Category Archives: best practice

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.

Benefits from up to date content you can rely upon

The problem many organisations find difficult is seeing 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

People must be confident they are using the most up to date information.  They need to clearly see a review date to be assured it is not out of date. Content must be reviewed regularly to comply with your organisation’s Information Retention Policy. As a minimum this will normally be at least once every 12 months by the owner or editor for accredited content and probably less for some content such as news articles. Owners should remove content that is no longer needed and out of date or update it so it remains relevant.

To actively manage and update your intranet content I find that having a ‘last updated date’ showing for each page of content can give people added reassurance that it is.

Benefits

Knowing that content available on your intranet that you use is up to date has three main benefits.

  1. People using your intranet they have confidence in the content available. They can rely on it being up to date and it encourages them to use your intranet more frequently and more extensively with each visit.
  2. You can be reassured it complies with the Information Retention Policy and will be reviewed regularly. Your publishing templates ensure the review dates have to be completed correctly before content can be published.
  3. Your organisation can be confident from a risk management perspective that only content that is up to date, managed and updated is available. Out of date content is removed and either deleted or archived depending on its status.

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

In my next post I will cover content needing to be secure.

Your publishing standards toolkit

In my last post ‘Looking under the intranet bonnet‘ I explained how publishing standards are the foundation to a consistent user experience. The problem I find is that most organisations have publishing standards – usability is the most common one – but how they are implemented can be flawed.

I recommend you follow the next steps and use it as part of your publishing standards toolkit.  The other part of your toolkit will be the publishing standards.

  1. Frequently I find there is no agreed scope for the application of publishing standards.  Is it just for news and policies?  What about applications or collaboration tools?  Agree the scope in line with your strategy, action plan, and roles and responsibilities.
  2. Then it is about how these publishing standards should be applied.  There are many different approaches that I recommend depending on their needs.  The main aim is to have a consistent method that improves the publisher and user experience.  It also reassures organisations that content is secure, especially sensitive or personal information, and managed well.
  3. I find organisations do not appreciate the benefits of a well governed intranet or digital workplace until a crisis occurs.  Then you find funding is not a problem and the problem is fixed as quickly as possible!  You need to have some way to measure their impact.
  4. A culture of risk management supported by policies, training, communication and education helps to ensure the value of well-managed information through publishing standards is critical.  This will vary from organisation to organisation but it is essential and cannot be ignored by wistful and over optimistic thinking.

When you have removed these barriers to an improved and more consistent user experience you will be able to apply your publishing standards and, this is real key to success, show the benefits from taking this approach.

In my next post will be on the first publishing standard and the benefits from applying it.

It is not too late to suggest a publishing standard or leave a comment on whether you agree or disagree with the points I have made in this post.

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