Enterprise intranet predictions for 2008

Predictions and trends for enterprise intranets in 2008 include further consolidation of the portal market, increased competition from new web 2.0 vendors, and a simpler home page for the enterprise portal or home page.

In the past I’ve recklessly chided those that make annual predictions. And yet people love them, so who am I to fight it?! Therefore I’m permanently parking this ego block and embracing the annual predictions list with open arms.

1- Consolidation of portal market

Without continued reductions in prices, portal software sales will continue to slow. BEA had a rough year in 2007, and it may be its last. BEA is for sale and Oracle wants to buy it, but both sides are far apart on the price (Oracle offered $17 per share; BEA wants $21 per share). Something will happen to BEA and its two portal products… but don’t count Oracle out as the final bidder.

Additionally, Oracle appears to be focusing its portal energies on its newer portal product WebCenter. While the older Oracle Portal product has a new upcoming release, Oracle will not support four different portal solutions should it succeed in buying BEA. Regardless, Oracle Portal’s long-term survival looks questionable.

Finally, a few big vendors are dominating the portal market – Microsoft, IBM, BEA, Oracle and Vignette. The remaining vendors are a complete afterthought and will fall by the wayside – including one portal challenger, a large scale software vendor, that has lost all confidence in its own portal product and will not even use it for its own intranet.

2- New web 2.0 challengers

Portals are overly complex and usually over-priced. More and more organizations want to have a portal-like enterprise intranet, but don’t have the money. Enter the new challengers using Web 2.0 including mash-ups, RSS and AJAX.

In my column, Is the personalized intranet portal dying?, I discussed the lack of personalization adoption by employees who use or have access to their intranet portals that feature personalization options. A 5 – 20% adoption rate is normal. This for a technology that, despite the hype, is likely only available in approximately 10% or less of medium to large organizations in North America.

It’s not surprising then that some of the new Web 2.0 technology including RSS and mashups are beginning to undermine expensive portal solutions and the concept of intranet personalization.

“Given the technology trends at work — new methods of integration via programmable thick clients, widgets, gadgets, RSS feeds, and more — it’s unlikely that companies will continue to look at portal servers as their only choice for application integration,” said Forrester’s Matthew Brown in his interview with me this past summer (see Alternatives to intranet personalization).

A number of vendors are offering mashup solutions that are not yet alternatives to deep, enterprise level integration, but are alternatives to SOA and portals that are able to aggregate top-level data. Here are just a few of the emerging solutions:

  • Dapper allows you to build web applications and mashups called "Dapps" using data from any HTML web page (and other sources) without any programming.

  • WorkLight serves employees application data from various applications via services and technologies such as RSS, Ajax, desktop and web-based gadget/widgets, social bookmarks, application mashups, and more.

  • Grazr is an applications system and a free publishing tool for feeds and aggregating feeds. It lets you quickly and easily display RSS, RDF, Atom, and OPML files on any Web page so they can be viewed by any visitor to the site.
  • JackBuilder a browser-based mashup product to create mashups – an entirely Ajax-based IDE that allows services, widgets, and components to be integrated together into enterprise mashups.

While these tools are not yet fully featured alternatives to portals, the technology is rapidly advancing and threatening the mainstream vendors with low costs and high-functionality. But that will change. Additional contenders that we know nothing of yet will also emerge in 2008.

3- Workflow diminishes

Content management workflow has been the focus of lots of development and improvement with many of the leading vendors. Yet most organizations don’t give a damn about workflow and most barely use it. Content managers and approvers prefer to use e-mail and MS-Word for content approvals and gate-keeping and will continue to do so. Workflow mechanisms will continue to exist in almost all CMS products, but future R&D will wane as customer apathy increases.

4- Home pages become simpler

Your intranet home page is poorly designed and far too busy (well, for most). Employees are screaming for simpler home pages, with fewer links, more white space, and less color. Time and time again when I test different home page designs and concepts in employee focus groups the most simple designs test highest (sorry, I cannot share with you proprietary and confidential client designs but call us at Prescient if you want to see some of those that are eligible for sharing). The lowest rated designs are the IBM and Cisco intranets (two of my absolute favorites, and two of the best intranets in the world… BUT your employees are not IBMers or Cisco webheads!). The KISS has never been more true – keep it simple stupid!

5- Intranet Governance

The biggest hurdle or problem holding back the success of a typical intranet is lack of ownership, management and governance. Without a well defined intranet governance model (see Collaborative Intranet Governance (Intranet Politics Part II) and The Politics of Intranet Ownership) the value and potential of the enterprise intranet or corporate portal is severely limited. Most organizations have come to understand this and have put in governance models in the last year or two – or are in the process of doing so. As a result, those that have implemented a thorough intranet governance model will begin to start seeing the fruits of their labors:

-         decision-making is faster

-         fewer politics and in-fighting will mean better focus and direction

-         instead of focusing on politics actual progress and projects will get done

-         progress equals funding and more funding leads to future enhancements

Read more on establishing intranet governance:

The Politics of Intranet Ownership

Collaborative Intranet Governance (Intranet Politics Part II)

Kiwis demonstrate progressive intranet leadership

Xerox Demonstrates Intranet Success (back issue)

6- Facebook gains enterprise support

While Intranet 2.0 is gaining traction, most organizations fear and despise Facebook (though many of those executives banning it have families that are using it). About half of the medium to large-sized organizations (it’s even higher in Government and Financial Services) forbid and block employees from using it. Notwithstanding the obvious executive concerns about employee productivity (“wasting good company time playing around on the Internet!”) a recent Forrester Research study found that 78 percent of IT organizations are concerned with the employee-driven, unsanctioned use of Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprises (see Speaking of Facebook as an underground intranet…).

Now, as security concerns are vetted and measures taken to protect corporate stores, luddite executives that were quick to ban Facebook will slowly begin to recognize its value when lobbied by more savvy managers, particularly in HR and Communications. Serena Software made a splash by encouraging employees to use Facebook (see Serena Software Adopts Facebook as Corporate Intranet) and even designating one hour per week on ‘Facebook Fridays’ to encourage use of Facebook. Other more progressive companies will follow suit.

This is not to say that Facebook won’t still be widely prohibited by many organizations – it will be banned by many still, particularly in government and those with large unionized, hourly workforces. Slowly Facebook will begin to win corporate support and more companies will use as a means of competitive advantage particularly in the areas of employee recruitment, business development and marketing.


See my predictions of last year: Intranet predictions for 2007.

Toby Ward is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media. Contact us directly for more information on how to transform your intranet into a high-value employee & business system or download our free white paper Finding ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments.



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Enterprise 2.0 vs. Intranet 2.0

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