Gerry McGovern once again hits the nail on the head — this time in Intranets are not information dumps. I couldn’t agree more. “The ‘top serious obstacles’ … lie with the intranet teams themselves who see their intranets as this vague way to ‘distribute information’, rather than make the organization more efficient and productive.”
The other misconception I run into with some frequency is that intranets are merely static collections of links to a random hodge-podge of applications and websites that might (or might not) be useful to staff.
Both of these misconceptions seem to stem primarily from those who have never seen, much less worked with, a real intranet. Unlike the web, an intranet almost by definition has limited access — typically requiring authentication to view it. Thus most people vaguely conceive them to be public websites adapted for insiders. While there might be a small component of this (e.g. directories and search engines), the good intranets I have seen are fundamentally different. All they really have in common with public websites is the use of a browser. Typically they are much more dynamic and application driven than a standard website.
For those wanting to learn how to build a great intranet, the best starting place in my opinion is the Nielsen Norman Group’s Intranet Design Annual.