During Sundsvall42, the yearly IT-event in northern Sweden, representatives for the Swedish National Radio (SR) spoke on "the concept of Social Intranet". I sat there smiling, because I recognised so much from our own operation. We recently built a social intranet for The Sami Parliament, we are currently builiding one for the Municipality of Solvesborg. The concept - social intranet is something many parties is considering at the moment.
Until now web-based intranet has pretty much been simply a "repository of information." It did not matter whether one person or many were responsible for the content, it was the storage and dissemination of information that was essential.
But currently intranet building focuses more and more on the interaction between users. A social intranet is still doing the same job as the older intranet versions, that is spreading information, but it also provides an opportunity to interact between users, ask questions, comment and let the intranet develop based on the organization's needs.
In a social intranet interaction has priority. Messages between members, Facebook-like communication areas, project groups that participants can create themselves, forums, links to business systems, directories, calendars, etc, all form a number of interactive areas and possibilities.
One of the more important features is that it exposes the user to others and gives her/him a visible identity and an opportunity to ask questions and give answers, both individually and in groups.
The question is justified and my answer is an unconditioned - YES! But the benefits are different to different organizations.
During the conference "Sundsvall42" the Swedish National Radio gave several examples of how tasks can be solved much faster when you have the opportunity to ask questions directly onto the intranet "- Can someone translate 2 minutes of Arabic, I work with a short story and need translation." Immediate response and the task was solved in 15 minutes. The whole staff uses the intranet as a permanent, active page on the computer. Therefore the respons is given quick.
The Sami parliament uses their social intranet to create social cohesion. Their staff is spread over a huge geographical area thus preventing the staff from having their social meetings and coffee breaks together around one "coffee table"
The intranet has become the virtual coffee table.
But in the end of course - each organization must assess what is important to them.
It obviously depends on which path you choose. You can choose the path of the Swedish National Radio, that has a price tag of several million swedish "kronor" (8 SEK ≈ 1 EUR). But you can also choose an open source based way of, where the intranet is built in an iterative manner, in different phases based on what you really need, thereby saving plenty of money.
The swedish company "funka.nu" has an intranet project where a number of swedish municipalities have defined what an intranet should contain and what the structure might look like. If you use this structure and initially only build exactly what you need in that moment, you can get by with about 100 000 SEK (≈ EUR 12 000). Later on you can add other functions later on, as your needs increase. A very cost effective way of handling IT-projects.
The costs will noticeably increase when you wish to integrate existing traditional business and other systems that unfortunately are not always easy to integrate with the web.
Furthermore - it is smart to start small, because also the staff must be given time to grow into the new opportunities given by the social intranet.
But is it expensive? Compared to all the information an intranet makes available, with all communication channels it may create between employees and all time you can potentially save - no, it is not expensive.