Category Archives: news

My 2014 predictions

I reviewed my predictions for 2013 and believe they are happening more as we move towards 2014.  So what has 2014 got in store for us?  Here are my five predictions:

Cloud

Organisations will more seriously consider what approach will best meet their requirements.  Factors that will need to be considered before a final decision is made are:

  • How much will it save compared with the costs of keeping it within the firewall?
  • Will you have better business resilience?  Will it remove the single point of failure problem?
  • What will be the levels of service?
  • Who do you trust with your data?
  • Will your content be secure?

Mobile

I know a lot has been said about mobile and how it is driving the transformation of intranets towards digital workplaces.  But how many employees still only use their smartphones for emails and texts?  Organisations need to get serious about realising the benefits and consider:

  • Increased productivity by people able to find information, complete tasks, share problems and knowledge when they need to without delay
  • Save accommodation costs and reduced dedicated workspace so people share as and when they need it
  • Support new ways of working with distributed teams and managers enabling and facilitating rather than controlling or limiting activity
  • Fear of the unknown is not a good business reason to stop employees using mobiles for their work
  • Bring your own device is a solvable problem when everyone wants to reach agreement over intellectual property, security and building trust and behaving sensibly

Collaboration

I am starting to see real examples of collaboration which showing through on business’ bottom line and getting the attention of senior manager.  This will bring benefits as it is taking more seriously and investment decisions are easier but the pressure to continue delivering larger savings will also increase.  Examples include:

  • Project teams sharing and creating online documentation without having to meet face to face or email each other
  • Solving problems more quickly using tools to find people with similar skills and experience
  • Sharing knowledge that helps others to solve problem and the organisation’s culture increasingly supporting this way of working

governance

Organisations are realising, especially if they are implementing SharePoint, that all the areas where content is published need to be managed.  The problems of gaps in information managed and risks it can create are being recognised more.  More robust frameworks are being developed and used.  Examples include:

  • Different types of content such as accredited e.g. policies, news articles, and collaborative e.g. comment in discussion group, blog post are being accepted
  • All the different areas for content are being joined up e.g. content management, document management, project spaces, and news.
  • A hierarchy which sets out roles and responsibilities help identify overlaps and gaps in managing information
  • Publishing standards are being applied in smarter ways taking less time and effort with digital workplace teams

Value

As intranets are transforming from their original purpose as communications tools towards digital workplaces that are critical business tools that people in that organisation increasingly need to rely on for their work, so their value is increasing and the need to measure that value.  Examples are:

  • Productivity savings are accepted in principle now even if the amount is not agreed by everyone
  • The impact on property usage and type is becoming more linked to new ways of working
  • The value an organisation places on a person’s digital assets e.g. knowledge in documents is starting to match that of any physical assets e.g. computer
  • Business resilience is critical to organisations and along with plans to use the cloud are plans to benefit from a more distributed workforce that no longer has to be in just one location

This is my last post of 2013.  I hope anyone reading this has had a great 2013, will have a relaxing break over the Christmas period, and be hoping for more success in 2014!

Showing the value of your information

I want to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  Information should be something that can be used to help you with your work and be useful to you.

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  What pitfalls should you avoid so people avoid your information!

It always surprises me when I see other intranets and digital workplaces how poor the management of their information is shown to people who need to use it.  Most of this is down to poor governance but there are other factors that come into play and show people the content is not valued.

There are also good examples of best practice shown with other intranets and digital workplaces which should be shared and adopted more widely.

As people use an increasing variety of ways to find and use information e.g. laptop, tables, smartphone, and the type of information grows e.g  company policy, news article, blog post or discussion thread comment they still need answers to some basic questions:

  1. Why should I use this information?
  2. How can I rely on it for my work?
  3. Who can help me further?
  4. Can it help others?
  5. Will it change in future?

In future posts I will give you tips on what to do/not to do to help you to show how valuable your information is to people who want to use it.  A lot of these will be very simple and obvious steps you should take.

Please leave me a comment with any good examples or gripes you have over problems you experience with information.  I am not the font of all knowledge on this subject and would love to help you to help others. :)

 

Why SharePoint 2010 needs to have a good mobile user experience

Why is SharePoint 2010 so widely used?  I believe it is because it offers for the first time one technical solution that meets many business needs rather than just one.

If you want to improve knowledge sharing you will have many tools to consider.  Again if you need to manage your documents you will have a wide choice of vendors.  But if your business has more than one need or can see how solving one will create other requirements then a solution like SharePoint 2010 comes become more attractive to consider.

What if your organisation needs employees to use your intranet while away from their place of work?  There are huge savings in office costs and increases in productivity if employees can use the intranet to help them with their work while they are mobile.

Before we can consider if SharePoint 2010 can help meet these needs and provide these benefits there are other important steps to take first.

Mobile strategy

Why is your organisation considering mobile access to your intranet?  You need to develop a strategy aligned to your overall business strategy that sets out how providing this need will help to improve the performance.  Without a clear, agreed, mobile strategy in place there is little chance of creating a successful business case for a solution that can help employees.  You need to research which content and tools are most needed while employees are mobile.

Mobile champion

Who should be responsible for sponsoring the implementation of your mobile strategy?  You need to find a senior representative who will champion this or, better still, a board or steering group of senior representatives from business functions across your organisation.  Make sure the role is clear, and you have the authority to make the decisions needed, supported by funding.

Mobile audience

Who needs to use a mobile device for their work?  You need to be clear which employees will benefit from having a mobile device.  It probably will not be everyone.  Even if it is, you will have to prioritise who has the greatest need.  Factors like the number of employees involved, time spent away from their place of work, what contribution they can make, will help decide the greatest need.

Mobile governance

As well as having a champion for the use of mobile devices your governance framework needs to include the standards for owners of content and tools to follow so mobile devices can be used by employees.  Roles and responsibilities need to include meeting the needs of mobile users for content and tool owners.  The content and tools must not be a complete duplication of what exists already.

Mobile devices

Will you let employees bring their own devices to work or will you provide your own?  That decision is critical and will depend on your organisation’s corporate values, type of employees, security (more below on this), funding and speed of adoption.  Once that decision is made you can then focus on what devices your organisation provides or you recommend employees have that offer the best experience for what they need to do while mobile.

Mobile security

How can you be sure the right people only are using your intranet?  It is vital you have a representative from your Legal team involved as well as from IT.  You need to find the right balance of secure but easy access.  It is no good if it takes ages to authenticate who you are before employee can access your intranet.  But you do need some intelligent software working in the background to ensure you know who is accessing content with a mobile device.

Mobile platform

As I said at the beginning most organisations are either considering using SharePoint 2010 or are in various stages of rolling out to meet their needs.  One of these is increasingly the need to provide content and tools that is needed by employees while mobile.

The problem with SharePoint 2010 is the ‘out of the box’ experience can be a bit underwhelming.  It is a text only version which most mobile users of internet sites will feel is like going back in time.  It may be improved by the next release of SharePoint but can your organisation afford to wait that long?

How to improve communications using collaborative tools

In my last post ‘Should collaboration tools redefine internal communications’ role?‘ I gave my view on the corporate environment needed to encourage internal communications professionals to welcome collaboration tools being used by employees.  But which collaboration tools can you introduce and improve internal communications too?

I recommend researching employees’ needs to find which are most needed and likely to be adopted.  Some contact with senior managers to understand the corporate values will help too.  Let’s start by increasing employees interaction with existing communication channels before we move on to new collaborative tools.

When a new article is published on the intranet employees normally have no easy opportunity to show how valuable it is, what their views are or the effect it has.  Introducing a few features can help to change that.

Rating

Employees are able to rate how useful the information has been.  The higher the rating, the more useful it is.  It helps show internal communications what is most valued by employees and encourage similar messages to be published.  More importantly it shows what is not useful and could be reduced or stopped.  This information helps plans for future communications that have the best impact.

Comment

Employees are able to comment on the news item.  A comments feature gives freedom to express positive and negative views.  It also enables other employees to see these comments and show if they dis/agree with what has been said already.  This helps internal communications to understand better how useful, complete, and relevant it has been.  It helps internal communications to improve future messages and empowers employees to influence these by expressing their views.

Like

Employees are able to show they like the news item.  This helps internal communications understand how valuable and useful the message has been to employees.  It is a simpler approach to rating content (see Ratings) and gives a basic indication by the number of employees who how liked the message.

Share

Employees are able to share news items with other employees who have a similar need or interest.  This helps spread news more quickly using the channels that employees prefer to use rather than the formal, existing, internal communication channels with other employees.

How I can help

I have several years’ first hand experience improving communications and helping other organisations too.  Please contact me if you would like me to help you:

  • decide on the right collaboration tools
  • communicate better using collaborative tools
  • improve internal communications
  • research employees needs and attitudes
  • train internal communicators

My next blog will cover how blogs can help improve internal communications.

Is your culture right for collaboration tools to improve internal communications?

I believe many internal communications professionals are not appreciating the benefits that collaboration tools can bring.  Instead they are seen as a threat to traditional channels used for communicating corporate messages to employees.  In my previous post ‘Can collaboration tools improve internal communications?‘ I disagreed with this attitude.

Changing this approach is not a simple task.  Before you can consider using any collaboration tools you need to have the right culture within your organisation.  I’m afraid the approach of “I’ll start a blog to change the culture” is doomed to failure.  You need to have an environment where employees are:

  1. comfortable using collaborative tools
  2. encouraged to share information with other employees
  3. maybe even incentivised to share knowledge online
  4. able and willing to offer critical comments
  5. relaxed about constructive feedback on their own views

To achieve this environment you need to have in place the following:

  1. company values that should cover openness, honesty, and trust
  2. endorsement and sponsorship by senior managers of the values
  3. guidance on how employees should behave online
  4. HR policies that support employee engagement

That means internal communications realising they are not the only people who can communicate using the intranet.  Neither are ‘official’ channels the only route to communicate with other employees.  To embrace these challenges could mean a redefining of the role of internal communications.  How this can be done will be covered in my next post.

If you want to use my experience or help about this post please contact me.

What is a digital workplace?

Last week at the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen (Twitter #IEC12) there were many discussions about the digital workplace and what exactly is a digital workplace.

I thought it would be good to start a debate on what we mean when we say the digital workplace. Many intranet professionals want to find out more about the digital workplace.  Here is my view for you to consider and comment upon.

What exactly is a digital workplace?

I define the digital workplace as “Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

In a digital workplace you are able to:

  • Work in any location.  This may be at home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  • Do your work.  This may making a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  • Use any device.  This maybe your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone (iPhone), or tablet (iPad).
  • Share information.  This means being able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  • Search across all places where information is and you have permission to use.

What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?

An intranet has a more limited role.  An intranet typically has corporate news and documents e.g. policies. Publishing will probably use content and document management systems.  A digital workplace will also have:

  • Collaboration tools e.g. blogs, wikis, podcasts
  • Micro blogging tools e.g. Yammer, Twitter
  • Knowledge sharing/building e.g. team wikis and share workspaces
  • Applications/tools e.g. HR tools, online training, sales performance
  • Processes e.g. approving decisions, compliance checks

It will help me and other intranet professionals if you can comment to agree, disagree, amend, etc, to create a shared understanding on the digital workplace.  Thanks in advance.

4 factors critical to good governance in a digital workplace

In my last four posts on the digital workplace I have covered ‘Must have digital workplace principles’, ‘5 steps to a great digital workplace strategy’, 7 ways to engage people in a digital workplace and lastly ‘Create a brilliant digital workplace with me’.

To have a successful digital workplace (my definition is ‘work is what you do, not where you go to’) organisations must have the right strategy, culture, environment and infrastructure to exploit the benefits fully. It becomes the natural way of working so everyone is more productive and your organisation more efficient with:

  • people work from any location as well as their office workstation
  • IT infrastructure for the same or similar experience
  • everyone can read news, collaborate, search and complete tasks
  • individuals choosing tools – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • organisations measure benefits and encourages digital workplace

Follow these ‘must have’ principles including strategy, engagement, governance, HR policies and IT infrastructure and you will have a great digital workplace.

Governance

It is important the whole of the digital workplace is managed so that it brings benefits to the organisation, individuals and collectively, everyone.  It should mean the feeling that ‘things are better’ permeates through to everyone and encourages even greater use of the digital workplace.

It means the level of governance balances the rewards to be gained while avoiding any risks.  That doesn’t come naturally but through good governance of the digital workplace including:

Ownership

Who is responsible for developing the strategy, implementing the digital workplace and ongoing management of it?  It is difficult for one person to have overall responsibility for so many key roles and activities.  Neither is it best for it to be one person.

The best solution is to have a steering group made up of stakeholders from key parts of the business most affected by the digital workplace.  These stakeholders should be senior people with decision making authority not someone who has to refer back to his/her line manager and delay matters.

There may be dedicated roles for people responsible for collaboration, ways of working, etc, but they should ultimately report in to the steering group.

The worse solution is to have competing groups of people each implementing conflicting standards, designs and ways to use the digital workplace.  That will be a disaster and must be avoided!

Consistency

You really need a consistent level of governance across your digital workplace.  By consistent I don’t mean the same.  I mean it is what everyone using the digital workplace would expect or need.

For publishers/site owners who are publishing in the digital workplace accredited types of content (policies, factual stuff) the expectation is for a more rigorous approach than for collaborative content where opinions and views require a lighter touch.

For people using the digital workplace to view information and news, use workflow applications or collaborate with each other, they expect the look and feel of the digital workplace to be similar.  Tools needs to be branded in line with the business’ colours and designs.  Features need to encourages everyone to use them more such as help links, contact points, easily laid out and functional designs.

All the different parts of the digital workplace need to be integrated so they are seen as one whole entity not a different set of silos, resources with some electronic sticking plaster added to make them look as if they are connected when they don’t give that impression to anyone using them.

Standards

One approach is to have a set of standards based on the needs of the organisation (information retention), regulation (who has permission to see what), legal (web accessibility) and technical (DNS policy).  These can be applied appropriately across the digital workplace for each activity.  So for formal type content (policies and procedures) it’s most likely all the standards will apply.  For applications (HR processes) it’s probable that most will apply too.  But for collaboration you will apply a lighter touch.

Alternatively you can create standards that only apply to certain information and applications to meet the purpose people need to use it for.

It is about getting the balance right again.  You don’t need to be too restrictive and stifle innovation and collaboration.  But you don’t want it to be too loose so that the business and individuals risk non-compliance with a legal or regulatory requirements.  It’s not easy but getting it right is critical and benefits everyone and the business.

Integrity

This is the real litmus test, the crunch point for me.  Do people have confidence in the information and tools they are using in the digital workplace?  Does everyone feel encouraged to use the digital workplace more after each time?

The answer has to be ‘YES!’ to these questions.  That is the outcome your strategy and plans should aim for.

However you do this it must balance the needs of the business with those of people working well in a digital workplace.

My next post will cover the HR policies which enable digital working.

Intellact: BT’s customer insight and information site

There are a few ‘killer applications and content’ which have driven the usage of BT’s intranet.  As well as the BT Homepage – our corporate portal, BT Today – our new sites and Directory – our people finder, Intellact, BT’s customer insight and market portal has been key to achieveing this.

Intellact provides a wealth of insight on the communications industry. Thousands of people in all parts of BT use these services to:

  • Help understand customer needs and satisfaction.
  • Monitor the global press – daily updates on business trends.
  • Support business propositions.

Comprehensive, up-to-date, high quality research helps people make their decisions with:

  • Business news
  • IT research and advice
  • BT commissioned market research
  • Broker research
  • Industry sector research
  • Internet audience measurement

Business news is updated several times per day on Intellact.  You can sign up to receive an email that reviews the days top news from UK and international newspapers, journals and newswires.

Intellact offers an unrivalled collection of published research covering ICT and other industry sectors with the option to contact analysts for further details. 

Intellact can be searched in various ways and you can set up alerts so when a new research is available you are informed so you don’t miss anything.

Intellact helps BT give people what they need for their business needs and a competitive edge to BT.

Have a look at these Intellact examples.

Get a great intranet by involving everyone

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 example was about our content.  IBF said all pages across BT’s intranet contain author and date information.

My next example is about how involving everyone can make your intranet more valuable to your organisation.  IBF said BT’s intranet supports our values to be open and straightforward in dealings with colleagues.

BT’s intranet builds on this by supporting collaboration with anyone in BT including senior managers.  We do this in several ways with online chats, blogs, and collaboration tools including:

  • Blog Central now has over 500 blogs with over 80% having posted at least once in the last month
  • BTpedia now has over 2,500 wiki articles with new articles added every few days and the top article having over 125,000 views
  • Podcast Central now has over 1,000 podcast episodes with over 20 added in the last week
  • On our newsdesk site, BT Today can express their views on BT-wide subjects that anyone can add to as well as comment on news stories.
  • BT’s CEO, Ian Livingston, has regular online chats where anyone can ask a question he will respond to for about one hour.

Free live demo of BT’s intranet

I’ve just realised this is my 100th post (how have you suffered so many you ask yourselves?).  When I look back at my first post I realise how much has happened with BT’s intranet that I have posted about.

Anyway, this is not a nostalgic post but a free offer.  Yes, there is such a thing as a ‘free (BT) lunch’ on offer for you!

On 2-3 June the Intranet Benchmarking Forum are holding a free, online, 24 hour virtual tour of many organisations’ intranets.  It’s called IBF24.  You can find out more by clicking on the IBF24 link.

BT’s intranet will be the first shown on the tour.  I will be demonstrating BT’s intranet and taking questions around 12:30 UK time for about 30-40 minutes.

So you have a chance to see how BT has benefited from the social media tools I have posted about before like BTpedia, Blog Central, BT Today, RSS and podcasting.

If you don’t get a chance to ask a question please comment on this post and I’ll reply.

I’m looking forward to IBF24.  I hope you can join me.