I recently wrote an article at CMS Wire about how Intranets have been eclipsed by the advent of new tools like enterprise social networks (ESNs). Like the old web, Intranets, and the portals that were often created in their name, didn’t really serve much of a purpose outside a large bulletin board. Efforts were made to make them more useful but without addressing a real need, those efforts often came to naught.
The concept of an ESN works better because it is a place where people can come together and work. I’m not talking Facebook in the office. That is crazy. I am talking something more akin to Yammer. I am talking about taking the break room and moving it online for organizations that are collaborative in nature but may not be co-located.
ESN, More than the Sum
Jed rips into me for using the term ESN. I agree, it is a cruddy term but the industry seems to like their three letter acronyms (TLAs). Part of the reason is that a TLA is more than the sum of its parts. It is multiplicative in nature, not additive.
- Enterprise: Jed restricts this to being within the organization. It is bigger than that. The scope is everything in and related to the organization. Enterprise can scale to include partners and systems.
- Social: Jed and I agree, people. People need to work together. Without them we can just go home. This qualifier is more about the approach to putting the system together. It has to support how people work together.
- Network: The connections between people and information. This is pulling everything in the enterprise scope into one place.
Just as Jed took me to task for being restrictive on the definition of an Intranet, I think Jed should ease up on the definition of an ESN. Semantics do matter but to focus on the the term more than the concept can lead to a lot of tangents.
The Digital Workplace is Good
I’m happy with Jed’s vision. It is the vision I had, just different labels. As an industry we have evolved so far past the original Intranet that I feel we need a new term to describe what we do. Digital Workplace is a solid term. It describes what we are trying to accomplish in the same manner that ESN focuses on the how.
My proposal to Jed, let’s kill the terms Intranet and ESN. Digital Workplace is solid. The tools that make up the Digital Workplace will depend upon the mission, structure, and culture of an organization. Map those out and a useful Digital Workplace can be created for any organization.