Content Formula

Why SharePoint hasnt fixed the corporate intranet (and what you can do about it)

SharePoint has launched a revolution in the workplace. Thanks to its easy-to-use collaborative features all employees can now publish information about their projects, initiatives and skills onto the corporate intranet.  We hear stories of blogging CEOs; departmental wikis that allow everyone to post the solution to their problem; forums buzzing with activity. Its like Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia all rolled into one. Oh, and dont forget Google.

Sadly, reality in most companies doesnt look like this. A typical SharePoint intranet is made up of many, many pages containing poor quality content. Theres an abundance of uploaded Office documents with filenames that tell you very little about the contents (do you really want to click on pm_update.ppt to find out what its about?). The countless forums you come across contain one or two obviously planted (and unanswered) posts from last year. Content that you do take the time to read is poorly laid out, badly written and boring. Images are either massive and take an age to download or they have been distorted and shrunk beyond recognition. Jo User is poorly served.

So whats the problem here? Its the same problem that was there before SharePoint. Its a human problem, not a technology one. Its best summed up by the 1:99 rule. For every active content creator, you have 99 mostly passive content consumers. And if one of your content consumers does decide to post something the results are often disappointing. They either dont have the time or the skills to do it well.

We manage intranet sites for our clients: researching, interviewing, gathering, writing and publishing content. It all takes a long time. It also takes a lot of diverse skills that are rarely found in any one person.

So what should companies do? Should they give up their intranet dreams? Not at all. Here are some pointers:

  • Write intranet objectives define these in precise terms without recourse to pithy statements like our intranet will be a  central information-sharing resource for all employees
  • Clear, simple and well communicated intranet governance is key define who can publish what and where and plan to avoid the sprawl and clutter that SharePoint is so good at encouraging. Think about quality.
  • Divide and conquer – define responsibilities and ownership for different parts of the intranet and make people accountable
  • Find your content creators there are people in your organisation who are passionate online communicators who must be involved
  • Appoint an intranet leader to act as quality control, guardian and chaser.
  • Plan and schedule content and make sure the homepage provides continually changing updates to all your latest and greatest content


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