Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Where’s your trend periscope?

It’s a priveledge to work with many different people and organisations. One reason why organizations work with us is to bring “external reference” to the table. So they want us to share with them what others are doing and what the trends are in the market.

I enjoy this role. I find it very important to stay in touch with what’s going on in my area of work (and even the broader context of my work). And sharing our insights is a way to stay in touch. There are others different ways to do this as well:

  • talk to people from other companies
  • visit conferences
  • read books
  • read trend and research reports
  • read newspapers
  • read news and updates on the web
  • work for many different organizations
  • etc.

The good thing about today is that there are many tools to help you keep your “trend periscope” up. For instance, I use Feedly for RSS feeds, Pocket for storing and reading online articles and getting recommendations for this to read from followers, Twitter - still one of the best platforms for trend watching and “ambient intelligence”, LinkedIn (groups) and Google+.

As you see you can do most of this by yourself. And most of the readers of this blog already do. However, what I see in practice is that very little people actually do this. Of course not everybody has to be an information junky - like myself… But I’m surprised that many people I know don’t have their “trend periscope” organized at all. Why is this the case? Too busy? Too much information? You tell me! I’m curious what your thoughts are on this.

But let’s flip this for a second. How can we help others set up their “trend periscope”? In my experience this isn’t easy, but it’s nice work. I usually start small: showing others how I work and helping them make one step, e.g. connecting them with someone from another organization or setting up one tool.

How do you help others open the windows?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Intriguing intranet technology trends

There’s quite a bit going on in the intranet technology landscape. Three trends I’m seeing are:
  1. Many “out of the box” intranetplatforms are popping up
  2. Organizations are using combinations of platforms to fullfill employee needs
  3. Organisations are outsourcing functional and technical maintenance, and hosting
Standard intranet solutions
I don’t where you live but where I live, in the Netherlands, many standard intranet solutions are popping up. This is understandable if you see how many intranets, that have been developed on cms’s, have failed. Many are so sick and tired of the failed intranet projects that they flee to intranet platforms that can be set up quickly and are well-designed.

As much as I understand this, I’m also intrigued by it. Over the last 5-10 years almost all companies have left their custom developed intranet (cms) behind and have moved to standard cms’s, like Drupal and SharePoint. Two of the main reasons to do so was the lack of innovation in these tailor-made intranet platforms and vendor lock-in.

But now take a look at the “out of the box” intranetplatforms. They usually pay quite some attention to UX, which is great. They usually fulfil the basic employee needs (lots and lots of “me too” in this vendor space, regrettably). My main concern with these types of platforms is that it’s back to the old times. Because when you do business with one of these vendors there’s no other developer that can maintain and extend the intranet than the vendor itself. And that’s called vendor lock-in… Finally, most of these platforms seem to be dead cheap, but when your really add up the costs they’re not that cheap at all. Oh and finally finally, the “out of the box” intranet have the huge risk that an intranet project will be about technology again, instead of people and strategy...

So, as much as I understand this I don’t like where this is going. In about 5 years organizations are going to be complaining about vendor lock-in and lack of innovation and will move their intranet to some standaard cms...

Of course there can be good reasons to use an “out of the box" intranet platform. Step2Designs has a good post about this. I see quite some organizations using these platforms to try a more interactive intranet temporarily and then develop the “long term” intranet based on standaard technology.

Combining platforms
Another technology trend I see is that organisations are combining technologies to fulfil needs. Of course this has been going on forever, but more organizations are explicitly accepting this and actively looking for combinations instead of “one platform to do all”. So, SharePoint is combined with a good content management system. Or a good content management system is combined with a great social networking platform. I think this is great news. And technology vendors are making sure they integrate well with others - at least many of them are.

Outsourcing intranet maintenance and hosting
Finally more and more organizations are outsourcing functional and technical maintenance of their intranet, usually to the developer of the intranet. And they’re outsourcing hosting. IT is mostly about delivering standaard technology to employees and lowering maintenance risks and costs. The intranet, being a specific bit of technology with demanding users, is usually not IT’s cup of tea. Outsourcing this work is usually a huge relief to IT (and employees…) and is usually done for much lower costs. This goes for hosting as well. Mobile access to the intranet is just one of the reasons to host your intranet externally.

Let's talk
I’m curious if you recognize these trends. Do you? Or are there other trends that caught your attention? Looking forward to discussing in the comments.