Intranet, Internet, Extranet merger imminent?

It’s clear that the once clear distinctions between intranets, internet sites and extranets are blurring somewhat as the technology evolves and business needs develop. Traditional distinctions between internal and external communication teams (and outputs) will also likely diminish, mirroring this application of technology. This merger though will bring some clear advantages.

  • A single design with a single user experience for all places, giving a clarity of corporate identity with smaller overall design bills
  • Publicly listed companies are obliged to publicly reveal some materials to the markets before telling employees (see our intranetizen post on laws and intranets). A single merged space could limits the chances of a mis-timed publishing.
  • Employees read the corporate site too! Merging ensures that there is no chance of mixed messaging especially if the former intranet and internet materials were managed by different teams. Consistency of content is critical when information consumers can compare and contrast.
  • Reduced licensing and support costs as to you move to using a single technology foundation.

We are definitely heading down this path – I’m seeing this issue come all the time during the planning stages for social intranets.

However, in practice right now it doesn’t necessarily deliver all these benefits – e.g. licensing models for external and inward facing versions of the same platform can throw a spanner in the works. In some companies, the public internet site is also a more reliable source of information than the intranet – so some users might not see this as an improvement.

But there is not doubt that in the medium term, the intranet is definitely going to be a victim of extranet-isation; meanwhile organisations are also building external facing spaces where staff and customers will mingle. Just a question of if and when these will merge.