Take a look at the modern business landscape, and it's quite clear that things have changed dramatically over the past ten years.
Technology has played a huge part in the virtualization of business, as employees can now work together while being located on opposite sides of the globe.
It's no secret that company intranets have played a key role in helping businesses become more interconnected ... and there are plenty of reasons why this particular suite of tools is experiencing a golden age at the moment.
Now, with all this said, what is the future of intranets?
Social intranet software continues to evolve, as new technology is always emerging. Understanding where intranet software is going in the future can help you get even more out of it today, especially if you're just getting ready to take the plunge and see what it's all about. While peering into a crystal ball isn't always easy, here are just a few more intranet trends that are likely to occur.
As effective a tool as a company intranet is, it's still considered to be in its infancy. The popularity of intranet software is growing rapidly, as today's organizations require a streamlined approach to operate at full capacity.
It should come as no surprise, then, that social intranet software is being adopted by an increasing number of companies throughout the world. Practically every major organization in America has its own virtual space for handling internal processes, many of which are using social intranet software as their primary vehicle for collaboration.
In the not-so-distant future, it's likely that the number of businesses throughout the United States and the rest of the world that use intranets will grow exponentially.
User experience is #1.
Intranet software serves one major purpose ... it is designed to streamline business processes to take organizations to new heights. To be effective, the platform has to cater entirely to the user, creating as smooth an experience as possible. This user-centric philosophy is certainly catching on more and more in the software industry, and it's not slowing down.
As social intranet software evolves, it will become even more about the user experience than it is now. This being said, many of today's well-designed social intranet platforms are extremely user-friendly and use the best of modern technology to make your workday easier. New technology is always emerging, however, which makes it safe to assume that user experience will only see improvements in the coming years.
Social media has taken the Internet by storm over the past decade, and for good reason. It's a highly effective method of communicating with others, even if they live on the other side of the world. The social sphere may be changing as popular networks fade out of the limelight and new ones emerge, but it would be irresponsible to say that social media itself is going away; it's only rising in popularity.
One of the reasons why people take to social media so readily is because it's fast, efficient, and extremely user-friendly. Take this concept, apply it to the business world, and you'll discover a major element of what makes intranet software so effective. The "social" element of social intranet software allows employees and colleagues to interact in real time via messaging, group discussions, and forum posts, connecting the entire community in a way that hasn't been possible up until recently. As emerging technologies create new ways to interact and be social via the web, they will no doubt find their way into the realm of intranet software and make communicating even more of a breeze than it is currently.
Think about how you access the web. Laptops still serve a very important purpose, but mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are becoming more and more integral to daily life. Many professionals find themselves constantly on the go, especially those who travel throughout the country or the world for work. The explosion of mobile apps and mobile-friendly web-design didn't happen without reason — people crave the ability to access the web on the go.
Many businesses still work from platforms that can only be accessed from a laptop or PC, which is fast becoming a problem for the users of today. Because of this, more and more intranet software vendors are developing for a better mobile intranet experience. Companies that don't embrace mobile technology will no doubt fade out of the public eye ... as only those who focus on mobility have a place in the future of intranets, regardless of how well their current product is designed.
The average Internet user logs into many different accounts each time they open up their browser. This is not only a tedious process, but it can amount to wasted time. One of the benefits of social intranet software is that it cuts down on this issue by consolidating processes internally. This allows you to handle your company's sales strategy, marketing, help desk, customer support, HR, and more all in a single space.
Social intranet software already makes it easy for you to consolidate internal processes — the next step will focus on external processes. An intranet, "intra," has typically referred to internal, however this is changing, and social intranet software allows you to work with your customers, partners, and other external entities. As intranet software evolves, incorporating activity that happens elsewhere on the web into your company intranet will become easier and more viable, and users will be able to fully customize their experience to meet their needs and preferences.
There are a lot of different schools of thought about what is preferable between on-premise vs. cloud-based intranet solutions, especially when it comes to social intranets.
Some believe that the security and adaptability of on-premise intranet software simply can't be touched, while others argue that the cloud intranet solutions are the future of intranets ... leading to lower costs for solutions that are just as effective.
What often goes overlooked in this conversation, is that both solutions have a time and place, they both have pros and cons, and can actually work hand-in-hand with one another when proper strategy is at play.
Right now, the industry is so caught-up in the argument of whether one of the above options is better than the other that there hasn't been enough focus on how the two can best work together. This is a realization that is dawning on more and more software vendors and small and medium sized businesses, and the discussion is moving in a more positive direction as industry experts find ways to improve the integration of both cloud intranet and on-premise solutions.
There are many companies that can easily be associated with the services they provide and are often considered the authorities in their industries. When people think of search engines, for example, Google is what comes to mind first. This isn't by chance either, as Google has gone on to become the leading company in the search ring. Apple did it with its iPod and then iPhone, and Amazon has done it with online shopping. Collaboration and intranet software is an entirely different animal.
Seeing how social intranet software is still relatively new, the industry itself is still growing. You have the major players like IBM, Jive, Microsoft (Sharepoint, Yammer), and a few others ... however some of the most effective intranet software on the market is from up-and-coming, small-to-medium-sized software vendors, many of which share similar spots on the playing field. I'd bet on the new companies, they can move faster and have less overhead than these huge giants.
Intranet software is becoming more popular as the days pass, meaning the field will see the emergence of major competitive vendors. In many ways, these companies will serve as the face for intranet software, similar to how some consider Bose the be the gold standard of headphone technology.
One challenge that many people find themselves dealing with is: retrieving information.
Many vendors release software that features a highly-intuitive search function, although this is not always enough to find files and content when your intranet is bursting with information. Tagging can be a very effective feature as well when it comes to information retrieval, but employees can sometimes forget to tag posts or files, and even if they do, they may not be doing so in an effective manner.
Intranet software vendors know there are things that can be improved regarding information retrieval. In the future, you'll be able to find what you need faster and easier ... instead of having to wade through a sea of content, saving you and your organization time and money.
There's never been a better time than now to learn about what social intranet software can do for your business. Take the time to read-up on the benefits associated and you'll be well-versed on the subject when it finally comes time to make a purchase.
Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.
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