The Heterogeneous Intranet

Created by Me

A few weeks ago, Yammer took hold in my organisation. From a standing start 18 months ago with just me, we gained tens of users in 2 weeks at the beginning of the year and growing quickly. (Aside: those first few years of Yammer were rather boring for me. It really was an anti-social media site).

As an intranet professional, this grow in use is both exciting and alarming. On the positive side, it clearly demonstrates a business need and desire for more informal internal communication and collaboration channels. Our employees have embraced Yammer which bodes well as intranets continue to evolve their social functionality.

There are downsides though.

Yammer does not belong to my company. The comments we add, the information we share and the ideas that we develop are not on our servers and are subject to Yammer’s rules. And whilst Yammer is free, will it always be free? Are our employees forming a habit that will become costly in due course? There are plugins which fully integrate Yammer into a corporate intranet but it remains an external tool. (Aside: I do wonder if Yammer has been popular in my company because it’s one of the few social media sites that is not routinely blocked by our firewall software).

When I asked about this on Twitter, the responses I got were very interesting. . Many saw Yammer as a complimentary service to a corporate intranet, but many would prefer such a facility to be an integral part of the offering, rather than a third-party plugin. Even Yammer themselves (@Yammer) followed the conversation judging by a subsequent email I later received!

It seems likely though that Yammer usage is part of a growing trend of heterogeneous intranets. At the recent European Portal Evolution Masters conference in Berlin, there were many examples of intranets that had a simple CMS but utilised WordPress, Yammer or Google technologies — either within or without the firewall — to provide an appropriate suite of tools for employees. It occurs that this might be another example of the intranet as a digital gateway (see NetJMC Global Trends Report) or the beginning of a new trend: Heterogeneous Intranets (simple CMS + bought in third party tools) or Homogeneous Intranets (complex, fully functional CMS such as SharePoint).

Love to hear what you think.