Do You Really Want an
Steven L. Telleen, Ph.D.
For many organizations Implementing intranets has become the new
American pastime as they rush to the lure of saving money or the fear
of losing ground
to competition. In all the excitement, many organizations fail to
that intranets support and encourage a definite management and cultural
one that may not be compatible with their incumbent managers. When this
the organization finds itself negotiating personal conflicts or
complex procedures in an attempt to shut off all but the pre-intranet
Be aware, if your organizational culture does not
and encourage open communication, an intranet can be like opening
Box. An intranet is an infrastructure, not an application. And, it is
egalitarian infrastructure that supports both the publishing and use of
and logic from any point in the infrastructure. Once the infrastructure
implemented to support the first application, it is capable of
others, whether intended by the original creators, or not.
Unofficial applications and information seem to be
trademark of intranets. Many information managers in large corporations
that the first time they ran a web crawler on their intranet, 30% of
web servers that showed up were previously unknown to them. And, nearly
every MIS group that has a TCP/IP network, but not a formally endorsed
intranet, acknowledges a few "unofficial" web servers already operating
behind their firewall. This happens because the technology is so easy
to use that anyone with a moderate level of computer savvy, and a
computer already hooked to
a TCP/IP network, can figure out how to become a web server.
Depending on your corporate culture, this is
the strength or the peril of an intranet. Employees quickly discover
they can deliver information to each other more quickly over the
by cutting out previously required steps. However, when some of these
were management control points, the result can be management ire. This
turn into an opportunity to evaluate and re-engineer the contribution
management in the quality process, or, it can become a bitter power
Organizations that already value and support
decision making find the self-enabling aspects of an intranet to be a
that lets them stretch further. Organizations that encourage top-down
making and hoarding of information are faced with the prospect of
re-evaluating their culture or looking for tools, architectures and
sanctions to shut down
many of the intranet capabilities.
To get a rough feeling of where your organization
with respect to an intranet, put some serious thought into answering
following questions. There are only three, and you don’t have to tell
If your answers were knowledge, communication and organic, then your
will probably find an intranet to be an exciting and enabling addition
to your culture. However, if you answered procedures, protecting, and
you should approach an intranet implementation with great caution. An
is most valuable where: Knowledge Creation is Essential to Business,
Communication is Essential to Knowledge Creation.
- Does your organization value employees more
for their knowledge or
for their ability to follow set procedures?
- Does your culture value sharing information or
is position maintained
by withholding and protecting information?
- Is your management style organic or are most
key decisions supplied
to implementers from above?
If you believe an intranet is important to your
here are a few key points to consider. An intranet supports and
three different types of information: official, project or group, and
All three have value to organizational communication. Recognize these
uses, then manage them all rather than try to eliminate some. This can
done using policies, architectures and education.
Managing the quality of the official information
over the intranet is critical. Quality is a management rather than a
issue, and the intranet is a tool that can help managers with this
responsibility. Identify the people and roles involved in the
development and certification of official information, develop an
intranet process and content infrastructure to support these people,
and provide them with training. Architect your intranet
to support standards rather than technologies or products. Forcing
group to use uniform authoring or management tools under the guise of
quality is a regression to the central control model.
Take a hard look at the real drivers behind your
access policies, formal and informal. There are legitimate reasons for
limiting access to information, but employees often limit information
for reasons that
have little to do with the success of the organization. Access
restrictions are not free. They cost the organization in terms of
dollars, access time, management effort and ease of use.
Not all activities require free form information,
an intranet will support structured information delivery. Identify
activities benefit from structure and which are more free flowing.
delivery and management strategies to match the requirements of each
being supported rather than a "one size fits all" strategy for the
as a whole.
Most important, implement an infrastructure that
diversity. This is not always the easiest path, but it will keep your
organization strong and flexible.
Last updated: June 24, 1997