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Saturday, 4 January 2014

65. Five reasons to ban the intranet

Most, if not all, local councils have an internal website called an intranet that staff can see but the public can't.  I'm not sure I know what the advantage is.  It can't be security - nobody would want to share anything sensitive where anyone of x thousand employees could cut, paste and share in an instant.  So, lets get rid of them and put all our intranet content on the public website.  Not convinced?  Here are five reasons why:

  1. Openness and transparency are good.  They foster greater trust between the council and the public.  Lets start with 'why not?' rather than 'why?' when thinking about whether something should be publicly available.
  2. Better corporate policy making.  First thing we do when designing a new policy is look at what other councils have done - making things publicly available would save time and encourage greater sharing.
  3. Support for home working.  Sure we support home working but how easy is it to see your intranet when working at home? Productivity would be improved if staff policies, telephone directories and staff bulletins could all be accessed easily.      
  4. Intranets can't give us the information that we need.  The world is a complex place and the information we need as public sector professional is scattered all over.  One site can never provide for our information needs - instead we need to become skilled at Personal Knowledge Management - working in networks that we construct in order to make sense of our world so that we can work effectively.  This is a culture of looking out, not in.       
  5. You can't separate Council staff from the public.  The distinction between staff and public and between internal and external just doesn't hold in the same way it used to.  Staff receive services and many/most will be residents.  Social media leads to a 24/7 professional/personal life for many.  Co-productive approaches blur the difference between public and professional.  Intranets represent a walling off of our professional lives that simply seems out of step with all of this.
On this last point perhaps we could go a step further and replace our council websites with the internet of public goods - something along the lines suggested by Phil Rumens here.  Another post perhaps..


Roger said...

Can you offer a parallel example in private industry? Is it feasible that a successful commercial company would contemplate such a move? I think not. Don't see any advantages to allow outsiders access to the raw data of policy formulation, other than creating an atmosphere of immediate caution staff by staff fearful of seeing their initial thoughts published in the letters pages of the local press. I'm not sure what category this suggestion falls into - anarchy or socialism.

Dave Mckenna said...

Thanks Roger - I'm not sure intranets are secure in the way you suggest and I have have a different view about involving people in policy development - I'd say the earlier the better!

Huw Rees said...

Roger: - Intranets have never been used to publish "initial thoughts". They are used to publish formulated policy documents and news. As Dave rightly said in his Point 5. why not? Anarchy or socialism? Dear god Roger, are you a descendant of Edgar J Hoover?

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