Book Review: Intranets – handbook for Intranet managers

Martin White kicks off this anthology of intranet wisdom for managers with a short history of intranets. He reminds us that the term ‘intranet’ was coined by Steve Tallen from Amdahl back in the early ‘90s and many of the issues that emerged then are still relevant today.

Sharing information over networked computers was a core theme of Tom Peters’ book, Liberation Management, published in 1992 and intranet teams are still trying to foster knowledge sharing and collaboration. Oscar Berg’s chapter “Collaboration and the Intranet” brings us bang up to date as he describes the creation of social intranets and why they are of fundamental importance to the development of intranets.

These two chapters form a fine bridge to the rest of the collection as intranet managers and thinkers tackle all manner of practical topics.

Marcus Österberg provides a starter guide to using analytics to help manage your intranet; “The time when major design decisions were made based on subjective measures, like  someone’s personal taste, is behind us” and although intranet teams might have a different current experience everyone needs guidance on analytics as the flow of available data to intranet managers increases. Marcus points out it’s easy to get lost in the data without asking ‘what is all this for?’. Fredrik Wacka and my chapters attempt to show just how much practical use facts and data can be in constructing and improving your intranet.

More approaches to design follow. Want to design to maximise your intranet’s impact on the business? Ingrid Domingue’s gives teams a way to design their intranet considering impact rather than the possibilities and limitations of current technology. Maciej Plonka looks at UX techniques applied to intranets including guerilla research techniques that are accessible for teams of even one or two persons.  

Without content there would be nothing to analyse, measure, or improve. Joop Van Loon and Christian Lustig guide us through the different types before providing a practical model for managing the how, what, and why of intranet content. Everyone wants their content to be engaging and two chapters deal with this topic; a real practitioner’s perspective from Nils-Erik Gustafsson with lots of everyday useful ideas and a holistic theoretical approach to engagement from Dan Jones and Kevin Cody. Every so often managers are confronted with the prospect of moving content to a new platform. David Hobbs describes the dangers of seeing this as a purely mechanical IT process at the end of a project, and provides concrete methods for planning and managing content migration. Good content is no use if you can’t find it and Kristian Norling poses the question – “Is good intranet search actually possible?” at the start of his chapter. He comes to a positive conclusion but adds that it takes a lot of hard work and determination. Provided you have both, then his chapter takes you through the necessary techniques and steps to having a good search function.

Modern intranets have a diverse bunch of publishers and contributors – How do you keep control whilst fostering collaboration and innovation? Mark Morell provides a reasoned case for good governance and explains how to make that case to management. Intranets often begin as ‘projects’ with multiple functions involved and lots of historically unsolved problems like gaps in directory services. Stephan Schillerwein outlines a specific project approach that tackles these issues. Stakeholder management is often quoted as a skill intranet managers should have; Sara Redin takes a deeper dive into this topic in her chapter with specific tools and best practices for identifying and managing stakeholders.

Martin White closes his chapter saying “The core good practice principles (for intranets) were well established by the end of the 1990s”. This book comes as a timely summary of much good work that has been done putting those principles into practice.

Book details

Intranets – handbook for Intranet managers

Kristian Norling Publisher and Editor

Brian Lamb Editor

Chapter Authors

Martin White

Mark Morrell

Sara Redin

Ingrid Domingues

Fredrik Wackå

Stephan Schillerwein

Maciej Płonka

Kevin Cody & Dan Jones

Nils-Erik Gustafsson

Oscar Berg

Joep van Loon & Christiaan Lustig

David Hobbs

Sam Marshall

Marcus Österberg


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