Company Intranet vs. Enterprise Social Network?

In a recent article, Senior Analyst Tom Petrocelli claimed that “Enterprise Social Networks Will Render Company Intranets Obsolete”.

Exactly what defines an “Enterprise Social Network” or a “Company Intranet” is not clearly outlined, but for some reason the two are seen as mutually exclusive solutions.

I suggest that not only are the two necessarily separate, but that the features associated with “company intranets” are just as relevant now as they were before the birth of the buzzword “enterprise social network”.

Collaboration > Communication?

The author suggests that, “in today’s team-oriented business environment”, one-way or top down communication will soon be replaced altogether by social collaboration.

Far from being “rendered obsolete”, traditional top-down communication is adapting to changes in business culture. Areas moderated by Internal Communications (and other content creation groups) are increasingly open to feedback from the rest of the organisation, as shown in the following example (submitted as part of a “My Beautiful Intranet” competition):

“Main wall (managed and promoted by Internal Communication) plays the most important role of the site. Besides, in the colorful banner menu, there are also several communication spaces. In all of them the employees give their opinion and rank the contents.” – Alicia Delgado, ONO

ONO-Intranet

And everything else?

And what about all the other traditional features of a portal / intranet?

“expense reports, requests for time off and many other straightforward but necessary workflows…”

The author claims “Enterprise social network products can do all the same functions. They can share information, host important files and implement lightweight workflows.”.

Not only can they apparently perform the same functions, but “enterprise social networks” can also “do much of this labor better than traditional portals…Activity streams give a better view of information flow in a company than typical static portal designs.”

Would an activity stream really provide a better view of complicated business processes than purpose built business intelligence features? (see SharePoint’s BI features)

Can microblogging meet strict compliance needs as well as information management policies, or document management needs as well as document management features?

I for one am unconvinced.

Conclusion

The argument is a needless one. The features of an “enterprise social network” compliment rather than replace those of a traditional portal or intranet.

SharePoint (increasingly so in the upcoming 2013 edition) manages to consolidate all of these features into a single platform. Whether you call it a ‘portal’, an ‘intranet’ or an ‘enterprise social network’ solution doesn’t make all that much of a difference.