Stop looking for the complete intranet solution

While reading this CMSWire article on SharePoint Social vs. Yammer Microsoft’s Yammer infographic and the tagline “the most complete solution in the marketplace” started me thinking. The marketplace has so many intranet technology solutions that claim to do everything. Can there ever actually be a “complete solution” for intranets or enterprise social?

In my time working in the digital space I have scoped my share of requirements, sat on a few tender panels and heard stories from enough of my intranet compatriots to know that there is rarely if ever a solution that completely fulfills the business needs. Especially when you move past the requirements and start detailing functionality. There is always a function that is missing, or not a rich as another vendor or an add on or as good as what the business actually requires but would be costly to custom build.

What this means for those of us who have to navigate the landscape of vendors and solutions is that the choice of solution often ends up being a “best fit” rather than “complete fit” with the bits and pieces that don’t make it being added to the road-map or simply left behind. If the people who end up using the product are lucky someone is in the room with a usability hat on defending what people need and will provide the best user experience. The worst case scenario is that someone just buys the technology and installs it with little regard for what problem it is actually trying to solve.

Organisations who take the usability approach will find themselves spending money or resources on development to adapt the solution to meet user needs. This is often a costly exercise and requires substantial effort to do well. The organisations who leave their solution in it’s vanilla state, accepting as-is and possibly ignoring user needs end-up paying the price when user adoption is low, change management fails or doesn’t happen and the costly technology does not derive the intended value.

But what is the answer? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if vendors stopped pretending there is a “complete” solution that fits all organisations and start thinking about how we can provide solutions that better allow organisations to be flexible without requiring the managing teams to become developers. Microsoft have taken some baby-steps in this direction from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 giving users more control on visual design (would love to hear from people who have played with this in practice, I am working in theory only). This is only a small gift, when as an intranet professional I try to look at the whole picture, pull in the supposed roadmap and am just confused still about how the muddied offering of SharePoint 2013, Office 365 and Yammer is really presenting us with a “complete” solution.

Commercial reality tells me that vendors are unlikely to stop offering us solutions that “do it all”. So, what can we do as intranet project teams to navigate the vast number of so called complete solutions to find the right solution?

  • Be clear on the what the business needs are and know which are the most important.
  • When pulling together the functional requirements focus on those which best meet those business needs (rather than what’s trendy).
  • To help refine what is important use weightings to understand the factors that influence whether something is in, or out such as cost, level of customisation and usability.
  • Apply a rating to functions and features based on your weighting such as Mandatory (must have), Highly Desirable (really want), Desirable (nice to have).

By keeping the business needs at the forefront and having a methodical approach means the project team is fully equipped to choose the appropriate technology, prioritise, re-prioritise, de-scope or whatever may be needed.

If you are in the process of choosing your intranet technology here are some great resources to help:

What has your experience been in selecting an intranet technology? Do you have any advice to add? Please share.

Editoral note: Big thanks to the awesome Catherine Grenfell for advice my first draft.

3 Responses

  1. Intranet is size dependent. SharePoint is perfect for midmarket. Nothing beats Bitrix24 for SMB. Jive is excellent for supergiants and Yammer/Chatter/Telligent all battle for enterprise. I think that Bitrix24 approach for SMB and Chatter for large copanies will win out in the end, because both realized that intranet without worktools is pointless. If SharePoint and Yammer stop pushing MS products and open up, they have a good chance too, but like you said, Becca, SharePoint does everything is is good for everyone approach is pure bullshit.

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