How can intranets help how companies innovate? It is a vital question when many businesses continue to struggle in the aftermath of the recession – suffering with minimal consumer confidence, low productivity, and struggling to update their brands to the digital world.
While ‘innovation’ can be an overused buzzword, there are signs that some businesses are beginning to take note. While no-one wants to be the next Kodak or Blockbuster leaving it too late to change – today, the market, combined with demanding consumers and cheaper cloud-based technology, is forcing some to face up to the fact that they must either adapt or fail. In such circumstances, innovation is key.
But how is technology aiding innovation?
The question for anyone who has or is about to invest in an intranet or a digital workspace, is how can technologies like SharePoint and Yammer help bring about new ideas and innovation?
Up until recently, intranets have played a role in helping companies organise and structure content. But this has also meant having to deal with a number of broader cultural problems too – often making innovation harder. For example, managing talent has been a high priority – using the corporate intranet to keep employees loyal without risking losing them to competition. Take the millennial generation, who continue to demand connectivity and tools at work, whilst being very vocal that their companies share their ethics and values. This is a powerful strength to utilise if done correctly.
Elsewhere, creating a more collaborative culture internally has also been tricky for some organisations, while facing pressures of having to clean up and regulate all aspects of how they internally communicate and share their content and data. For example, many financial institutions have been forced to build digital walls to purposely stop such sharing and collaboration between their internal divisions to reduce risk of sharing private data.
In such circumstances, it can be no wonder that the balance of sociability and structure has remained hard to achieve.
However, I think we are finally starting to see the business value of social networking technology, especially among those teams responsible for maximising the value of their internal knowledge, including sharing it with their external suppliers and customers too.
Here, the character of innovation is, for the time being, different too. Instead of large amounts of investment spent on initial, early-stage research and development, it will mostly be about two kinds of things: greater connectivity, and of improving internal processes.
There can be no doubt that sorting out how everything functions internally is going to be a top priority. This has been made easier with the wholesale shift away from hardware technology to far cheaper, cloud-hosted tools. Similarly, those who are demanding these new services are likely to be customer-facing functions like marketing and customer support – not IT.
However, a bigger question remains. Once many of these connectivity-based issues have been resolved by creating apps for everything – that includes catering for those impatient Millennials – it remains to be seen who will go further and innovate with not-seen-before products and services?