There are a lot of intranets around the world, though no-one is quite sure how many. Most of the news about intranets is generated by larger organisations and I was interested in the recent analysis from Andrew Wright that challenged the view of the Nielsen Norman Group that smaller companies have better intranets. There have been a number of posts on various LinkedIn groups recently by people working for companies with perhaps only 10 employees who were looking for intranet solutions. Intranet suites aimed at smaller companies have been around for some years now. Interact-Intranet, Orchidsoft and Intranet Connections are just three of many, and business for them seems to be good. They offer the web part/widget approach of SharePoint without the development costs.
I’m now beginning to see movement on the part of some really major players in the IT business towards providing intranet solutions. A brief summary.
- Microsoft Office 365 is certainly offering intranet capabilities, and you can be sure that these will only get better in time as Office 15 and SharePoint 15 emerge in a year or so
- Google is positioning Google Sites as being an intranet solution and companies the scale of Roche are adopting Google Apps as a quasi-intranet
- LinkedIn is being quoted as starting to look at the intranet market, interestingly in an interview with the MD Europe
- Apple has not made any announcements that I have seen but the level of iPad use may persuade them that there could be a service to offer. Remember that Apple have excellent statistics on the apps that people have downloaded and so have an decent view on the tasks that iPad users are undertaking.
A major factor in all this is the potential requirement for mobile intranets and the flexibility of cloud applications, which all four companies understand very well. Many small businesses have most of their staff on the road (I’m thinking of my local carpet fitter) and only a couple of people at the office. Forrester and the Aberdeen Group both see collaboration as a key requirement for mobile workers, and that is about collaboration with each other not specifically HQ. Collaboration is good but often requires access to documents and other applications, rather than just microblogging and staff directories. Somewhere there might even be an opportunity for HP now that it is planning to embed Automony search in printers and other office devices.
I’m not yet sure where all this is leading at present. All four companies listed above have excellent brand reputations, very deep pockets and a lot of patience and when they do commit to a new service they put a lot of effort behind it. Perhaps the intranet age is only just starting!