Intranet Now 2017 – Review

“Stands the intranet where it did?”

“Alas, poor site, almost afraid to know itself”

Fortunately, we have Intranet Now to help us understand the state of things.

In only its fourth year, this has become a must-attend conference for intranet practitioners, and it is testimony to its organisers, Brian Lamb and Wedge, that it has developed so well, so quickly.

This year’s theme of ‘what works now’ meant that there was little crystal ball-gazing – the emphasis was on current practices and issues, with no need to worry about the next big thing. It was refreshing to be able to sit back and hear about the professional execution of good practice and successful problem solving.  There was useful insight to digest, examples to squirrel away for future use, as well as fresh slants on old problems.

One thing I look for at an event like this is validation: am I doing it right? Am I missing something obvious?  Many of the talks were reassuring on that front – everyone is dealing with similar issues, wrestling how to balance continual improvement with day-to-day management issues.

Perennial favourites such as search, information architecture and user tasks were all covered, which led to Martin White of Intranet Focus asking the afternoon panel session: why are we still having the same discussions after 20 years of intranet conferences? It’s the nature of the beast, was the verdict – the industry evolves (improves?) but areas of interest, along with chronic issues, remain the same.

Despite the emphasis on here and now there were clear signs of what’s heaving into view. Chris McGrath of Tangowork provided a useful overview of chatbots, while the panel discussion touched on the potential impact of AI. The ever-changing environment of Office 365 is also clearly going to be a rich vein for future conferences.

There was room for a little controversy, provided by Martyn Perks of Unily, who asked: do we still need governance? Immediate and entertaining harrumphing on the conference twitter hashtag ensued, but the central point remains that poorly executed or heavy-handed governance is an inhibitor. Good governance sits in the background and acts as a vital enabler.

Kurt Kragh Sørensen’s ‘state of the nation’ address gave a more macro view of digital workplace trends, based on the results of his digital workplace survey. Again, the increasing move to O365 was noticeable, as was the sense that investment in intranets is increasing.

Part of the charm of this event is its quirks. It would be remiss of me not to mention the fresh prawns provided with morning coffee. Prezi turns out to be more of a liability on a big screen than anticipated. And Wedge almost auctioned off a lost mobile phone to the highest bidder. We wait to see if any of that can be topped in 2018.

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