Category Archives: application

Managing the risks from mobile

Recently I have talked a lot about mobile ranging from selling the idea to senior people, creating a great mobile experience, how to develop a strategy to what are good governance principles.
Some organisations are starting to realise the potential of mobile working can help employee’s productivity, engagement, and their work/life balance.  But the reality is a lot of organisations aren’t there yet.  Most will provide a poor user experience and be reluctant to invest time and money developing a rich mobile user experience.
Security and risk are concerns that often create the barriers to further mobile integration.  How can you overcome these barriers?
In this post I will cover how your organisation can provide useful functionality for your employees while still mitigating or addressing the following risks:

Fear of the unknown

There may still a perception by some people in Legal, Security, and Regulatory parts of your organisation that because they don’t fully understand how increased use of mobile devices to access tools and information or share knowledge and problems can help it must be ‘bad’.
The best way to handle this approach is to research what other organisations have done with mobile.  You should focus on:
  1. Successful examples of adoption
  2. Competitors with your organisation who are ahead of you
  3. Lessons to learn where mobile hasn’t worked
  4. Prepare how and what you are going to share
  5. Identify the right stakeholders

authenticating

People who do not fully understand why you authenticate can be over cautious and create many layers of authentication.  The ‘just in case’ approach will just strangle the use by mobile devices of the apps and content you need to use to help you with your work.

Why would you use your mobile to access something online that takes just a few seconds if you have to enter usernames and passwords several times before you can get to it that takes several minutes?  It’s just not going to happen.  You need to explain:

  1. What people are being asked to authenticate for e.g. use apps
  2. Why authentication is needed e.g. protect intellectual property
  3. How authentication can have maximum effect for minimal impact with ‘smart’ authenticating used only when needed and not duplicating at every level; different levels of authentication based on type of content or app to be used
  4. Building security into your mobile device so your authentication feeds through to the content and apps to be accessed if possible
  5. BYOD – is personal mobile devices the best way or should you stick with company mobile devices?

business continuity

Your organisation needs to be resilient and always able to survive whatever potential crisis it may face.  This means supporting your employees wherever and whenever they are using their mobile devices.  By having people in many locations your business is more resilient to these unforeseen events when they happen.  Mobile can help by:

  1. Removing the ‘single point of failure’ problem with office based people all in one location
  2. Accelerating the recovery time from a ‘crisis’ to provide service to customers especially if face to face visits are needed e.g. employees with mobiles in different locations
  3. Showing better value made in infrastructure and data centres investment with availability 24/7 for when mobile workers need to use it
Addressing these concerns with your key stakeholders will help you remove the barriers preventing you from giving your mobile users the functionality and good experience needed to help with their work.

How to be more productive in a digital workplace

OK, so you now have a digital workplace strategy showing the direction you need to move in; a governance framwework to show who is responsible for what with standards, etc, to give you a fantastic online experience; policies and values that encourage you to use a digital workplace and benefit from them.

Now I will show how you can be more productive using a digital workplace:

Usability

It is critical that the time you use in a digital workplace is not wasted.  That means having clearly labeled information, direct route to the information, able to use the information whatever device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) you have, and be able to edit the information as well as read it.

And it’s not just information, you need to find people who can help you or you want to share some knowledge with.  Having an easy to use people finder helps as well as finding collaborative content in discussion groups with other people with similar needs or interest.

Finally if you are mobile your time is limited.  You need fast access to apps and services you need to use e.g. booking travel, hotel room, invites for meetings, hire care.  The list is long but you need to get to each task in a short time and complete each task quickly.

IT capability

You need to have the right tools and access to gain the full benefits from a digital workplace.  Your organisation needs to fund and provide laptops, smartphones, tablets as well as an internet connection and monitor screens for homeworking.  Having the right choice of devices means you can always use the digital workplace whenever you need to – checking people finder, completing tasks, sharing information.  This means you can be more productive and aim for a better work/life balance.  No more waiting to get to an office before you can do your work.  And with the right device you can do your work better, maybe faster too.

You need reliable access to your digital workplace when you need it.  If your organisation gets it wrong then you probably won’t use the digital workplace so much.  Your IT network needs to be reliable for speed and availability.  If it is frequently down for a hour or so you won’t trust it and become reluctant to use it.  If it is slow then you will vote with your feet and stay in a physical office where you can contact people and work better.

Security

You must be confident you have secure access to your digital workplace.  Your organisation needs to be confident it will not be abused by anyone away from their physical workplaces.  For example if you want to check your pay record online you want 100% confidence only you can do this.  Likewise if you need to access sensitive information online the organisation also needs 100% reassurance only those with the right permissions, like you, can use it.

To be fully productive you need to use these services with confidence about how secure they are in a digital workplace.

Involvement

Your organisation needs to develop and have available the things you need to do your work.  Research will be needed before your digital workplace can be used.  You should be involved and asked questions like:

  • What is the information you need?
  • What applications do you need for your work?
  • What collaborative tools do you to share?
  • Will any device work in your digital workplace?

All of these need to be addressed before you need them.  It may take your organisation time, effort, and money to research fully what is needed.  However it will be seen as an investment in the months afterwards when you start using your digital workplace because it helps you to be more productive.

Please contact me if you need my help or leave a comment on this post.  My next post will cover how the weather can help your digital workplace.

What is a digital workplace?

Last week at the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen (Twitter #IEC12) there were many discussions about the digital workplace and what exactly is a digital workplace.

I thought it would be good to start a debate on what we mean when we say the digital workplace. Many intranet professionals want to find out more about the digital workplace.  Here is my view for you to consider and comment upon.

What exactly is a digital workplace?

I define the digital workplace as “Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

In a digital workplace you are able to:

  • Work in any location.  This may be at home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  • Do your work.  This may making a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  • Use any device.  This maybe your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone (iPhone), or tablet (iPad).
  • Share information.  This means being able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  • Search across all places where information is and you have permission to use.

What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?

An intranet has a more limited role.  An intranet typically has corporate news and documents e.g. policies. Publishing will probably use content and document management systems.  A digital workplace will also have:

  • Collaboration tools e.g. blogs, wikis, podcasts
  • Micro blogging tools e.g. Yammer, Twitter
  • Knowledge sharing/building e.g. team wikis and share workspaces
  • Applications/tools e.g. HR tools, online training, sales performance
  • Processes e.g. approving decisions, compliance checks

It will help me and other intranet professionals if you can comment to agree, disagree, amend, etc, to create a shared understanding on the digital workplace.  Thanks in advance.

4 factors critical to good governance in a digital workplace

In my last four posts on the digital workplace I have covered ‘Must have digital workplace principles’, ‘5 steps to a great digital workplace strategy’, 7 ways to engage people in a digital workplace and lastly ‘Create a brilliant digital workplace with me’.

To have a successful digital workplace (my definition is ‘work is what you do, not where you go to’) organisations must have the right strategy, culture, environment and infrastructure to exploit the benefits fully. It becomes the natural way of working so everyone is more productive and your organisation more efficient with:

  • people work from any location as well as their office workstation
  • IT infrastructure for the same or similar experience
  • everyone can read news, collaborate, search and complete tasks
  • individuals choosing tools – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • organisations measure benefits and encourages digital workplace

Follow these ‘must have’ principles including strategy, engagement, governance, HR policies and IT infrastructure and you will have a great digital workplace.

Governance

It is important the whole of the digital workplace is managed so that it brings benefits to the organisation, individuals and collectively, everyone.  It should mean the feeling that ‘things are better’ permeates through to everyone and encourages even greater use of the digital workplace.

It means the level of governance balances the rewards to be gained while avoiding any risks.  That doesn’t come naturally but through good governance of the digital workplace including:

Ownership

Who is responsible for developing the strategy, implementing the digital workplace and ongoing management of it?  It is difficult for one person to have overall responsibility for so many key roles and activities.  Neither is it best for it to be one person.

The best solution is to have a steering group made up of stakeholders from key parts of the business most affected by the digital workplace.  These stakeholders should be senior people with decision making authority not someone who has to refer back to his/her line manager and delay matters.

There may be dedicated roles for people responsible for collaboration, ways of working, etc, but they should ultimately report in to the steering group.

The worse solution is to have competing groups of people each implementing conflicting standards, designs and ways to use the digital workplace.  That will be a disaster and must be avoided!

Consistency

You really need a consistent level of governance across your digital workplace.  By consistent I don’t mean the same.  I mean it is what everyone using the digital workplace would expect or need.

For publishers/site owners who are publishing in the digital workplace accredited types of content (policies, factual stuff) the expectation is for a more rigorous approach than for collaborative content where opinions and views require a lighter touch.

For people using the digital workplace to view information and news, use workflow applications or collaborate with each other, they expect the look and feel of the digital workplace to be similar.  Tools needs to be branded in line with the business’ colours and designs.  Features need to encourages everyone to use them more such as help links, contact points, easily laid out and functional designs.

All the different parts of the digital workplace need to be integrated so they are seen as one whole entity not a different set of silos, resources with some electronic sticking plaster added to make them look as if they are connected when they don’t give that impression to anyone using them.

Standards

One approach is to have a set of standards based on the needs of the organisation (information retention), regulation (who has permission to see what), legal (web accessibility) and technical (DNS policy).  These can be applied appropriately across the digital workplace for each activity.  So for formal type content (policies and procedures) it’s most likely all the standards will apply.  For applications (HR processes) it’s probable that most will apply too.  But for collaboration you will apply a lighter touch.

Alternatively you can create standards that only apply to certain information and applications to meet the purpose people need to use it for.

It is about getting the balance right again.  You don’t need to be too restrictive and stifle innovation and collaboration.  But you don’t want it to be too loose so that the business and individuals risk non-compliance with a legal or regulatory requirements.  It’s not easy but getting it right is critical and benefits everyone and the business.

Integrity

This is the real litmus test, the crunch point for me.  Do people have confidence in the information and tools they are using in the digital workplace?  Does everyone feel encouraged to use the digital workplace more after each time?

The answer has to be ‘YES!’ to these questions.  That is the outcome your strategy and plans should aim for.

However you do this it must balance the needs of the business with those of people working well in a digital workplace.

My next post will cover the HR policies which enable digital working.

Create a brilliant digital workplace with me

To have a successful digital workplace (which I define as ‘work is something you do, not a place you go to’) it is vital organisations have the right strategy, culture, environment and infrastructure to exploit the benefits fully.  It needs to become the natural way of working so everyone is more effective and productive and your organisation more efficient and successful.  For me a digital workplace can include:

  • people working from any location (or mobile) rather than their office workstation.
  • IT infrastructure providing the same or similar experience wherever somone uses the digital workplace
  • people being able to collaborate, search, complete tasks as well as read the latest news
  • people choosing how to do ‘things’ – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • the organisation measuring the benefits and encouraging people to use the digital workplace

So, does your intranet look or feel like a digital workplace?

Is it meeting your organisation’s needs – now or in the future?

Does it offer the right tools that people are able to use easily?

Have you the right governance and standards to make your digital workplace successful?

If you have answered no, maybe just shaken your head sideways, then I can help and work with you.

I have first-hand experience of creating, implementing and managing a digital workplace that is one of the best in the world.

Whatever help you need, maybe a call, presentation (online or face to face), workshop, training, consultancy or implemention, I can help.

I will be posting in more detail over the next few weeks on the principles for a great digital workplace to entice you. :-)

So, why not use make your life easier and use my first-hand experience and wider intranet knowledge for your benefit?

Just let me know with a comment, email – markmorrell.ltd@gmail com, Skype (mark.morrell58), call +44 (0) 771 338 5309 or even visit me in Brighton!

When will mobile priorities come first?

When will organisations start designing and creating applications, web pages and social media tools with mobile devices as the first priority before PC users?

More and more people are using smartphones for their work.  While travelling or working remotely from their normal place of work they need to use their intranet.

But we still design for PC users as the first priority.  This can mean it is more difficult than it need be when using a smartphone on your intranet wasting unnecessary time or having to involve others taking them away from their work.

When will the tipping point come and first priority be to check that anyone with a smartphone can have a great experience using a new intranet tool?

When the Intranet Benchmarking Forum last benchmarked BT’s intranet they said “BT’s intranet is designed to support mobile workers so it is fully accessible from mobile devices.  Mobile users use a text-based interface.”

People in BT can use their Blackberrys to:

With the rollout of SharePoint 2010 it is critical that people can use their Blackberrys to do this.  As you can see from comparing these screenshots showing SP2010 sites using a PC and Blackberry that is possible.

How long before the experience is as good or even better when you use a smartphone compared to a PC though?

Great intranets help make efficient people

When I posted about the latest results for BT ‘BT Intranet 2010 benchmark results‘ I promised to give examples the Intranet Benchmarking Forum highlighted as global best practice.  The first three examples are:

The latest example covers how BT’s intranet improves efficiency saving wasted time searching for the wrong stuff or sites not being well organised enough.  IBF said the BT Homepage was excellent at directing people to tasks tasks that were completed successfully.

BT Homepage groups services and content functionally under the title ‘Essentials’ so people have everything easily to link to when completing an activity.  Here are some slides showing examples of what is grouped under each heading on the BT Homepage.  Users liked the changes when we asked for their feedback.

Research with users shows high satisfaction with the BT Homepage and 91% were satisfied with Essentials which was great news.

People also rely on the BT A-Z.  This is an index of all sites that have a BT-wide purpose and are cross-indexed if need be under more than one letter e.g. Group Finance is under G and F. 

I’ll cover our A-Z in a future post.

2010 BT Intranet user research update

I recently posted about the latest user satisfaction with BT’s intranet but forgot to mention one key area which really troubles me.  Self service applications.

You will know my concerns on their usability and the problems trying to improve it.  Well, the research confirmed all of these and showed me how much users are prepared to put up with because they have no choice.

But it is the huge loss of productivity because of the time taken completing tasks, asking helpdesks, colleagues or searching for online guidance or having to be trained to do these tasks which is my aim too.

I am working with my IT partners in BT and with our suppliers of self service applications like Oracle to improve the ‘out of the box’ usability.

This will take time but it is tackling the problem at the root source so should ultimately bring many benefits to BT and other customers of these applications.

Improving usability with Oracle

Oracle is holding their first Usability Board Europe meeting on May 5th.  I’ve been to a previous Oracle meeting and am keen to improve the usability of all applications BT uses.

At this meeting Oracle and founding members will:

The usability issues I will be raising are:

  1. Out of the box usability must be high
  2. Better usability does not mean more features.  It means features must be more usable.
  3. Think of users when offering help.
  4. Don’t focus on making error messages better, aim to prevent users making errors.

I’m sharing some slides I plan to use at the meeting.  Anyone want to add anything?

Is your intranet breaking the law?

My intranet could be breaking the law!  Why?  What?  How?

Well if you have information or applications that is not accessible to everyone then you could be.  Everyone, whether they have any impairment or not, need to have the same experience when using any intranet information or applications.

Legislation and codes of practice based on the WCAG web accessibility guidelines apply in most countries.  US Section 508 and UK DDA 1995 being two of many examples I know of.

In BT we aim to achieve WCAG 2.0 standard.  This is above the likely legal requirement for UK DDA 1995 and, more importantly, sets best practice for all users of BT’s intranet so they have a good experience whatever they use, whether they are impaired or not.

How are we doing this?  Well, apart from my last post on how to use it as a lever for wider improvements, BT:

Follow the right approach and you won’t get a nasty surprise.  It only takes one discriminated user and you could have a really big problem to solve.

Prevention is much, much, cheaper and better than curing a problem like this.