Thinking & Doing

BY  Jeremy Williams  ON  12-06-2016 3:28 PM


In my last post, we took a look at how Northwestern Mutual crafted a successful Intranet that has become an integral part of every associate’s day.  This week, let’s take a look at the concept behind the INTRAnet of Things and how it can enable the next generation of powerful Intranets.

Let’s consider a fictional corporation (Acme Corp.) for the purposes of defining the Intranet of Things.  If we were to take a look at Acme Corp.’s systems, we’d probably find a number of function-specific technologies, many of which would provide portal-like functionality to allow Acme’s employees to interact with each of the respective platforms.  If we grouped similar users at Acme, we’d start to notice trends of how they use these various systems to accomplish their tasks:

While this is a simplistic-example (in the ‘real-world’ there’s usually many more types of users and many more arrow) what starts to become quickly evident is:

  • There are different platforms leveraged by different users
  • Many people are reliant on email for a variety of reasons – often times email is the ‘duct-tape’ solution, which then make email an issue (because users have too much email to be effective at their job)
  • People spend a lot of time associating similar and related information across a wide variety of platforms

This creates a dis-jointed user experience where we rely on our employees to tie these systems together.  What this means is they’re likely spending valuable time trying to make sense of a lot of loosely related content to gain the necessary insights, information, knowledge, and/or expertise they need to do their job effectively.  This means that Acme’s employees are not only less-effective, but they may also be finding content that is no longer relevant, authoritative, or valid.  This may lead to poor decision-making on the basis of bad-data.  [This is age-old adage: Garbage-In, Garbage-Out]  The operative question then becomes: Could there be a better way? 

With an INTRAnet of Things model, the Intranet ties together many of the most common use-cases where people were spending time trying to bring information together across the different platforms.  The Intranet is then a hyper-personalized portal that is pulling the pertinent information that a particular user needs or may be interested in based on what we know about that particular user.  In this model, the Intranet is bringing a lot of value to a large number of users by integrating with these other platforms.

If we unpack the inner-workings of this model, we start to see some of the common data types, structures, and interactions among all of these platforms.  By integrating across these common frameworks, we can address most user’s casual (read: everyday) needs in the Intranet.  And when employees need to access deeper-functionality in a particular portal/platform, they can navigate directly into the system of record and leverage all of the deeper-functionality required.

As a quick example, let’s consider a scenario where a majority of my users submit expense reports on a somewhat regular basis.  My users are probably pretty interested in getting those reports approved (because then they’ll get their expenses paid-for).  An interesting piece of functionality here would be a quick view (on the Intranet homepage) of my current expense reports and their associated status.  If I had submitted 4 reports, and 3 were approved but 1 was rejected, then I could click in the rejected expense report and quickly resolve my error.  Without this integration, the user would need to remember to navigate to their Financial-platform, login, navigate to expense reports, and then scan the status codes of all of their expense reports.  With the integrated model, I have not only reduced the number of clicks required of my user, but I’m also presenting the information to them alongside other valuable content, which then creates a very powerful communication and employee engagement tool.

Ultimately, the INTRAnet of Things is about taking advantage of the collective power of an organization’s systems and bringing forward meaningful insights, information, and content to all employees.  With the Intranet providing this to our users, we will allow our employees to be more efficient, which will then allow them to spend more time on what they’re passionate about at their job.