

People and process drive the social intranet – governance and content make it sing.


The first ingredient to a social intranet is of course people: executives, managers and front-line employees who depend on social media to communicate and collaborate with each other on a daily or weekly basis. Unfortunately, executives aren’t quite pulling their weight when it comes to contributing regularly to Intranet 2.0 tools, stifling many organizations’ attempts at turning their intranet into a social intranet:

  • 58% of employees contribute to Intranet 2.0 tools on a weekly basis or more frequently.
  • Only 28% of executives contribute to Intranet 2.0 tools on a weekly basis or more frequently.

Many executives still do not embrace the intranet, even from a sponsorship or stewardship role. However, the most successful intranets have one common ingredient: active executive support and sponsorship. Without active executive support, a social intranet will fall short of its potential.

To be a true social intranet, access to these tools needs to be open to all or most employees. Only two-thirds of organizations with social media tools on their intranet allow all employees to access them. This means a large portion of the employee population doesn’t have access to social media tools and is missing out on an opportunity to help create a social intranet (source: Social Intranet Study).


Giving employees free reign of Intranet 2.0 tools doesn’t come without risk. To mitigate that risk, you need to plan accordingly and support the tools with the proper governance, standards and policies before rolling out these tools and giving employees full access.

Key to the process component is establishing and defining a thorough governance model. Simply put, governance defines an intranet’s ownership and management model and structure including the:

  • Management team
  • Roles & responsibilities of contributors
  • Decision making process
  • Policies & standards

Like the content of your website or intranet, planning and governance is technology agnostic; whether it’s SharePoint, IBM or another portal or content management system, the necessity for and the approach to governance is the same. Given its technology neutral status in governance is largely applicable to any technology platform.

Politics and the issues of control, ownership and standards go hand-in-hand with intranet management and perhaps these issues, more than any other, have driven the requirement for planning and defined governance models. Sadly, very few organizations actually have a well-defined governance model, and many of those have spent hundreds-of-thousands to millions of dollars on their website or intranet – amounting to extraordinary investments left to chance and execution on a whim.


The best social intranets comprise a consortium of social intranet tools: blogs, wikis, user commenting, tagging and forums, to name a few. The results of the Social Intranet Study show a wide range of Intranet 2.0 tools being used in organizations today. The top three are:

  • Intranet blogs (present in 75% of organizations with at least one tool)
  • Intranet discussion forums (65%)
  • Intranet messaging (63%)

Given the low cost of Intranet 2.0 tools (38% of organizations spent less than US$10,000 licensing and installing their tools) it’s no surprise organizations are opting for more and more Intranet 2.0 tools as they become available.

But each tool has different strengths, weaknesses, and adds varying degrees of value to your organization, so identifying which tool is right for you can be difficult. Often this means gathering business requirements for the Intranet 2.0 tools to be integrated into your intranet from key stakeholders in your organization.

10 Steps to a Social Intranet

You’ve probably figured out by now that the technology behind a wiki, or a blog pales compared to most web content management systems… and can’t carry the dirty laundry of a killer portal or enterprise content management solution. The technology is terribly simple; what makes it ‘sing’ is people and process.

The secret sauce to sites such as Wikipedia is the collective wisdom of the contributing crowd; the end contributors, and the process that encourages the all-too-simple, effortless contribution and peer reviewing of content. The collective wisdom of the crowd is transformative; so significant that it sparked a landslide evolutionary leap in user technology, and the Internet as we know it.

How does this translate to the intranet? It’s the same IP technology, the same browser, and the same users, but with a different focus, perspective and set of requirements. However, the intranet is not the Internet. A quantity of fundamental intelligence must first be applied before said technology can trigger a transformation of the corporate world behind the firewall. But when done successfully… the social intranet is the intranet on Starbucks: caffeinated, ubiquitous, and engaging.

A successful social intranet, though, is not easily achieved. If you build it they will not come… necessarily. However, if you understand the requisite process(es), you will attract the people, and the enabling technology that will help catalyze an antiquated business system into a dynamic ecosystem of collaboration and innovation.

Ten steps to a Social Intranet:

  1. Business requirements
  2. User requirements
  3. Best practices
  4. Strategic planning
  5. Governance
  6. Information architecture
  7. Wireframes
  8. Design
  9. Launch
  10. Change management

Learn more about the social intranet….
Download the full size version of The Social Intranet Infographic
Read the latest version of The Social Intranet White Paper (30 pages of intelligence and case studies)

94 thoughts on “A Definitive Guide to Social Intranet Strategy”

  1. Indeed insightful article. I agree with what you said that “social intranet is only one part technology, and two parts people and process.” I believe that intranets will only work if those involved in it will participate in using it, employees most especially. Intranet’s main purpose is for communication and collaboration within an organization and hence not using the intranet the way it was intended to nullifies its existence. For more about intranets head on to this site:

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