I am indebted to Lin Grensing-Pohal, writing in the May/June 2013 issue of Intranets, for reminding me of a famous but perhaps now largely forgotten article in Business Week in 1996. Entitled “Here comes the Intranet” it was a paean of praise for the future of intranets. I have long since lost my paper version of the article, which is a pity because it was probably the major reason for me starting to pay attention to the role of intranets in internal information management and internal communications. It is reassuring to know that the Business Week digital archive goes back that far. Lin Grensing-Pohal’s article ‘The Social Business and the Future of the Intranet’ is a well researched and written article but it is only available to subscribers to the magazine.

Sadly there have been very few articles about the value of intranets in mainstream business journals. Checking out the Harvard Business Review there turned out to be 46 results for a search for ‘intranet’ but only six of these are to articles and around 20 are to company case studies.  Of the 46 results, nine were published before 2000, 26 in the period from 2000-2006 and the remainder in the period from 2007-2013. In most cases the reference to an intranet was very much in passing, with no details given about the role of the intranet within the organisation.

A search on Fortune magazine listed 379 results, with the earliest dating back to 1995. Of the 379 references just over 300 date back more than a decade! The first reference to the term ‘intranet’ was in 27 November 1995. I liked this quote from the article

“Simply put, companies want the technology of the web because it makes it easier for computers to finally start doing what we’ve wanted them to do all along. Surfing an internal corporate web, employees use hypertext links to search for and access text, graphics, audio, or video, all organized into colorful documents called home pages. At the most basic level, this means being able to easily find and read online internal documents such as policy manuals and phone books. Webs also allow employees to call up internal data such as customer profiles and product inventory, information once hidden in databases that could be tapped only by technicians. The most advanced internal webs are even getting linked to the proprietary systems that govern a company’s business functions.”

Close to 20 years later this vision is still far from being universally implemented.

Martin White