intranet definition

What is an ‘intranet’?

What we mean by the word ‘intranet’ has evolved from a bunch of web pages hosted inside a company firewall to … to … to what exactly??

I was reading a post from Paul Miller on the Intranet Benchmarking Forum blog about Facebook ‘… not cutting it as an intranet’ and it got me thinking. At BT we define the intranet as:

‘… ALL the on-line information an individual generates and consumes and the services they use through the screen of whatever electronic device they need to perform their role for the organisation. This includes e-mail but excludes the applications that run on the various electronic devices used to access on-line information (e.g. the PC desktop real estate).’

(BT Intranet Strategy 2007-8)

The idea behind such a broad ranging definition is that when a BT person turns on their PC, they should be offered an integrated, seamless on-line experience – essentially, they don’t care what is or isn’t part of your intranet (depending upon the definition you choose to adopt), nor who manages what bit of your on-line estate … it is all the same to them and should meet the same standards of design, information management, usability etc.


However, what our definition fails to take into account are tools on the internet, like Facebook, which our employees can legitimately use for their work and, as such, could be classified as components of our ‘intranet’ … or at least form part of our employees’ intranet experience.


Given the above … here are some characteristics of what an intranet means to me.


An intranet is:

  • a concept rather than an object … or possibly an experience rather than an object
  • not bound by a firewall
  • not a static ‘space’ but a dynamic ‘footprint’ incorporating the tools and services I need to do my job
  • specific to my needs at a given point in time
  • accessible to the people with whom I need to share and collaborate, regardless of who or where they are and who pays their salary.


I think our Intranet Manager isn’t going to be best pleased with that definition … 🙂