Actually Janus Boye of J.Boye and CMS Watch asks if our intranets are "fat smokers" in reference to the book by David Maister.
Janus qoutes David from his book, 'Strategy and the Fat Smoker' on the subject that even when we know something is bad, knowing something and doing something about it are different things. David postulates that a near death experience is often what is required to make people change!
So Janus goes on to to ask if the current financial crises could be the near death experience required by some intranets. I am going to reserve opinion as the intranet projects I am working on went through their business case and funding rounds earlier in the year, when things might have been considered to be bad, but not as bad as they are now. So like many analysts and amateur pundits, I think we have yet to hit bottom from a corporate perspective.
Interestingly Prof. Andrew McAfee tackled this subject earlier this month in a posting he called the 'Enterprise 2.0 recovery plan'. Its quite a long posting, so I am not going to regurgitate it here, but you should go read it if you have not seen it already, but the Prof. suggests people in an organisation want to share knowledge and expertise, and that being able to do this efficiently can provide a competitive edge. He goes onto suggest technologies that can help and how.
To return to Janus point, I think he would point out that if your intranet ecosystem, including collaborative systems (and possibly not yet including any form of social networking) is a big fat wheezing smoker, puffing for breath, then its not going to facilitate your employee's however desperate they are to keep the organisation afloat and their mortgages paid.
The problem though, I think Janus would suggest, is are there enough managers out there who understand the need for the nimble and agile intranet ? Are there enough organisations who understand that the intranet is the arterial system for the information that may be their organisations life-blood?
Unfortunately my six months of experience with Prescient Digital Media would suggest the answer is NO ! Even in large Fortune 500 organisations we seem to stumble across the same issues again and again, there is no 'ownership' of the intranet, there are no governance structures, there are no mangement committee's and the CIO is not involved.
When it comes down to it, in my mind it does not matter how simple a technology is to implement, how easy it is to use, for if there is no strategy, no planning for its use, then it could also turn malignent. I understand Prof. McAfee's points on emergent technologies, and emergent strategy but you should still have a strategic framework in place even if you can't, due to its very nature plan for emergent activities down to the Nth level of detail.
With a final plug for myself and my employer, we help organisations assess their intranet, helping them to figure out if its a fat smoker on its way out, or if it just needs to shed a few pounds to get back into fighting shape (back to Janus point that 'less can be more' for an intranet). We help devise the strategy to move the intranet forward and to develop the governance structures to ensure it is managed and kept running in a healthy state !
So, if you feel the current external environment is providing a near death experience for your intranet, and you want to come out on the other side of this ready to beat down the competition, give us a call, we can help you.