For new intranets it is day 100, not day 1, that is important

With every intranet I have helped to create, encouraging people to be more effective and improve their productivity, two things have been at the forefront of my mind.  You need to:

  1. Be clear who is responsible for the content, design and structure of it.
  2. Have a governance framework that supports stakeholders, partners and publishers.

While it is vital you have a big impact when you launch a new intranet, it is not just about creating a great design on day 1.  It is the ongoing need to appeal to people to continue using it.  Content and applications that people need are, of course, helpful but having good governance is the only way to make sure the benefits of day 1 continue consistently through to day 100 and onwards during the lifetime of your intranet.

After nearly 20 years working with intranets, I appreciate how important it is to have a governance framework that:

  1. Keeps your strategy moving in the right direction
  2. Sets out who is responsible for managing it
  3. Matches publishing standards with business requirements
  4. Supports content owners and editors

These can be the crucial factors that help your new intranet.  Quicker adoption, increased usage and higher satisfaction are all achieveable if you take the right approach with governance.

I find these factors encourage people using your intranet to be more effective and improve their productivity, bringing greater benefits to your organisation.  It helps your stakeholders to see how your intranet can be a critical business tool that supports their key priorities!

I agree the digital revolution is cultural, not technological, and….

In Gerry McGovern’s latest post he says ‘Digital transformation is cultural transformation first and foremost. Some time ago, I dealt with an organization that had just installed collaborative software. The problem was that the employees saw no benefit in collaborating. Surprise, surprise, collaboration didn’t happen. Collaboration, first and foremost, is a cultural thing, not a technological thing.’

While I agree with Gerry as far as he goes, I also believe the type of governance deployed for collaborative content can be a major barrier to people adopting these tools.  Too often the governance used for accredited content e.g. policies and news articles, that are official and factual is also tried (and fails) for collaborative content.

A more ‘light touch’ form of governance is needed to remove the barriers that prevent people wanting to share their ideas or offer suggestions that may help someone with a work problem.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  1. Posting on a blog or contributing to a discussion group should not need you to ask for permission before you start.  It should be ‘on demand’ so there is no delay between when someone needs to use a collaboration tool and being  able to.  Often the need is urgent and passes quickly so any barrier preventing its use could mean the content is lost forever.
  2. You should not need formal training before you use the collaboration tool.  A) the tool should be so easy to use it isn’t needed and B) understanding how to comply with the publishing standards such as ownership and content review dates shouldn’t be required.
  3. Usability and design shouldn’t be something you need to bother with.  The important thing is your content.  Make sure the template you use has the right functionality that people can just start using and understand easily.
  4. Adapt and embed as many of your publishing standards that are relevant to collaboration into the templates e.g. navigation menus, field for contributor to enter their personal details.

Taking this approach shows how the culture has changed from a ‘command and control’ view of governance many years ago for a limited amount of corporate content.  Now, many people can use a wide range of collaboration tools to publish their views and opinions and be comfortable with the experience and knowledge that the content is managed appropriately.

The governance adopted fits the cultural revolution and helps, not hinders, it.  Long may that continue!

10 best intranet designs…but you need good governance first!

When Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) announced the best intranets of 2015 (hats off to Verizon as 3 times winners!) they said “While intranet teams continue to grow they simultaneously streamline processes and work faster, resulting in innovative designs. Common feature trends include: responsive design, search filters, flat design, and mega menus, to name a few.”

What did become clear to me is these intranets did not win by luck.  What NN/g didn’t say this is also because they have good governance, applied effectively, to build the foundations for well designed (and managed) intranets.

What do I mean by good governance?  Here are a few practical examples:

1. Have a clear strategy and direction set.  This should be approved by your stakeholders who help its implementation by openly supporting it.
2. Have a governance hierarchy setting out the roles and responsibilities for people involved with the intranet.
3. Develop publishing standards, especially for Usability, based on business requirements.
4. Most importantly, have the means to combine all these features of governance in a great way that results in the wonderful examples we can see with the winners.

These intranets didn’t win by accident but through managing their intranets well.  Good governance leads to great user experiences!

Measuring the unmeasurable benefits

Having a good governance framework supporting your strategy helps you to manage your intranet better.  The benefits people using the intranet will experience include:

  • Consistently good experience whenever they access it
  • Confident they can rely on the information
  • Reassured by the integrity of the information and apps
  • Quickly find what they need
  • The intranet is the best way to help with their work
  • They can see the value of using it

However, intranet stakeholders will need more than good words about the benefits.  They need to see the case for investing in it as well.  That means making a financial case based on measurable benefits.  Having a well-managed intranet helps make it easier to identify and measure the benefits.

How will you answer with confidence the questions that people ask you starting with “Why…?” or “How…?” or “What…? and their statements starting with “You can’t…, You shouldn’t…, You won’t…, That’s not possible…”

There are different benefits you can measure. While they include traditional financial “return on investment” (ROI) benefits, they extend beyond that to wider benefits that good governance can support to cover:

  • financial benefits that impact on the bottom line of your organisation’s financial results
  • quantified non-financial benefits, such as improved productivity
  • unquantified non-financial benefits such as culture changes

Some of these may be familiar to you.  However, how you can use them, may be novel. They will help show wider benefits you had not considered before. This is especially so if you can combine these

It seems to be the larger the amount of benefits, the more difficult it is to measure accurately and to a level of confidence, that can convince your stakeholders!  The best chance of succeeding is to determine the method that will be most effective for measuring the benefits for your own particular audience.

It is what you measure, how you measure it and how you demonstrate the benefits.  That is critical to gain the support you need for, and the understanding of, good governance.

Providing clear examples that senior stakeholders accept helps you to get their attention and support when you demonstrate how your intranet is critical and beneficial to your organisation.

Lastly, you have a better idea what it is that you can measure and avoid wasting time trying to find out something that is very difficult.  You need to decide on the benefits you will measure, the way that you measure, and how you explain and show the results, that will help you to improve your intranet.

Without this, the full value of the strategy and governance framework you have worked so hard to implement will be unknown.  It is vital to show the benefits to justify the work you have done and to plan with confidence for further improvements based on the success of your intranet to your organisation so far.

Developing your Intranet Manager career: it’s all about partnerships

I have written a guest post for ClearBox Consulting on the need to invest at least as much time connecting with your stakeholders as identifying business requirements for technology.

In January, I wrote that intranets are transforming into digital workplaces.  As your intranet transforms into a digital workplace so the people you need to work with will expand and change.  That will involve you investing time building relationships with new and existing senior managers. They will be your stakeholders who will be at the top of your governance hierarchy.

Read more about how getting that balance right will be a giant step forward to likely success.

 

How much is your digital workplace (and manager) worth?

Do you know how much your digital workplace or intranet is worth to your organisation?  How would start to answer the question? With the global economic climate unlikely to improve greatly, organisations will want to know the full benefits to justify before investing in your plans.

In 2015, intranets are now at a jumping off point to become digital workplaces.  People are increasingly using different methods to connect whenever they need to.  When they connect it is to find information, use apps, share some news or ask for help with a work problem.

In my last three posts I have covered how this is a wonderful opportunity for you to make your digital workplace a great experience, how you need to find everything to avoid it becoming a barren digital desert, to encourage more frequent use and improve people’s productivity.

There are several steps you can take to improve the chances your plans will be approved.  To demonstrate the benefits your digital workplace you will need to look beyond traditional financial ‘ROI’ to wider benefits that also help your organisation:

  1. Have a strategy, governance framework, and information architecture that shows how you support your organisation.
  2. Demonstrate the full benefits of your plans.  Think about the top priorities and goals your organisation has and align with them.
  3. Find the right methods that can assess the different benefits you identify as possible to achieve.  This can be using surveys, polls, or more expert analysis.
  4. Consider the different ways you can show these benefits to convince your stakeholders.  Make sure you talk their language to help them understand your plans.

If you can complete all of these steps, you will have the best chances to gain the resources you need to implement your plans to transform your intranet into a digital workplace.

It may also help show the value you provide as well.  More on that in a later post!

How you can avoid your digital workplace becoming a barren desert

Do you know where everything is in your digital workplace?  It’s an easy question for me to ask.  However, the answer may be more difficult for you to answer.

In 2015, intranets are now at a jumping off point to become digital workplaces.  People are increasingly using different methods to connect whenever they need to.  When they connect it is to find information, use apps, share some news or ask for help with a work problem.

In my last two posts I have covered how this is a wonderful opportunity for you to make your digital workplace a great experience, encouraging more frequent use and improving the productivity of people using it for their work.

By combining a clear information architecture with a good governance framework you create a thriving digital workplace, not a barren desert where there is little chance of finding that oasis of vital content you need.

To successfully transform your intranet into a wider digital workplace where everything may be in the cloud with people accessing it from any device, anywhere and at anytime, you need to consider these steps:

  1. It is critical your governance framework and information architecture are synchronised and have the same scope.  You should have one person with overall responsibility for making sure this happens.  You also need a common understanding of what they both include.  Making this transparent on your digital workplace so other people can see them helps any gaps or overlaps to be spotted quickly and acted upon.
  2. You need to agree what that scope should be.  Is it for accredited content, collaborative content, and applications or only some of these?  Whatever the scope is, you need to communicate it clearly with stakeholders.  You also need it approved so you have the authority, should you need it, to contact anyone operating outside of its scope.
  3. Your governance framework needs to have the roles and responsibilities set out with a hierarchy showing reporting lines for strategic and operational activities.  It also need to include the publishing standards for your content owners, editors and application owners to comply with.  This is essential for a consistently good experience for anyone using your digital workplace.
  4. Your information architecture needs developing to meet the requirements of your organisation.  It should become an overarching structure for all your content and applications. Get these right and you have the ingredients for a consistently good user experience, achieving two aims:
    1. Help people using your digital workplace to quickly find what they need for their work and to be more productive.
    2. Help publishers and app owners to easily find the right place for their accredited and collaborative content, and applications.

Try to avoid a piecemeal approach by implementing only some of these steps.  That can lead to confusion and a poorer experience as people keep adjusting to the changes.  It will also lead to less productive employees and less frequent use of your digital workplace.

That is something you need to avoid by considering how all the steps can be adopted and the full benefits gained for your organisation.  Now, that’s a good message you want to communicate, isn’t it! :)