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Archive for the ‘Intranet’ Category

My email is out of control. Not in the sense that I receive too much volume (although that can be a problem) but in the sense that tracking projects, archiving important resources, and keeping up with company information is not what email was originally meant for and I’m guessing there are many people feeling the same burden.

Let’s take company communication for example. I’m willing to bet that most people receive some kind of company update on a regular basis whether it’s a sales communication to marketing or an HR communication to the whole company, email is perhaps the worst way to deliver such information. We see these things, say I’ll go back to it later, and then several hundred emails later we remember we wanted to read something but can’t remember what it was or when we received it.

This is where a good company intranet comes in, especially one built on flexible Web 2.0 applications such blogs, wikis, and tagging. Companies need to deliver tools that employees can use to collaborate with online. Whether it’s a sales wiki that archives the latest documents to be shared with marketing or a blog from the VP of Sales talking about the latest trends in the field, using such tools would vastly change communication in a company for the better.

I’m tired of the weekly spam email. Instead, employees should be able to go out and find the information on the intranet that they need and subscribe to the RSS feeds that deliver this information instantaneously. Personally, I’d rather have one place that I go to for this type of company information and free up my email client to track my direct communication with my fellow employees. An RSS client is better suited for tracking this type of information and employees can use it to easily tag, and later find, the information that is important to them.

The benefits of such a system clearly out weighs the “this is how we’ve always done it” system. Just because the current system works, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient solution. Remember, less than 20 years ago email was in such an underdog position. Now a business wouldn’t even think operating without it.

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One, if not the most, valuable resource a company owns is the information stored on each employee’s computer. This information is filled with employee knowledge and understanding of their specific role with an organization. There are thousands of Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files that would be a valuable resource to other people in the company. Unfortunately, this data is rarely shared outside of a project or scope of work. This is why I’m a huge advocate of using wiki/blog/online document tools for sharing information within a company.

Using such tools would allow a vast amount of knowledge to spread throughout the organization. Instead of trying to figure who knows what, what information they’ve created, and whether or not its useful once they send it to you, you could simply find this information on the corporate intranet. If you wanted information on a particular product you would go to that products wiki page which would be a collaboration of content based on all current and past employee knowledge. Links would be provided to all the presentations, documents, brochures, etc. that existed for this product. This central storage would ensure that the hard work going into creating the documents weren’t lost once an employee left a company.

One downside to such a setup is that it requires a certain type of company to get this right. It requires a company who’s culture is based on trust and openness and doesn’t let fear get in the way of providing and sharing information with all of its employees, not just the chosen few. There are also logistics that would need to be worked out such as working on documents while your away from the network but there’s no reason why this can’t be overcome or why it should be used as an excuse for a more closed system. The value of such an open system is immense. Imagine an employee network where everyone feels free to collaborate, learn, and share information in an environment that fosters trust and respect. Such a company would have a huge advantage over all of their competitors.

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The Wiki Intranet

Apparently, I’m a little late to the Wiki intranet game. Avenue A | Razorfish launched such an intranet a few months ago. It’s wonderful to see that a lot of things I had in my head are already shaping up in the real world.

I especially like how they can bookmark content from digg, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. and share it on their intranet. This is a company that gets it!!

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This week I started using Google spreadsheets so I can share information at my company without worrying about version control and emailing separate files to everyone. So far, this has worked great. If I’m logged into the spreadsheet at the same time as someone else, we’re able to see updates happen instantaneously which makes it much easier to work together on a project. It’s only a matter of time before this type of collaboration starts happening in many companies for both documents and spreadsheets. I’m not sure why we continue to try to “collaborate” on documents by creating them in our own little silo’s and then passing them around to edit individually. Is this really collaboration? And better yet, working in this way means no more spreadsheet_version_89_final_final.xsl document names 😉

Surprisingly, RSS is missing from this application. I wish there was a way to turn RSS on so I could be notified when updates where made to the spreadsheet. Hopefully, it will be added soon but I can see why it may not be available at the moment. I’m sure it would be difficult to figure out when an RSS update should be sent. I don’t need to receive an update every time someone changes a cell. In a perfect world, I’d be notified when someone was done making updates but this can be difficult to determine since the document is constantly saved. The only event that may occur that would tell the system your done is logging out, and not every one does that, at least not right away.

Now back to my intranet discussion…I really need to start a business around this…anyway…my ideal corporate intranet application would include document and spreadsheet applications similar to Google docs and spreadsheets.

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Four technologies that combined would make a perfect corporate intranet.

Wiki + Blog + Tags + Search = Corporate Intranet of the Future (the same might be true for Corporate Internet as well)

Is there a company that has figure out how to combine these technologies into one killer app?

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Corporate intranets have been rendered useless by top-down management. This of course is by design. The original corporate intranet, circa 1995, broke down walls and had employees collaborating and sharing information without barriers. Those who feared this new monster quickly pointed to broken corporate standards and the risk that someone might post some top secret plans and they would know longer be top secret. So in comes the “experts” to protect all employees from themselves. These “protectors” disguise themselves as the protectors of corporate secrets and style guides. In reality, they are essentially helping employees to find their place in the organization and stopping this open collaboration health risk. Now, thank God, in the year 2007, we have rid ourselves of this madness and have a top-down approach to the corporate intranet that mimics how an organization should be run. A place where documents are logged and archived until eternity, where nothing can be found without attempting to use the search box, and important information is removed and stored locally on each employees computer for safe keeping. Thank you for making what could have been a revolutionary way of communicating within an organization, a place that everyone avoids until they need the latest HR documents once a year.

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