Much of my career has been in the publishing business and on many occasions I have been faced with the problem of how to change a directory or report published on an annual basis into something that has renewed impact but maintains the quality and reputation of previous editions. It is not at all easy!  I have enormous respect for the way in which Jane McConnell has repositioned her Global Intranet Trends Report as the Digital Workplace Report and yet still ensured that key intranet trends identified in earlier reports are still presented and assessed . Released just before Christmas, once again there is a need carefully to read every one of the 140 pages of the report  to gain a true understanding of how intranets are evolving, and potentially morphing into digital workplaces.

The report has six main sections

  • The Digital Workplace
  • The Managed Dimension
  • The Social Collaborative Dimension
  • The Mobile Dimension
  • Governance and Management
  • The Digital Workplace Tomorrow

This year just over 450 organisations completed the survey, and as intranets mature the scatter of some of the earlier reports is now being replaced by a consensus of vision even if not yet a consensus of outcomes. The way in which Jane has presented the survey information makes it even easier to assimilate than in the past.  There is careful highlighting of the data supported by insights that are always a blend of survey outcomes, the text responses in the survey and Jane’s extensive consulting experience.

It is impossible to summarise the analysis in a short blog, so just a few comments will have to suffice

  • I like the four scenarios for the future of the digital workplace, which should stimulate a lot of debate. The scenarios are given the short titles of “My apps”, “Smart systems”, “People centric” and Super search”. Jane highlights the fact that these are not four different scenarios, but represent different strategies and visions as digital workplaces evolve.
  • There is little improvement in search satisfaction over the last two years and 61% of respondents still have less than one member of staff allocated to search. The view that Jane has on digital workplaces is that they will attract the “best and brightest” people will be personalised, people-centric and powered by a super-search.  I support that vision, but how organisations with such a minimal investment in search are going to get there with the current lack of investment in search is quite a conundrum.
  • The section on mobile adoption is very timely, as much of the discussion in 2011 has been based on largely anecdotal information. Now we have quantitative information and that alone should justify the purchase of the report because what limited survey data there is tends to come from surveys of IT managers.

It’s sad to see a page about senior management issues 16 years after the advent of intranets!

My only suggestion for improvement next year is to provide a shorter Executive Summary. Sadly few senior managers are going to read and respond to the six pages of analysis that provide such an excellent summary of the report. The NetStrategy/JMC survey is now the definitive survey of digital workplace adoption as well as for intranet development.  The report should be be shared with all the intranet stakeholders in your organisation as the basis for deciding what actions should be taken over the next couple of years as digital workplaces start to emerge. By the time they do it may be too late for you to respond  and (as Jane suggests)  the brightest and best employees will find somewhere else to work.

Martin White