Digital Workplace Insights

Traditional Intranet versus Social Intranet. A tale of two products

When we started the development of the CentricMinds product back in 2002, like most people, we could not imagine the influence that social media would have on society today. By 2010, we had started supporting the ability for Intranet users to like and comment on Intranet posts, but the application of these features wasn’t part of the original product design. They were simply shoe horned into the product to scratch the itch. It didn’t feel right.

We spent most of 2012 reviewing the enterprise social networking landscape, and it was still in its infancy. There were offerings from established players that looked very much like our CentricMinds shoe horn strategy, and there were also pure play vendors who looked to be cashing in on early adopter’s eager to build their own Facebook behind the firewall. Charging a premium to allow teams to be more social at work also didn’t look to be a long term, sustainable business model.

By the middle of 2013 we were in full swing developing a new type of Intranet platform that would leverage the core CentricMinds technology. However, this new product offering would be first and foremost a Social product. A platform designed to connect people within the workplace using recognizable and popular social lexicons to support the way teams interact and communicate about work. It looked to be a worthwhile business opportunity.

The rise of household named social networks which connect us and distribute content in various ways was always destined to permeate the workplace.

The rise of household named social networks which connect us and distribute content in various ways was always destined to permeate the workplace. When you look at enterprise software in general, the user experience is largely non-existent. The public adoption of social networking tools has magnified the importance of user-centered design in software. Imagine using Facebook if it were designed like an ERP system? Granted, both platforms serve very different purposes, but wouldn’t the size and complexity of Facebook’s data footprint rival that of all the ERP systems in the world combined? Food for thought.

Social networks have created a new vocabulary of how content and data can be pushed, filtered and consumed. Slack is a good example of how a well-established model like instant messaging was transformed into a new communications paradigm using the principles of social media; hash tagging, at mentioning, and a universe of emoticons ready for us to apply like neat stickers to add personality to our digital speak. The user experience was core to the product and for most of us we all enjoy using Slack because of these inspirational traits.

CentricMinds solves complex content and data management tasks for both small businesses, through to very large organizations. As an enterprise digital workplace platform, it excels at managing complex web content and document management requirements, routing form data to third party applications and juggling user driven workflows that request and action commands made by different audiences both inside and outside of the organization. For some customers, it’s a work horse. Happily managing gigabytes of content and crunching an intense number of page views (some of our customers have monthly page views in the tens of millions). It is ‘bad to the bone’ as one customer lovingly described it when reflecting on its capabilities.

Target Intranet

CentricMinds supports the design and implementation of completely custom Intranet and Extranet user experiences. Organizations are increasingly seeking the opportunity to craft bespoke user interface experiences to ensure their teams work seamlessly across multiple content and data driven applications within the enterprise.

 
As a traditional Intranet, CentricMinds solves many business requirements. As organizations become increasingly more data centric in their product and service offerings, it will continue to prove itself as a comprehensive Intranet solution. While we avoided the social shoe horn strategy with CentricMinds, the integration of Stream with CentricMinds provides organizations with the best of both worlds.

CentricMinds with Stream

The Stream social channel displayed within the CentricMinds Intranet homepage. Users can interact with Stream posts from insider the Intranet, or click through to the Stream environment. The users profile will persist backwards and forwards between both platforms.

 
Social Intranet platforms struggle with managing complexity. Their simple and elegant social by design approach can also become an Achilles heel when some of these implementations are revisited eighteen to twenty four months down the track. As organizations grow comfortable with the social Intranet, other needs begin to weigh in on getting the social Intranet to solve more complex problems. The light weight chat design is no match for hairy business processes involving workflows, document automation and personalization.

We set about developing Stream to enable teams to solve general communication and collaboration tasks. A place to post, review and comment. A platform that would echo the beat of the organization in an engaging and user friendly way. An environment that would connect people from all geographic locations, work environments and backgrounds. Where the general user experience would excite people into wanting to participate in conversations they wouldn’t normally have.

User Profile - Stream Workspace

Every user in Stream can manage and maintain his or her own Profile page. The page displays what you have liked, the connection groups you belong to, and allows other users to view your skills and expertise. Profile pages are designed to allow users to discover other team members and then make a request to connect with them. Once connected, users will see each others content published within Stream.

 
Stream also needs to be in your pocket, as that’s where the future of work will take place. We didn’t want it to consume every minute of your day, like Slack has a habit of doing, but silently run in the background waiting for your contribution if you want to make one. More importantly, we wanted it to be supported by a traditional Intranet platform that could handle when business needs evolve from simple to more complex business problems.

Fast forward to 2017 and we’ve had the opportunity to observe the positive impact first hand that customers have gained from deploying both CentricMinds and Stream as their formal Intranet + Enterprise Social Network solution. The traditional work horse platform paired with the younger social platform provides the best of both worlds.

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