Category Archives: best practice

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

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