I Plege Allegiance, to the Intranet

Author: Alicia Backlund

Date: March 29, 2016

American intranet managers - represent!

As a confirmed intranet nerd, I was psyched to see that the fine folks at Intranetizen have created a Slack community just to talk about intranets.

(For the uninitiated, Slack is a collab tool that’s all the rage among the kids these days. We’ve used it at Level Five since 2013, and it’s pretty much replaced internal email.)

I hopped on over, requested access from Intranetizen diva Sharon O’Dea, and was promptly admitted. Interesting discussions ensued about intranet-related goodies: conferences … in Copenhagen and Melbourne. Job postings … in Spain and the UK. Yes, I had once again encountered that baffling phenomenon: so much of the intranet love (or, if you prefer, “digital workplace” love) comes from outside the US.

In the Slack community, lively discussions are taking place among intranet pros from Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand, plus a ton (tonne?) of Londoners. Based on a quick scan of member profiles, there are about 10 of us from the United States who have joined, out of 53 participants. I guess that’s … not bad? But I personally know at least 10 current or former intranet managers right here in my home town. So I wondered …

Where in the World are the American Intranet-ers?

When it comes to major players in the intranet world … well, let’s just say the operative word is “world”.

DWG is active globally, including in the US, but its roots are in the UK. Step Two, sponsor of Intranets 2016, is in Australia. Prescient Digital Media sponsors one of the few major US intranet conferences, but is based in Canada. J.Boye hosts an intranet conference in Philadelphia, and offers intranet-focused professional groups in a handful of major US cities, but also has European roots (founder Janus Boye is from Denmark).

Our friends at Nielsen Norman Group are based in California, and publish some of the best research about intranets — but it’s in the context of lots of other, larger conversations about usability, which is NNG’s primary focus. As much as I value their content, I don’t feel like I can count them as intranet-specific.

So, um … where are all my US intranet professionals? Intranetizen (based in London OF COURSE) posed this very question back in 2012, accompanied by some very impressive analyses and a lot of great theories, but, with all due respect, no definitive answer. Nearly four years later, I’m still wondering.

’Merica!

I know there are US-based intranet champions out there. I count some of you among my good friends, and I know you face a lot of the same challenges (no budget), frustrations (no budget), and successes (OMG we got budget!). But it just seems like our opportunities to interact, in the real or virtual world, are few and far between. That's a double bummer, since the fruits of our labor are locked behind firewalls, and we can't even casually stalk peruse each other's work online.

American intranet-ers, do you wish there were more intranet-specific trade groups, conferences, and resources closer to home? And maybe some that are a little cheaper, since intranet teams are chronically cash-strapped? If there was a cost-effective community of intranet professionals in your city, would you participate?

Or are you plagued by lack of time, lack of resources, or simply lack of interest? What would it take for my fellow citizens to step forward and declare their love of intranets? What does it take for you to represent? Come on, people! USA! USA! USA!

Sorry, I got carried away for a second.

Your thoughts?

But, really, I am curious. Am I just uninformed, and you’re all out there having wild intranet parties and not inviting me? (Sigh … it’s middle school all over again.)

My former Sprint colleagues and I used to host a free, informal group of intranet professionals here in KC, but it lost steam as people changed jobs and roles. I’m happy to revive it if there’s enough interest. It’s not global, but it’s a start. But I don’t want to try this if it’s just going to be me, alone in the room (did I mention “middle school all over again?)” If you're interested, please jump over to LinkedIn and speak up.

Side note: Regardless of your location, I also invite you to join us in the Intranetizen Slack community. There’s great info posted by smart and friendly professionals from across the pond and around the world. Plus, you learn fun cultural facts, like the definition of “Chatham House Rule” American translation: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

See you there. I’ll be the one wearing the American flag pin on my “I Heart Intranets” t-shirt.

Update: We turned rant into action by standing up a quarterly meeting of Kansas City-based intranet communicators. Our May 6 kickoff was a success. Fill out this quick survey to weigh in on timing and topics for the next session. Then contact me to be put on the invitee list, and I’ll make sure to keep you informed.