Category Archives: help

How to manage your intranet

After you have developed a clear intranet strategy as explained in my post ‘How to develop an intranet strategy‘ you then need to follow this with an implementation plan, publishing standards and a governance framework.

While every intranet is different there are some common factors that need to be considered so your intranet supports your business requirements:

  1. The size of your organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  If it is based in one location and you know everyone by their first name then it is likely you can manage your intranet on your own.  If it has many thousands of people in many locations you will need a different approach and involve other people to help you manage your intranet.
  2. The type of organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  Is it streamlined on administration, informal decision-making?  Or is it more formalised, committee driven, when making decisions on how publishing standards and intranet roles and responsibilities?
  3. The culture of your organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  Is it a very top down, command and control, culture with feedback discouraged?  Or is it more open, democratic and consensual?  Whether it is either or a mix of both will influence your approach to managing your intranet.

My first-hand experience and from working with clients is that intranets can be managed well no matter what size, type or culture your organisation has.  It is how you approach this which is the critical success factor!

You can out more information on how to manage your intranet to help you.

10 free guides to help you create intranet content

It is not often that I recommend on my blog information to read that I believe is helpful and easy to read.  Today is an exception (not just because I played a very small part in its creation)! :)

ClearBox Consulting with Kilobox Communiqué noticed that while on the top level of intranet sites there is good quality content, as you get into the lower levels standards start to drop.  Often people have been trained on the publishing tool but had little guidance on how to get the most from an intranet as a channel e.g. how to write headlines, how to phrase links, etc.

They have created an excellent set of 10 FREE guidelines, each 1-2 pages long, covering the following topics in plain English:

  1. Effective headlines: help people choose what to read
  2. Images: attracting interest and conveying meaning
  3. Links: how to link to pages and files
  4. Layout: how to structure articles for scanability
  5. How to help people search for, and find, your content
  6. Content: write for your audience, not for your boss
  7. Documents vs pages: when to use PDF, Word, and other formats
  8. Engage: writing to start a conversation
  9. Channels: how to reach the right audiences with your content
  10. Mobile content

I recommend you read and share these with your publishers to help improve the overall experience people have with your intranet.

Thanks Sam and Wedge!

A great mobile experience needs….

In my previous post in this series on mobile ‘Good governance signals right mobile direction’ I said mobile is one of the key drivers for the transformation of intranets into digital workplaces which could become mobile workplaces but progress is patchy.  It is no surprise if I say setting the right direction for your organisation with mobile is critical.  Having some good governance principles helps you to continue in the right way and underpin your strategy.

We also need to give people a great mobile experience.  But what exactly does that mean?  Here are my thoughts on what is needed to achieve this in my last post in this series.

Mobile audience

Firstly, you need to make sure the people who will benefit the most are able to use a mobile device.  You need to be clear who will benefit from having a mobile device.  It probably will not be everyone.  Even if it is, you will need to prioritise who has the greatest need.  Factors like the number of people involved, time spent away from their place of work and what contribution they can make, will help decide the greatest need.

When you have the right people then you can find out what information and which services they most need, when they need to use them and how they need to use them, to be able to design and test for a good mobile experience.

Mobile devices

Secondly, you need to choose which mobile devices are the best tool to help people with their work.  For example, is it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, or maybe a combination of more than one of these that is needed?  Will you let people bring their own devices to work or will your organisation provide them?  These decisions are critical and will depend on your organisation’s corporate values, type of employees, security, funding and speed of adoption.  Once these decisions have been made you can then focus on how you start to create a good mobile experience.

Once you know how to support the type of devices and size of screens being used, and the main purpose people will be using their mobile device for, you can start to create a good mobile experience.

Mobile platform

Lastly, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure to support the needs of mobile workers in your organisation.  This means access to the information and tools needs to be 24/7 and not just normal working hours.  It means business continuity plans must include how people will still have mobile access to what they need for work.  Your organisation needs to consider the different mobile operating systems and devices it will support; what is the cost; what should be the limit; which systems and devices will have most overall benefit?

You also need to give a fast connection when mobile workers need it for their work to the information and tools.  Why would you want a mobile device if you find it takes ages to connect to any content or services you need to use?

Good mobile experience

So, what is needed for a great mobile experience?  These bullet points help summarise the posts on mobile:

  • A mobile strategy aligned to business needs
  • Supported by a governance framework
  • Helping meet the needs of people using mobile devices
  • Research and test with mobile users
  • Get the infrastructure in place
  • Have a policy on using mobile users for business purposes

If you need any more information please contact me.

Designing intranets: a ‘must read’

I have just finished reading ‘Designing intranets – Creating sites that work’, the latest book written by James Robertson.  For those of you who have seen James present or read his blog posts, you will know he gives a clear view to help you – whether you agree with it or not.

James is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on intranets. He has used this experience to write this book.

Whether you are new to intranets or, like me, involved as an intranet manager for years, this book will be very useful to you.

This book will cover all you need to know to be able to create intranet sites that work. And it is the ‘sites that work’ words that make this book different to others. It is more than just a pleasing design. It is what else is needed to be researched, planned and created too that will make your time and effort better spent. Even more, you want the people using your intranet to get the best out of it. This book helps you to do just that!

I have found it helps reinforce why BT’s intranet is like it is and why the things I do are important such as:

As I write this blog post ‘Designing intranets’ is by my side. Some parts of James’ book are looking well used already as I’ve thumbed through them several times for tips to help me!

Why not treat yourself? Read James’ book and help make your life easier and your intranet better by reading James’ book.

Helping new BT Intranet users

What help do you give to anyone new to your intranet?  How do they get to know what words used such as ‘homepage’ mean? 

In BT we have online guidance and training for new users.  This includes a glossary of the most used terms which you may find helpful to use: 

Address:  Another name for a location or URL.

Bookmark/Favourite:  A way for you to mark a web page you want to return to later, in the same way you would put a bookmark in a book. This is called Favourite in Internet Explorer or Bookmark in Firefox.

Browser:  Software that allows you to look at Intranet/Internet pages.

Cache:  To store on your computer’s hard disk a copy of a web page accessed via the internet/intranet. The browser compares the cached copy of the page to the original, and if there have been no changes, it will use the cached copy rather than reloading the page again, saving on download time.

Cookie:  A unique string of letters and numbers that the web server stores in a file on your computer. This method is used to track users so that they do not have to enter the same information when they revisit a site.

Firewall:  Computer hardware and/or software that limits access to a computer over a network or from an outside source. Used to prevent hackers from getting into company’s intranets.

Homepage:  This is your start up page. The page that first appears when you open your browser.

Hyperlink:  A connection that is found in web pages that, when clicked with a mouse, opens a web page in your browser. A hyperlink (or link) may be a word, icon or graphic.

Internet:  The internet is a worldwide network of computers containing information that people can access and read or use on their own computers. This network is sometimes called the Information Super Highway or ‘web’.

Intranet:  An intranet is a private network belonging to an organisation accessible only by the organisation’s members, employees, or others with authorisation. An intranet’s web sites look and act just like any other web sites, but the intranet is set up using what is called a firewall, which prevents unauthorised access from outsiders.

Location:  Another name for an address, also known as URL.

Search engine:  A programme that allows you to search and retrieve specific information from the internet/intranet. Generally, you type in the words that you need to find and the search engine produces a list of pages that contain those words. You can then click on any of the displayed pages to go to that page.

URL:  This is a Universal Resource Location, the correct name for the location that you type into the location area. Also known as Address.

I would be interested in what help you give new intranet users.  Please leave a comment for others to share and learn from.

An A-Z of BT’s Intranet

In my last post ‘Great intranets help make efficient people’ I talked briefly about the BT A-Z.  BT Intranet users find this a very useful service helping them to quickly find a site.

Research of people in BT finds they navigate to what they need from the BT Homepage by using the search engine, deep linking from the many headings grouped functionally or use the BT A-Z.

People who use the BT A-Z have a reasonable idea they know the site exists and what its name could be.  Cross-referencing of sites helps people to find it under more than one letter.

I’ve shown what the BT A-Z is in these examples.

The BT Homepage sets out the BT A-Z in one horizontal line with plenty of space between each letter to save users one click if there was just a BT A-Z heading and be able to easily get the letter they need (slide 1).

For each link in the BT A-Z, there is a heading followed by a simple explanation of what it points to so people know before they click on it if it is likely to be what they are looking for (slide 2).

On the left hand side of every page of the BT A-Z are icons which help to show to users what to expect when they click on the link (slides 2-4).

As well as giving people a full list of sites, if you know it is just information or a service you need for that letter you can choose that option from right hand menu to reduce what you need to check (slides 3 and 4).

If you have mobile/PDA access, you can still use the BT A-Z and see a list of sites to click on with (most important!) a mobile icon against those which will support that type of access (slide 5).

Who has heard of David Gurteen?

I try to develop my knowledge and exchange ideas with people so we can help each other.  Apart from Twitter, LinkedIn and conferences there are blogs and newsletters which give an expert view to help inspire me.

I read a regular newsletter from David Gurteen who is an acknowledged KM expert.  With BT looking closely at SharePoint 2010 which has KM capabilities it is very helpful to read what he says.

If you haven’t heard of David, try his latest newsletter to see if you want to sign up (for free) to future ones and read his previous (all 120!) that he’s done over the past 10 years.

Improve findability for no extra cost

BT’s intranet search engine, Search BT, is the biggest instance of Ultraseek run in Europe.  It searches nearly 2 million different pieces of content.  This includes what we call formal, verified, content as well as collaborative, user generated content.

Here’s an example of how a couple of minor changes to an intranet page had a major impact on its findability for no cost.

People wanting to review or change sharesave plans needed to download and complete a form from the BT intranet and email it to the right group.

When they searched for the form by typing in its name to Search BT the top result was a form called ‘Saveshare Changes’.  So they filled it in and sent it off.  But the top result was the wrong form! :-(

The form people needed to use was under a link on the same saveshare changes page as other forms including the wrong form.  With no meta data or keywords on that page to help direct the search engine, it meant the top result took you to one of several saveshare changes forms, not the page for the right form.

Once the meta data was added in the page, it rose to the top result shown on Search BT for search queries on saveshare changes.

That minor tweak to one page saved people acting on the forms a lot of time and BT money in productivity savings.  It also speeded up the time for changes people wanted made saving a lot of frustration. :-)

Swine flu advice on BT’s intranet

I read with great interest Jane McConnell’s article ‘Intranet Checklist for the Flu Pandemic‘.  I was pleased to see that BT meets the checklist. 

I thought it would help build on Jane’s checklist by showing you some examples of how BT’ has implemented the checklist on our intranet.  We aim to:

  • make the guidance easy to find
  • make it prominent but not so it distracts those who don’t need it
  • focus on places where users expect to find news and links to guidance
  • make the guidance easy to follow
  • make access available to anyone from anywhere
  • give people the chance to feedback and share experiences

You can see the examples in a slide set you can download:

Slide 1: BT Homepage has in the left hand navigation a banner with guidance on swine flu which can be easily updated

Slide 2: BT Today, our main news site, has links to a newsline (if all else fails, the phones won’t!) and to swine flu guidance

Slide 3: If you search for swine flu the site is shown as the top result

Slide 4: If you check through the BT A-Z you will find the swine flu site

Slide 5: When you use our single sign on to any applications you get tips about swine flu

Slide 6 and 7: Shows examples of the guidance and content available on BT’s swine flu site for everyone to use.

I hope this helps you prepare your intranet for whatever happens next.

A publishing cry for help

I would like your help please. 

BT has a reasonable content management system we use for publishing formal content - authoritative, factual, information – to help our users with their work.

We have used it for some years but technology and publishing needs have moved on and are very different now.  I wanted to check what publishing tools you have used or know of which could help.

My requirements are:

  • publishing to be as easy as sending an email or writing a blog post
  • publishing standards can be embedded in the templates (owner, review date, etc)
  • workflow if content needs approval before being published
  • automated intranet management tools can check all content for compliance
  • purchase and support costs much cheaper than traditional content management systems
  • ‘out of the box’ product that needs little or no customising

I have tweeted about this on Twitter and had some suggestions already from The Parallax View with Joonla, Drupal and Text Pattern and Richard Dennison with WordPress (of course!).  Thanks to both of you.

So, can you help me too?