How social intranets drive digital transformation

Yesterday @Wedge and @Blamb from Intranet Now held a hackathon-like event. The objective was to create a practical handbook for intranet and comms teams who are involved in digital transformation in their organisations. The room was filled with a rich mix of intranet managers, internal comms managers, IT and intranet consultants many of whom have first hand experience with digital transformation drives.

The idea of creating a handbook specifically for intranet practitioners makes sense. Whilst the intranet isnt always going to be held up as an exemplar of digital transformation it clearly has a role to play in communication.


A definition

But what exactly do we mean by digital transformation? The group seemed to have a bunch of definitions that more or less sit on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum we have a definition where DT is more akin to a metamorphosis where a company completely reinvents itself and disrupts its own industry with a ground breaking digital invention. This aspirational definition certainly fits with the word ‘transformation but it isnt very realistic because not every company can disrupt its industry. The world just doesnt work like that. Also, there arent many examples of traditional companies that have done this. Can you think of any?

At the other end of the definition spectrum we have the idea of a very pedestrian change where a company adopts digital ways of working such as process automation. But this definition falls over when you ask the question, would Kodak have survived if it had focused on process automation? Nokia? Blockbuster Video? No. They died because they failed follow the market.

So rather boringly I think the real life definition sits somewhere in the middle. A few companies most probably new upstarts  are going to disrupt industries and the large majority will follow and copy and iteratively find ways to differentiate themselves in order to grab their market share. And some will die or disappear into insignificance.


2 crucial roles for the social intranet and its manager

You have to go through the arguments about defining DT in order to realise that its a bit of a red herring. The correct definition doesnt really matter. Which ever one you chose its ultimately about change and the intranet plays two crucial roles in driving it.

First, the intranet as a communication channel is an important one. Not just in terms of getting the initial message and objective out there but also to change behaviours and attitudes through telling stories. Testing out new ideas is key to digital transformation and the intranet can really help communicate these tests and crucially, help get the point across that its ok for tests to fail. Most companies struggle with understanding creative failure. As the official voice of the organisation the intranet can help break the failure-is-good-for-you taboo. To do this effectively comms and intranet managers need journalistic and networking skills to sniff out the good stories and write them up in a compelling way. They also need consistency of messaging and persistence. Keeping at it on top of all the other things in the job description.

The second crucial role that the intranet plays is as a social and collaborative hub. A place where people can go to discover content, collaborate and exchange ideas fluidly and easily. This is because digital transformation is above all about innovation. The human mind needs external stimulation in order to come up with new ideas.  Modern ways of working, when implemented correctly and successfully, create connections, facilitate stimulation and accelerate the development of new ideas. Intranet managers therefore need to continue at building the case for the social intranet, implement it in ways that foster creativity and work to build adoption. Thats all easier said than done. Youll have to wait for the release of our handbook in order to find out more. Well be sure to publish the link here when its live. In an upcoming post well also explore in more detail what makes a good social intranet.

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