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Feb 11, 2010

Does "Intranet" Need a New Name?

James Robertson has an excellent post, Future principle: it’s more than the intranet, where he summarizes a movement to replace the term "intranet" with a word that reflects what an intranet could be. To quote:

There are some that would like to dump the “intranet” name, as it’s associated with the “old” vision of intranets as a publishing platform, a dumping group for documents, and a place for the CEO to post his thoughts.

This narrow vision of the intranet must certainly die. In the process, intranet teams need to go from being custodians of an internal website, to facilitators for business improvements. In many ways, the word “intranet” has too much baggage, and is an anchor for much-needed changes.

I agree that many people hear the word intranet and immediately think "dumping ground" but one does wonder if companies will not sully the next name by their continued failure to execute on the vision. The term "intranet" is actually pretty good and should be able to ride on the coat tails of the internet. The name "internet" wasn't brought down by failures like GeoCities because there is so much innovation happening; and failure is a necessary by-product of innovation. The difference is that failure kills most corporate intranets. Many intranets are big waterfall I.T. projects that are "complete" after launch. There is no time or budget left to learn from mistakes and adjust — the equivalent of a failed internet start-up but without the decency of shutting the servers down.

I don't expect companies will improve their execution of intranet projects until they start to change the way they build, launch, and manage internal products. The companies that are ahead of the curve should give their intranet an internal name to make users expect and work for more than the status quo.

BTW, I have a great replacement for the term "intranet" but I am not going to tell anyone because, sooner or later, it will be ruined by some comatose intranet initiative looking for some easy re-branding. :P