Intranet Now 2016 – 30 September, London
Based on the buzz generated by 200 intranet managers there can be no doubt Intranet Now has established itself as ‘the’ UK intranet conference, though perhaps ‘event’ is a better description. The core is a fast moving set of 7 minute presentations, interspersed with a few slightly longer presentations from sponsors. The result is at the end of the morning you may not be sure who said what but the totality of the notes jotted on paper or keyboard provide a wealth of ideas for consideration and inspiration. User research, working relationships between intranet managers and their IT counterparts, case studies, accessibility issues, performance metrics, intranet design, project management, models for collaboration and much more. The best metaphor I can think of is that it is like being in the design and development area of an intranet factory where as you walk down the corridor you pause outside doors to hear a little of the discussions taking place in each workspace.
To make this work requires the speakers to keep strictly to time. Almost everyone did so (I know – I overran by one minute!) and the lunch break was almost spot on schedule. This is a result of the respect that everyone has for Wedge, Brian and their team of volunteers. In the afternoon the pattern changed after the cake break with simultaneous workshops (run by sponsors) and a series of five round-table discussion slots at which delegates could move from table to table. This approach was new for 2016. I’m not sure it quite worked out in terms of learning or logistics but it was certainly worth trying out. Intranet Now ended with the presentation of the Diamond Awards for significant contribution to the intranet community being given to the Intranetizen team and (earlier in the month) to James Robertson for his work with Step Two Designs.
Intranet Now is as much about making connections as learning from presentations. Good breaks and the round table format facilitate this and I became aware of attendees from Denmark, Malta, the Netherlands and of course James Dellow from Australia. The Park Plaza Hotel coped well with such a large conference though the projectors need to be pensioned off and the long queue for dessert should have been sorted by the hotel events team.
It is just not possible to summarise Intranet Now, and perhaps that’s why it has maintained the momentum from 2014 and 2015. Even if one presentation does not connect with you there is only a 7 minute wait until the next one. My own presentation looked at the development of intranets from their origin in work at the University of Illinois in the early 1970s. I remarked in that presentation that virtually all the accepted principles of intranet governance had been established by 1999, and yet on a number of occasions presenters made comments along the lines of “What we found was….” . As a community we often seem to be reinventing the wheel and not building on the experience of others, for example in the almost 200 case studies that have been published over the last five years. As a contra to that I came away from Intranet Now with at least two ‘lightbulb’ discoveries which will be added to my toolkit for client engagements and an idea for a new section to the Intranet Focus website. Watch this space.
I have to end with highlighting the enormous amount of work that Wedge and Brian Lamb put in to this event, which brings with it considerable financial risk for two entrepreneurs. I’ve been in the conference arranging business for over 30 years and I know just how much the pressure builds up towards the conference date. They both deserve a Diamond Award themselves, but for now will have to bask in smiling faces of delegates leaving the underground bunker of the Park Plaza Hotel on their way to building even better intranets in the year ahead. Hopefully many will return next year to report on their achievements to delegates at Intranet Now 2017.