Category Archives: publishing

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

 

Is your governance good enough for SharePoint?

I have written many blog posts on SharePoint based on my first-hand experience from developing strategies through to the full implementation of features such as TeamSites, MyProfile, etc.

One of the most common requests I get from clients is “How is the best way to manage their intranet while using SharePoint?”  This question is asked because SharePoint is a ‘big beast’ and needs a more rigorous and broad governance framework that is good enough for the challenge.

Your approach needs to consider:

  • Restricting use: stopping some features from being used e.g. SharePoint Designer
  • Encouraging best practice: making sure guidance and training are available
  • Preventing problems: checking content before it is published

Each of these approaches can support your governance strategy for
SharePoint.  The key is to understand what you need to use SharePoint for most of all.

My first-hand experience at BT and from working with clients is that well planned and managed governance is good enough to gain the benefits from using SharePoint.  It is how you approach this which is the critical success factor!

You can out more information on how to build good SharePoint governance to help you.

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!

Valuing information tip 4: finding it more easily

In this series of posts ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you with tips and advice.  So far I have covered owning content, accredited content and collaborative content.  I now want to cover findability of your content.

By findability I mean how you can make it easier for people to find the information you publish and manage.  Making that difference will show that your content is more valued by anyone finding it.

Headings

Think about the title of your content.  What words or phrases will people be searching for? For your content to be high in the search results you need your title to be clear and meaningful to your intended audience.  Any tags or metadata you add should help people understand your content when they find it.  The aim is to help people find your content more easily and not need extra time and effort to do this.  The sad truth is people rarely do this.

For example the title ‘Is SharePoint good or bad?‘ is clearer compared with ‘Is some Microsoft technology better or worse than average when compared with other publishing tools?’.

jargon

Avoid using jargon such as abbreviations or abridged versions of a word.  Always use the terms most people are familiar with and will recognise when they are searching for your content.

For example when I used to work in BT (a technology company) the term ‘broadband’ was also known as ‘DSL’ by technical people or ‘BT Infinity’ and other product names by Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service people.  Broadband was the common term that was recognised by everyone with other terms associated with it rather than used instead of it.

keywords

Think about the keywords you will be using which best cover the content you will publish.  Use these keywords in your content to help your search engine pick up on them (search engine optimisation – SEO).  The keywords should also be used most frequently by people to find your content.  The more frequently you use a standard term rather than variations of that term, the more likely your content will be ranked higher in the search results.

For example if instead of using the term ‘intranet’ you also used variations such as online environment, content management, accredited content, digital workplace, or inside the firewall, it will not have the same impact or findability (It will also be very confusing and possibly inaccurate too but you get the point I am making!).

So, using these tips helps people to find your content and by doing this add to its value because of the extra thought and effort you have made when publishing it.

Valuing information tip 2: can you rely on your content ?

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  In my previous posts in the series of ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you to show to people how valuable it is.

Making sure your content is up to date so people using it can rely on it is vital to showing its value to everyone. There are two main types of content: accredited and collaborative.  I will start with accredited in this post and cover collaborative in a future post.

Accredited content

Accredited content is authoritative and reliable.  People will use it with confidence, knowing it is current and relevant.  It is usually information that has a large audience.  A limited number of people can edit the information with access controlled by permissions.  Usually one person will have clear ownership.

Accredited content normally meets all of your publishing standards.  Here are some features which help show people it is of value:

  • Review date shown to reassure you the content is current and can be relied upon
  • Last updated date to show it is actively being managed too
  • Comply with your organisation’s Information Retention Policy
  • Remove content that is no longer relevant or accurate

How to show its value

When a policy is no longer needed the normal method is to remove it so people are no longer using something which is out of date and not relevant.  The best approach is to replace the content with an explanation of what has happened and a link to the most relevant content people should now use.

This shows the content was valued by the care taken to remove it, explain what has happened and help people find related information which will help them.  This also helps the related information to retain its value because of this approach.

Valuing information tip 1: Show who owns your content

In my post ‘Showing the value of your information’ I wanted to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  I asked ‘What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?’ and what pitfalls should you avoid.

I want to show you how knowing who owns your content can help people realise how valuable it can be.  When I was the BT Intranet manager there was a publishing standard which made it mandatory for all accredited content e.g. news article, company policy to show on every page who the owner was.

The smart part was to also link to the content owner’s contact details in the Directory, which were automatically updated, so you could easily choose the best way to contact the owner to seek further information or clarify anything.

If you don’t show the owner or editor of the content how can anyone feel they can rely on it.

For collaborative content e.g discussion groups, it isn’t so easy to show the owner.  However it is possible to show who owns the community and any comments should have an owner that ideally is linked to their contact details.  This allows for some communication to continue directly with the owner if more appropriate.

I don’t recommend anonymous postings to blog, micro blogging, or forums.  If you have a comment to make you should feel confident that it will be accepted in the right spirit as long as it meets the terms and conditions e.g. no abusive content.  The culture of your organisation should encourage sharing of ideas and problems and a mature debate on how to move forward with each one.

Lastly you need to have a good governance framework which covers roles and responsibilities for publishing and managing content.  A publishing standard on how you show you own content will help too.  Having a template for entering your details helps and a process for reminding when the content needs reviewing is essential.

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. :)

 

Intranet governance first – intranet launch next

I have seen many intranets over the years.  One thing that always makes me sad is when I see a new intranet launched with a great design, clear structure, interesting content……but no or poor governance.

It is sad to see all the time, effort, and money slowly being wasted away as the effects of little or no governance inevitably start to take effect with more and more problems appearing as the weeks go by.

What governance problems?  Where do they appear?  What is their impact?  Well, I’m thinking about these examples:

No owner

There is content published everywhere but no one to contact if you want to find out more or query anything that you have read.  You spend lots of wasted time trying other people and ways to find out who is the right person to speak to.

No review date

You are not sure if the information is still up to date.  It may be a policy, a news article, or a guide to help with a work activity.  You don’t know if it is the current version and no one else seems to know either so again, you waste time trying to check if it can be relied upon.

review date is out of date

Even worse than having no review date can be finding it has been passed and the information is available but could be out of date.  You waste time checking it is still reliable and wonder why it hasn’t been updated or removed.  Maybe your confidence in the integrity of other content drops and you waste more time checking or use other sources?

No last updated INFO

It helps reassure people that a site is active and give them confidence the content is reliable and up to date if a last updated date is shown at the bottom of each page of content whenever it is edited.

feedback

It saves time if you have a standard feature for feedback in the same place on every page.  It means people can easily ask questions, offer extra information, or clarify its use.  Without it, people waste time trying to look for a feedback box, link, or heading.  If there isn’t then people try to use other ways to find out what they need to know and can get dissatisfied with the intranet.

These are just some of the problems poor or no governance can cause when you launch a new intranet or site.  It is possible to have a good, strong, governance in place for your intranet launch for no extra cost or time taken.

To find out how to do this the smart way please contact me.

How to help people to find your content

One of the areas that I get asked for help with is how to make it easier for people using their intranet to find the information they need for their work.

How people are able to find your information or site is critical to how good their experience of it is.  It’s no good having this fantastic source of knowledge on your intranet if no one can find it!

If you are making a major change to your intranet or maybe a smaller improvement to it e.g. launching a new site, it is very wise to test it with some volunteers who can feedback and influence any refinements so it gives the best experience when launched.

One way to help you is to create an information architecture – a structure and menu to help people find their way around your intranet easily – to test with people who could benefit from this new information to be launched.

An online testing tool can take the guesswork out of information architecture and help you check where the right place should be as well as the most suitable headings.

I have found ‘tree testing’ – a usability technique for evaluating the findability of information – is a good way with a simple text version of your intranet structure and hierarchy.  You can also use it to test the structure of a new site to check the content and headings are shown in the best way.

A small amount of funding for online testing can save you the time and effort second guessing where people may expect to find your content.  It will also help people who need to use your information having a better experience.

Can you recommend a tool that has helped you?