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The difference between an Intranet, Social Intranet and Enterprise Social Network

The difference between an Intranet, Social Intranet and Enterprise Social Network

Intranets have been around for decades. They're the central 'hub' of an organization whereby employees can access company news, information, policies and documents. Traditional intranets were designed for one-way communication whereby information was constructed by management and consumed by employees.

With the introduction of social collaboration and communication tools for business, intranet vendors are recognising the market shift towards interactive communication requirements. Being the central point of contact, traditional intranets are now in danger of becoming obsolete as they are replaced by software that allows greater flexibility and employee interaction.

Social Intranets have therefore evolved from traditional intranets by combining the hub of company information with the latest social communication tools.

While many social intranets stem from intranet upgrades, enterprise social networks are different because they have emerged through social business software and enterprise collaboration products. With social collaboration and communication at their core, enterprise social networks already include intranet, document management and CMS functionality as basic features.

The result is that Social Intranets are now available in two main varieties; they're either an upgraded intranet or they're an enterprise social network deployed as a social intranet.

Illustrated as follows:


Which social intranet is leading the way?

Naturally, traditional Intranet vendors are in a catch-up mode because they're working to integrate social features into existing products that are often deployed on-site, have legacy architecture, outdated interfaces and limited portability. The roadmap and timeline is focused on upgrades that vary based on business priorities and client demands.

On the other hand, enterprise social network providers already have their social features nailed. As well as the usual intranet features one would expect, social intranets include mobile and tablet apps, advanced employee workspaces, knowledge management applications, task management features, calendar and event integrations, day-to-day workflow integrations, sophisticated activity stream filters, cross application search cataloguing etc.

Enterprise social networking providers are therefore dictating the direction of the industry because efforts are focused on improving, refining and adding new social business collaboration tools to increase productivity and employee engagement.

Why then are enterprise social networks branding themselves as social intranets?

The concept of a Social Intranet is easier for decision makers to understand and purchase. For example, iPhones are actually hand held super-computers with telephony as a basic core feature. Mobile phones were already an established market therefore it was easier for people to understand and upgrade to the iPhone than to be educated about a new concept in mobile computing.

Social collaboration and communication technologies span many different departments and present various questions that companies are still working through. Relevant questions include ownership, project sponsors, cultural challenges etc that have been explained in my blog titled "Who Owns the Enterprise Social Network?"

It is important that the market appreciates the differences between the two breeds of social intranets in order to make informed decisions when upgrading or replacing current intranets or deploying enterprise social networks alongside intranets.

Mumba Cloud is an enterprise social software provider that implements social intranets, enterprise social networks and social collaboration tools integration with current intranet and IT systems. Read more about Mumba Cloud's implementation options.

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