The Dual Mode Intranet

Every organization has two modes that need to be handled: “business as usual”, and “business as UNususal”.

The balance between them—how much collective time spent in respective mode—is dependent on the organization’s mission, nature, leadership, size, age and several other factors. To recognize that the two modes exist in every organization, and to build a collection of digital services that supports work in both modes, is imperative if you want to deliver a great digital employee experience.

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Business as ususal is “the complience mode”, “to follow basic organizational rules”. It’s about living within the guidelines, processes, routines and decisions the organization has in place. To follow the correct, pre-existing path.

Hundreds of processes and routines exist in every organization. The processes and routines solve problems that are straightforward to solve. Things have been done a thousand times before, and a best way of doing stuff has emerged, because in these cases it is optimal for the organization to have a controlled, standardized outcome every time.

Typical end user questions with compliance mode answers: How do I book a meeting room? Apply for leave? Order a new chair? Handle an invocie?

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Business as UNusual is “the innovation mode”. This is about solving complex problems in the core business and developing new services and products that enhance and expand the core business. This path is one of exploration, deep thoughts, and tests. A trial and error approach. “To boldly go where no one has gone before”, as captain Picard would say.

Engage!

In many parts of this journey you continue use routines and processes (a project model, the scrum framework, a template for mapping a customer journey, template for interviewing 30 stakeholders, the process for registering an invoice), but the purpouse of this work to create something new.

A typical complex end user question: How should we focus and enhance the core business the next 24 months?

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Intranets have always enhanced the compliance mode. 500 service pages in the core structure is all about giving answers to “How should I do X?”. This content is still every bit as important in every organization, and the foundation of every intranet! It’s about minimizing the tool time and creating more space for skill time. It’s about building great “How do I..?” service pages with inspired UX writing, both on the intranet and in the “old” business systems.

It is also important to understand that minimizing tool time is not just about reading stuff, but actually being able to also do things (complete the whole process on the intranet page, or at least trigger the first step).

James Robertson, Step Two, often speaks about Five purpouses of modern intranets. I would say the complience mode is mainly about providing [basic service] Content (01) and Activity (05).

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But the other mode—business as UNusual; the innovation mode—how can we support this?

I believe innovation is mostly about the people in the organization, and the analogue and digital places where these people can have discussions and debates, and where they can cocreate things that reinvent, enhance and expand the core business.

In the Five purpouses model, innovation is mainly about Collaboration & social (04).

We can’t support innovation with service pages, application forms and action buttons on the intranet. Instead we need to offer something different: open-ended “areas” where discussions, debates and cocreation of new thoughts can take place.

This probably means providing both analouge areas (a great multi-purpouse action office, meeting rooms where you can write on all walls, lunch inspiration lectures, places for spontaneous mettings etc.) and digital areas (tools for digital meetings, tools for digital workshops, tools for small and large “threaded discussions” between teams (sometimes company-wide), tools for gathering and recordning ideas etc.).

Most important, these tools/areas should be empty of content from the beginning. The people in the organisation should fill them with thoughts, ideas and insights, mix their own ideas with others, ideate even better ideas, and then realize the best ones.

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If an organization wants both the compliance mode and the innovation mode to work well, there has to be a balance between the two.

Startup companies often have a lot of innovation, but too few procedures and routines in place. Every simple thing means reinventing the wheel, and sometimes different persons invent different solutions in parallell, with subsequent infighting. Here leadership, and an important purpouse of the intranet, often is about bringing the everyday chaos into more order.

Old organizations often have the opposite problem; too much (and conflicting!) routines and processes. The administration and support functions have a life of their own and generate red tape processes and routines, often because they have lost the focus on the core business. Here leadership is often about realigning, revitalizing and rebooting the organisation. The intranet should support this by a) declutter the basic routines and clearly state what applies, and b) bring forward tools that support innovation.

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So, Intranet Manager, do you support both “Business as usual” and “business as UNusual” in a great way, fine-tuned to the nature of your company?

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