Looking under the intranet bonnet

When you buy a brand new car, what is it that impresses you first?  Is it the colour?  Maybe the shape?  Or the style of the interior?  That is what a new intranet can be like; a good design, nice graphics and maybe some dynamic images that catch your eye.

However, what will most likely make you decide to buy is what is under the bonnet.  How reliable is your car?  How comfortable is it for you as the driver or passenger?  How economical will it be to run?  Again, this is what an intranet can be like.

Have you compared a brand new car with a recently launched or re-launched intranet?  There are many similar features you need to consider.  Like a car, you want an intranet that will:

  • perform well every time and be reliable
  • give a great experience and meet or exceed expectations
  • be easy to use with no training needed
  • need minimal maintenance with just routine services
  • give great value for the investment made

People love to see a well-designed site and to use a well-structured intranet but it is the content and applications that are contained within them that will keep people coming back repeatedly to use it. That means people are confident in the integrity and reliability of what they use. How can you achieve that? Using publishing standards that are part of a wider governance framework can make a critical difference.

Publishing standards are the foundation to base your intranet’s user experience on. These standards meet a variety of requirements. They apply to different types of content and tools. If your intranet transforms into a digital workplace applying standards appropriately is critical to maintain that consistency that encourages people to use it.

Over the next few posts, I want to cover these publishing standards.  Please leave me a comment for any you especially want me to cover.

Who has the best intranet team?

What is the purpose of your intranet team? 

How many people should you have in your intranet team? 

What should their roles be? 

How much money should your team have to improve your intranet? 

What is the right level of support from your senior managers?

All of these questions I used to ask when I was the BT Intranet manager and since I left BT I have found clients who also ask me the same type of questions about their intranet team.  Intranet teams mean different things depending on who is asked.  How do you define an intranet team? It is the importance your organisation gives to your intranet and the resources it gives that normally decide your chances of succeeding.

Luckily we have Uju is studying for a MSc in Information System Management & Innovation at Warwick Business School to help find the answers.  She is working with Professor John Baptista and in partnership with ClearBox Consulting.

Uju is researching intranet teams and how they are organised in various organisations within various industries. Factors to be considered include team structure, budget, geographical distribution, organisation size, industry, intranet usage etc. She is researching these topics using a survey and in-depth interviews. She will compare the results with relevant literature and best practice.

Can you please find a few minutes to help by completing Uju’s survey?  She will share the results with everyone who complete the survey at end of the research period.

Thank you in advance for your help from Uju and me. :D

I am going to Intranet Now. Are you?

I signed up today to go to Intranet Now, the conference / unconference about intranets and the digital workplace. I am looking forward to going because it is:

  • about the Intranet NOW – practical case studies, real experts, and advice;
  • serious about how the intranet serves its business;
  • concerned with engagement, collaboration, and communication;
  • not dominated by any one technology but illuminated by examples of good practice from many;
  • a place to learn from others (sharing mistakes as well as successes);
  • curious and open to new ideas with room for experimental and left field ideas;

I also want to find out if the governance of intranets and the digital workplace is improving and if so, how that is being done.

It will be a great chance to meet new and existing friends face to face instead of virtually for a change.

There is an early bird discount on  Intranet Now tickets until 24 July so don’t delay, get your tickets today!

Why sites keep you coming back for more

The sites I use most frequently for the latest news or to order something I want to buy or to help me with a problem e.g. travel directions are not unique sites. There are alternative sites I could choose to use but I don’t. I keep using the same ones. Why is that?

Firstly the site I keep using obviously meets my needs but if we take news sites as an example there are many that provide the latest news. It is not just that it provides me with news, there are other reasons why. A new design may be compelling for the first time and new features may also encourage me but to keep me coming back again and again it needs something more.

It is more likely to be the consistency in the look and feel; navigation to help me find related content quickly; help when I need to find out more e.g. contact the content owner so I am confident that I can rely on what I read as being accurate and up to date. In other words it is a place that is well-managed and applies some form of governance to give me a consistently good experience whenever I use it. That is what keeps me coming back for more.

When I think of some of the great internet sites I use like Amazon, Wikipedia, BBC News, it is because they also have a great governance framework which is the foundation to giving me a great experience every time I visit them. Without it these sites would miss something which would sooner or later make me try an alternative.

The same analogy that I have applied to a web site will also apply to any mobile app, intranet, digital workplace or collaboration tool. The size and complexity of the online space being managed is irrelevant. The same principles of governance will always apply. Those which are well-managed will be used more because they give a more consistent user experience and can be relied upon more to provide whatever you need.

Since 1996 when I first started my journey with intranets, collaboration tools, digital workplaces and mobile workspaces I have appreciated how important it is to have a governance framework that supports its purpose. It can be the crucial factor that causes a quicker adoption, increased usage and higher satisfaction with people to help with their work.

Turn company jargon into a knowledge gold mine

I have worked with many clients to improve their intranets.  I find that each client has its own language and specific terms that are known by more general terms with intranet professionals.

This can be an abbreviation, acronym, or term used within parts or the whole organisation.  While it may help conversations online within an organisation it can often be a barrier to other people not familiar with these terms.

I call this jargon.  The risk is people don’t ask every time they hear company jargon and take an educated guess what it actually means.  Sometimes this is right and helps build up future understanding but many other times it will slow progress or even cause mistakes to happen.

The more jargon used, the harder it is to understand what is meant, and can lead to projects overrunning, costing more, or having a poorer outcome than expected.  Some of these costs will show through to the bottom line.

What I don’t understand is why more organisations don’t recognise this and do something about it.  Creating a corporate wiki that is open to every employee to create and edit is a quick, cheap and easy way to turn company jargon into a goldmine of knowledge.

Publishing all the jargon – acronyms, shortcuts, abbreviations – as items in a corporate wiki helps people to understand more easily and quickly what they are.  It also helps to prevent mistakes being made and time wasted through misunderstandings.

It will also be a wonderful tool for any newbies being inducted into the organisation’s approach, culture and ways or working.

Why not turn all that company jargon into a knowledge goldmine and create a wiki that can contain them for every employee to view, add or edit to?

 

How to succeed with mobile collaboration

On day 2 of the WCMS14 conference I ran a workshop about mobile collaboration. People can help each other or can ask for help to collaborate. Having mobile access means you can do this whenever you need to and not have to wait any more. To achieve this there are four areas to focus on:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Manage it smartly
  3. Technology has to meet business needs
  4. Involve people with mobiles

1. Make it easy

The main point is to create an overall consistent experience for people whatever device they use. With more mobile devices than traditional PCs being sold now, organisations should put the need of mobile people first.
By removing the barriers, mobile users don’t need extra logins to be able to collaborate online. It should also be possible to collaborate while offline and the tool synchronise and update automatically.
Research with mobile users what they need most to help them collaborate online, what experience it needs to be and identify tools with the best adoption rates and understand why.

Manage it smartly

It is important that any governance is built to help people collaborate while mobile and not hinder this aim. By extending existing publishing standards to cover mobile use appropriately you continue with one governance framework. The same applies to roles and responsibilities for content and app owners as well as intranet managers.
The findability of content is critical. Having one search engine that covers all the information architecture helps to achieve this. The decision over whether you have one version of the content or app which is responsive to different designs or different versions for each size screen will depend on the information architecture you develop and on security needs.
How long is it before information become knowledge? Your answer to that will decide whether all your collaborative content stays online and is searchable or is archived after a period of time or inactivity or removed permanently. There are no right or wrong answers but you do have to decide what is best for your organisation.

Technology has to meet business needs

Make sure you have the right solution for the right business requirements. This means being very clear what you need before you start to research the technology that can meet your business needs. It will probably also mean you don’t choose the top solution, partly due to the costs, but also because it provides features and functions that you have no immediate or foreseeable need for.
Any technology for mobile collaboration bought or developed needs to be configurable and shown to work with existing systems and platforms.
You need to consider how many operating systems your organisation will support for the different mobile devices used for mobile collaboration. This needs to cover the issue of BYOD. A balance needs to be struck which may be something like x number of operating systems will be guaranteed to give a good mobile user experience and support y mobile devices. You can choose other mobile devices but you should not expect to be guaranteed a good mobile experience.

Involve people with mobiles

You should not assume what collaboration tools people with mobile devices need. You need to research their needs not just make something accessible from a mobile device and say the experience is good enough.
Involve people at the earliest stage of developing the user experience. As soon as the development is good enough for basic use it should be thrown open to mobile users to test out. They can feedback any problems or improvements that will help them to collaborate better to be acted upon.
A perpetual beta development status can be adopted for the mobile collaboration tools to avoid long delays in improvements, the need for major re-launches. Small, incremental, changes can be made quickly based on clear feedback and involvement from mobile users.
Lastly the testing can be a formal User Acceptance testing approach or more informal and open to anyone with a mobile device to use at any time. The process needs to be transparent and a playground/sandpit available where all development can be tested out. This may need IT to change its approach!

Summary

  1. Remove barriers that prevent adoption
  2. Have one governance framework
  3. Right mobile collaboration tools that meet needs
  4. Involve people who use mobile

 

Improve collaboration to increase employee engagement

This week I will be running a workshop on mobile collaboration at the World Class Mobile and Social-Enabled Enterprises event on 5 and 6 June in Frankfurt, Germany.  While I will be focusing on how to make it easier to collaborate while mobile, this post covers the wider area of collaborating online.  Most importantly how it can increase employee engagement and how that benefits an organisation.

Many people are now very savvy about how they use the internet to share knowledge, build up contacts, help solve a problem.  This especially can apply to new recruits who choose your organisation to work for.

There are four factors you need to consider when improving how people collaborate online that can increase employee engagement:

  • Easy to use tools: remove any barrier that may prevent people using these tools.  If there is one, people tend to use it as a reason not to use it!
  • Improve the culture: make it easy for people to share problems and want to share their knowledge and be recognised for doing this.
  • Change how people work: empower people and allow them to collaborate when they need to – this means considering mobile and remote working rather than always working at one place.
  • The bottom line: be able to measure the benefits to your organisation – increased sales, more productivity, higher customer service.

My first-hand experience at BT and from working with clients is you can increase employee engagement because people want to work for an organisation that values collaboration.  It is your approach which is critical!

You can out more information on how to improve collaboration to increase employee engagement to help you