Category Archives: best practice

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! :)

It’s time for a change

I have been fortunate to work with and view many sites, intranets, digital workplaces, mobile and collaborative spaces since 1996.  Many technology features and fads aimed at helping people have a good experience have come and gone. However, throughout this time, having a clear strategy with good governance to support your intranet, has consistently been shown to help meet your organisation’s key priorities and add measurable value.

Your strategy sets the direction you need to move in with a clear scope and set of aims to be achieved, aligned with other related strategies and overall strategy for your organisation.

Your governance framework helps your strategy continue in the right direction.  It will show how you manage everything and how everyone can work together. It will cover scope, purpose, roles and responsibilities, publishing standards and support, and resources needed.

The main reason for a strategy and governance framework is the benefits to be gained from applying it well. The time and effort are the same but the impact can vary so you don’t always achieve a consistently good experience.

Measuring all the benefits and showing the value to your organisation of a critical business tool will improve your credibility and help to justify future investment.

With that in mind I have re-designed my site to focus on Strategy; Governance; and Measuring Value.

Please contact me if you want to find out more.

Digital Workplace Survey closes in 10 days

There are a lot of comments, opinion, discussions about the Digital Workplace but very few pieces of hard evidence that demonstrate what it means to you and your organisation.  There is even less evidence that is free AND reliable that you can find too!

But there is one way to have this for free by completing the Digital Workplace Survey.

The Digital Workplace Survey is in it’s 8th year and provides insight into short and long term trends in the digital workplace. This is useful, not just for staying in touch with trends and planning minor enhancements in your own workplace, but also in strategising the future roadmap and major updates. It’s a great tool to share with senior management as it shows what other organisations are doing in the space via survey results, expert commentary and case studies.

Participating organisations receive a free copy of the report and a customized Digital Workplace Scorecard which can be used to compare against similar organisations.

There are only 10 days to go before it closes on 21 November so don’t delay participating!

Intranet journeys to nowhere

I covered other ways of searching for information on your intranet under my post on Findability. I have kept it as a separate publishing standard because I believe navigation should reduce the need to use other ways to find what you need on an intranet. Good, logical, usable headings and menus help people to navigate to their destination quickly and easily.

It is only when navigation is poor and people can’t access the information they need easily that search queries increase and alternative methods are used more e.g. email people for a link to a site.  That’s why I recommend navigation has its own publishing standard.

You can have a publishing standard that splits the needs of your organisation from the site-specific needs for navigation by having distinctive menus and headings for each of these. You can combine them but there is an increased risk of people becoming confused as to their purpose and being unsure if a link or heading is to the same part or a different part of your intranet.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people by making content easier to read on your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People will have a much better experience and be more satisfied with your intranet. This will encourage people to more frequently and extensively use your intranet and save time reading information quicker to reach a strong understanding.
  2. You can encourage your publishers to realise that writing for the web can save them time by using less words to describe the purpose of their content and achieve greater satisfaction from people using it.
  3. Your organisation can see the increased satisfaction from people easily reading the information and gaining a quicker understanding to improve productivity.

This is the last in the series on publishing standards.  I hope you find them helpful when improving your intranet.

Accessible content for everyone and every device

Everyone whether they have a disability or not needs to have the same experience when using any intranet information or applications. Employees with a disability may use devices to help them. Your intranet needs to be compatible with these to avoid risking breaking the guidelines and any law that applies in the country where the person works.

Accessible content is also easier to adapt to use with mobile devices e.g. smartphones, tablets, and laptops with their different screen sizes. Try thinking of accessible content as being a step further on from it meeting your usable standard.

If your intranet has information or applications that are not accessible to all employees, you will be breaking the web accessibility guidelines. Legislation and codes of practice based on the latest World Wide Web, Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C Accessible content WCAG 2.0 AA) guidelines will apply in most countries. US Section 508 and UK DDA 1995 are two examples. These guidelines are at three levels, A, AA, and AAA covering the most basic problems to the most advanced problems experienced by people with a disability when using your intranet.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people with disabilities to use your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People with disabilities using your intranet will have the same or similar experience to anyone else. This will encourage more frequent and extensive use because the intranet is accessible and usable and meets the needs for everyone.
  2. You can encourage your publishers to make their content and applications accessible to meet their legal requirements. There is the added, sometimes overlooked, benefit that accessible content also displays well in other devices such as tablets and smartphones if it meets accessibility standards.
  3. Your organisation complies with a legal requirement. It can also see investment made in your intranet has the benefit of being available in other devices that help with new ways of working and while mobile.

My next post on navigation will be the last in this series.  I hope you have found them helpful.

Publishing content: Use it, don’t abuse it!

Content that is easy to use does not appear like that by magic.  It is having standards on usability, supported by training and guidance, that helps to make this happen.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Information must be usable and valuable to people who need to use it.  Features and functionality need to make it easier for people not just implemented for the sake of it. They should help people to share views, discover other people and their skills, find the right information and use what they find with the minimum of effort and time taken.

Your publishing standard should encourage employees to engage and influence the look and feel of your intranet as well as sites, applications, and tools. Embracing this approach through research, feedback with clear and transparent methods will help embed this and help to improve the overall consistency of your intranet user experience.

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people to use information easily on your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People using your intranet will have an easier and better experience. This will encourage people to use it more frequently and extensively because the intranet is consistent and usable and meets their needs
  2. You can encourage your publishers to use the publishing templates with the usable design, layout, features and functionality be showing that more will use view their information.
  3. Your organisation can be reassured the investment made in your intranet is justified by the increased use made by people to help with their work.

Benefit from finding your content easily

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in my next few posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Benefit your organisation
  • Improve people’s quality of work

It is vital that all information is easy to find by people who need to use it for their work. The amount of extra effort required by a content owner to publish findable content is minimal. However, the impact can be dramatic for the people who need to use it. It is important your intranet search engine can give content the right priority so people can find it using logical words or phrases.

In my experience intranet search engines have received an undeserved press by people using them to find or rather not able to find the content they need. People’s expectations have risen with their internet experience with little consideration of how Google achieves this. There is a phrase I have heard many times to explain this problem of “garbage in – garbage out” which I can understand.

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people find the right information across your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People using your intranet will save time by finding the information more easily. Having a publishing standard on findability that encourages content owners to use all available tools to help people reinforces this.
  2. For you it is also important you can reinforce the right behaviour with content editors by having mandatory fields for metadata. This supports your guidance that sets out why it is worthwhile adding metadata and the content to your A-Z.
  3. Your organisation can be confident of improving productivity with a good search engine and its scope means there is all published content is searchable and indexed.

Are there other benefits you have found?  Please let me know.

In my next post I will cover secure and private content.