Category Archives: homepage

SharePoint: what does good look like?

A little while ago I asked ‘Is SharePoint ‘good’ or ‘bad?‘.  I believe it is how an organisation implements SharePoint that helps you feel if it is good or bad.

Building on this theme I will be presented the keynote address at IntraTeam’s event in Gothenburg on 4 December ‘SharePoint: What does good look like for?’.

I will cover how your approach is critical to achieving a good SharePoint experience – for you as well as for people using it – with the need for a strategy that sets the right direction and a governance framework to help you keep moving in that direction every day.

I will also be showing examples of what I believe good looks like with SharePoint.  I can’t share all of these publicly with you I’m afraid – you will have to be at the event to see all the examples – but I can share some here.  I hope you find them useful along with my steps to a good SharePoint experience.

If you need any further information or help with SharePoint please get in touch.

How to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 – the user experience

SharePoint 2010 gives you the opportunity to upgrade your technology to meet the current and future needs of its businesses.   It also enables other changes to improve business effectiveness to be made at the same time.  This helps to justify the cost to the business from investing in SharePoint 2010 and not just keep everything the same as before.  There are many features that SharePoint 2010 offers which will help maximise the benefits.

Your business must aim to give users of your intranet a much improved experience from day 1 with continuing improvements made at regular stages afterwards as part of an ongoing intranet strategy.  Here is part 1 of my tips to get your business ready to use SharePoint 2010:

User experience

  • ‘Mega menu’ at the top of every intranet page with functional titles that can expand to show the most popular and/or important content as a shortcut.
  • Site menu on the left hand side of every page in the site to navigation menu of the site’s contents.
  • Breadcrumb trail below the mega menu on every page to help people navigate easily back to a previous page on their journey.
  • Title of each page to show in the header and footer of every page.
  • Homepage and any other key intranet sites to have common principles of navigation, functionality, and look and feel with the option of having distinct branding.  The type of content and its position can vary for each homepage.
  • Content pages to have an owner, review and last updated date shown consistently at the bottom of each page.  The owner can link to their My Profile for contact details.
  • Content sections will clearly show what they contain.  People will be able to collapse sections within the main page or expand them to show all the links and content within them.  Some sections can be forced to stay open; other sections can have the option to add more links and content if people choose.
  • My Profile will provide information about an individual to help people searching for someone realise this is the right person to help them. The details can include contact details, location, manager and place in the business’ hierarchy, whereabouts and relevant information, experience and interests.

In my next post I will cover how to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 – the publisher experience.

Help with intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration and SharePoint

Thinking about what is the best way to implement SharePoint 2010?

Are you looking for good examples of managing intranets?

Are you planning how to transform your digital workplace?

Maybe you want to use collaboration tools to increase employee engagement?

Now you can find helpful information on all these areas in one site.  It combines my first-hand experience managing BT’s intranet with my knowledge and help improving other intranets to show how you can improve your intranets and digital workplaces.

If I can help you further please contact me whenever you want to.

Intranets are still very much alive!

I read with interest the blog posts by Tony Byrne ‘Death of the Intranet‘ and by Martin White ‘Death of the Intranet: ‘The Times They are a-changin’‘.  They are both interesting posts with provocative titles to catch the attention.  It has caused some great discussions about intranets which is great.  The biggest and most negative reaction I found has been from intranet practitioners who feel it is an over reaction and not how they see things.

Having recently been an intranet practitioner as the BT Intranet manager before becoming a consultant, I can see the subject from both points of view.  I believe intranets are still live and kicking  To adapt the famous quotation by Mark Twain after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal “The reports of the death of the intranet are greatly exaggerated” in my opinion.

Continually evolving

I believe intranets are naturally evolving and maturing.  Over the past 15 years intranets have been called many different names.  Intranets have needed to adapt to changes in technology, different business requirements and climates.  But they are still here and thriving.  The digital workplace is a wider environment that intranets will be a vital component of.  Yet another evolution for intranets to absorb and adapt to.

Wikipedia says ‘Increasingly, intranets are being used to deliver tools and applications, e.g., collaboration (to facilitate working in groups and teleconferencing) or sophisticated corporate directories, sales and customer relationship management tools, project management etc., to advance productivity.  Intranets are also being used as corporate culture-change platforms. For example, large numbers of employees discussing key issues in an intranet forum application could lead to new ideas in management, productivity, quality, and other corporate issues.’  I agree with that from my experience of how intranets generally are being used.

Different tools to access intranets like mobiles won’t end the intranet.  It’s just another opportunity to show how adaptable intranet can be in providing the information people need while on the move from their smartphones.  Intranets are still the bloodstream for information and applications, properly managed and accessible any time, any place, any where and more and more using any device, that employees need to do their work each day.

Passionate practitioners

I am writing a report about how the passion showed by intranet practitioners about their organisation’s intranet that they manage can help accelerate improvements.  I believe it is the personality as well as the abilities of an intranet manager that can help achieve more.  Intranet practitioners know better now than ever before how to feel the pulse of their intranet and organisation it supports.

I recall in my previous role how I would champion again and again something I believed passionately about would improve BT by its adoption sometimes against sceptical line management as well as partners like IT and some stakeholders.  Of course, judgement is critical as your reputation will suffer if you keep getting it wrong.  My point is that passionate intranet role models are being created which other intranet practitioners can benefit from and will continue to help intranets improve in the years ahead, not die.

The development of the digital workplace will be seen not as a threat but more as an opportunity for two reasons:

  1. The intranet will fit well within the digital workplace and grow in influence on the back of it as more senior stakeholders see how the organisation will benefit from adoption.
  2. The digital workplace role will be another step an intranet practitioner can consider when looking for their next career move (more on this in a later post).

Increasing relevance

Intranet managers don’t feel intranets are dying – quite the opposite in fact.  They believe intranets are moving into a more critical role for the organisations they support.  More and more they are seen as providing a business critical role.  This is a long way from just being another communications channels.  While I see intranets that are struggling to show value and be taken seriously by their senior stakeholders, there are many intranets growing in value and championed by practitioners who have learnt how to seek support and sponsorship and can talk the language of the business not just the technology.

I believe senior stakeholders, as with intranets, have matured in the last few years.  They understand better how intranets have added value, shown benefits in the wider sense and don’t think in straitjacket terms of just ‘return on investment’ so loved by Finance for business case submissions.

For me intranets are a living organism at the heart of organisations, managed by passionate people and increasingly championed by senior stakeholders who ‘get it’ about intranets and can see how they will continue in the wider digital workplace that is unfolding now.

Design an intranet home page and win a Kindle!

You have the chance to design what you believe is a useful hompage with the added incentive of winning a Kindle.  Surely this is one of the easier decisions for intranet professionals to make!

When I look  back at the BT Intranet homepage versions over the years I was there and the many other homepages I have seen that other organisations use, I wish I could have done this when I started to think about improvements.

While it is functionality that brings people back to a homepage again and again a design that is pleasing to the eye and helps bring to bring branding, content and layout together is the best combination for a useful homepage.

So, don’t delay, design it today!

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).

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.

What’s your view on SharePoint 2010?

Like most organisations at the moment, BT is looking at what SharePoint 2010 has to offer and how it could meet our business needs.

I’ve read about SP 2010 in the blog posts for expert views, joined an IBF seminar last week, discussed it with other intranet professionals at conference and following #sp2010 on Twitter.

I still haven’t found all the answers to my questions around usability, accessibility, governance, integration, search, etc but I don’t expect to yet.

I have joined two groups on LinkedIn to ask these types of questions with other people who are involved with SP 2010.  There is a group on Sharepoint Governance and Sharepoint User Groups.  Anyone else want to join?

I really want to find a group of non-technical people who have the a similar view from a business rather than IT focus.

What’s your view on SP 2010?  Have you any good information links or groups to share that will help?