Collaborative Intranet Design Framework – SLATES.

| August 16, 2010 | Comments

Andrew McAfee’s SLATES model provides a Intranet design framework that enhances knowledge sharing and collaboration  amongst employees.  The SLATES model was introduced in McAfee’s article Enterprise 2.0:  The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.  The article presents a number of high level concepts and opportunities for improving the usability and value of an Intranet.

“Do we finally have the right technologies for knowledge work?  Wikis, blogs, group-messaging software and the like can make a corporate intranet into a constantly changing structure built by distributed, autonomous peers – a collaborative platform that reflects the way work really gets done”  Andrew P. McAfee

The Intranet Maturity Model – Razorfish


To clearly describe the SLATEs model, McAfee demonstrated how Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) approached the implementation of Enterprise 2.0 technologies with the inclusion of blogs and wikis on their Intranet.  McAfee wrote a number of case studies on DrKW’s implementation of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and the SLATES concept arose out of his research.

McAfee’s SLATES concept raised in his article can be summarised by the poster below.  To view this diagram as an A3 poster, please refer to this link -> SLATES Poster


McAfee’s SLATES Concept

Channels & Platforms

McAfee identified that companies already have a number of technologies available that faciliate communication.  He has grouped these technologies into two primary categories:

  1. Channels:  Technologies such as email or one on one personal messaging that support the creation and distribution of digital information.  This information is not easily searched and has a low degree of commonality because it is only viewed by people who are part of the email conversation thread.
  2. Platforms: Intranets, Extranets & Internet websites that are opposite in nature to Channels.  Content for these technologies are generated by a small group of people.  The degree of commonality of information from these technologies is high considering the greater visibility to a large number of people.

Thomas Davenport conducted a study on the use of these technologies within an Enterprise.  His studies highlighted that Channels are used by knowledge workers more frequently than Platforms.  This usage trend also revealed two problematic issues with regard to capturing and storing valuable information from knowledge workers:

  1. Unhappy Users: Users were not happy with the channels and platforms available to them.  Surveys indicated that 26% of knowledge workers felt that email was overused by organisations, 21% felt overwhelmed by email and 15% believed email actually diminished their productivity.  The results of Davenports survey were reinforced by a study conducted by Forrester research that found 44% of respondents believed they could easily find information on their Intranet.  In contrast to Internet users that believed their search results rendered successful results 87% of the time.
  2. Knowledge Loss: Platforms and Channels do not capture and store the knowledge of knowledge workers.    Channels can not be accessed and searched and the visits to Platforms can not be traced effectively.  Further, only a small percentage of a knowledge workers output is stored on a common platform for later use or reuse.  Therefore, Channels and Platforms do not provide answers to common questions within a company such as “What is the correct way of approaching this analysis?” or “Does a template exist for it?” or “Who is working on a similar problem right now?”.

Enterprise 2.0 with blank SLATES

To alleviate the identified issues with current communication technologies, McAfee proposed a framework based on Internet Web 2.0 technologies.

McAfee’s SLATES model provides a solid conceptual Intranet design framework focussing on the practices and output of employees within a company.  This negates the effort involved with attempting to manually capture and store knowledge of employees.

The SLATES model proposes Intranet design development focussed on six key areas: Search, Links, Author, Tags, Extensions & Signals.  (refer to the SLATES diagram for more information.)

Developing a useful, usable and compelling Intranet for the workplace relies heavily on culture shifts.  The common issues associated with culture shift within an organisation are reduced with McAfee’s SLATES model because it adopts social web technologies that are already familiar to the majority of the users.

Another beneficial aspect of adopting the SLATES model is that the organisation can use the concept as a Intranet design framework to:

  1. Evaluate vendor solutions for company intranets.
  2. Assist with the development or implementation of intranet features.
  3. Use as a basis for an Intranet Maturity Roadmap.

I also encourage you to read Andrew McAfee’s article -> Enterprise 2.0:  The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration. The interview of Andrew McAfee talking about Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 concepts is also very interesting.

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Category: Intranets

About the Author ()

Teale Shapcott is a multidisciplinary User Experience expert passionate about making websites, software and intranets easy to use and engaging for people. Teale’s career has spanned 16 years of design experience moving from graphic / web design to user interface design to designing processes and customer experience for corporate intranets. Teale enjoys weaving together different disciplines and perspectives together to solve complex design problems. When she isn’t busy designing great experiences, Teale can be found, camera in hand, looking for beauty, inspiration and fresh perspectives.


  1. […] here: Creating a better Intranet with SLATES? :: Tigera :: Personal Blog … alleviate-the, identified-, internet, Web […]

  2. Terry Sterling says:

    Thanks for designing and publishing a diagram that aptly captures all the elements of SLATES. Do you mind if I steal it to use? Well done! Keep up the good work!

  3. Teale says:

    Thanx Terry for the kind compliment. Ofcourse, feel free to use the diagram. I published it to share. :) Cheers, Teale

  4. Creating a better Intranet with SLATES? – Teale Shapcott….

    This article has been submitted to IntranetLounge, a website with a collection of links to the best articles about intranets…

  5. Shaun Bergin says:

    Great post. I also think the diagram represents the framework well, do you mind if i throw it in my file vault on my blog? Look forward to the next few Enterprise 2.0 posts. Shaun

  6. Teale says:

    Thanks Shaun,

    Yes, feel free to take a copy of the SLATES diagram for your file vault. :) The A3 PDF provides a lot of detail. Been doing some research into other companies that have successfully implemented SLATES components, hopefully I will be able to post it tonight!


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  8. […] Creating a better Intranet with SLATES. :: Tigera :: Personal Blog of Teale Shapcott. […]

  9. CNA Training says:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  10. Darrel Carey says:

    I understand where your coming from, and I totally enjoy the post. For what its worth I also love the design of your website, quite resourceful. Thanks.

  11. Teale says:

    Thanks Darrel!

  12. […] and externally.    Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 do share a similar foundation as highlighted by Andrew McAffee’s SLATES model, however there are significant differences between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 within their context […]