Category Archives: Uncategorized

Oracle, can you improve your poor usability please?

I’m still concerned with the poor usability of Oracle’s applications that BT uses e.g. Oracle Universal Content Management and eBusiness Suite.  I am working with Janus Boye to highlight the benefits of good usability with software vendors and reduce costs to organisations through lost productivity.

Would you like to help us to improve usability standards and the poor usability of Oracle’s applications?

I’ve posted about this before.  I highlighted the poor usability of applications; why basic usability isn’t built in from the start; how you can improve applications; improving application usability and why Oracle use terms users don’t understand.

BT has a strategic relationship with Oracle to rationalise its technology so reducing costs and standardising on the applications we need to use for our work.  Oracle’s relationship with BT takes into account our technical and security needs but doesn’t focus enough on the user experience with their applications.

Poor usability = loss of productivity.  It only takes an extra few minutes each time someone uses an application to be multiplied by the number of people (BT has over 100,000 people) to quickly become a large unnecessary cost.  And then there are the extra costs of helpdesks, training and guides.

I really want Oracle to set the benchmark on great usability to give them a competitive edge and encourage BT to want to use even more of their applications but no one at Oracle seems that interested.

I have tried to involve the Intranet Benchmarking Forum but they are not interested sadly.

My next blog will cover the usability standards BT has developed when we buy and develop IT services that need to be complied with.

Who uses Atlassian Confluence?

Another month, another tool to test for publishing formal content it seems!

You may recall I posted about using WordPress last month.  Well the proof of concept was a success.  WordPress is a very, very easy tool to use.

However BT has other tools already in a similar space such as Atlassian Confluence which has technical and security advantages for BT.

So, BT is now testing Confluence as a publishing tool for micro intranet sites in August in line with BT’s intranet plans to replace our existing publishing tools.

BT already uses Confluence for collaborative content.  The aim would be to publish different types of content on the same platform and make them distinctive to users and apply the appropriate standards to each type.

If we can succeed with this we really will have a winner!

Have you used Confluence for this type of publishing?  Do you know anyone who has please?

I would love to hear about what your experience has been so far.

Training publishers to understand intranet standards

When I posted last week that ‘all intranet content is not the same’ I promised to post about how BT educates its intranet publishing community to have a common awareness and understanding of the importance of our publishing standards.

All publishers of formal content in BT must do the basic training courses before they can publish formal content on our intranet.  Each course takes about 30 minutes to complete on-line and should be repeated every two years.

These courses cover our publishing standards such as accessibility, usability, information management, etc.  You need to pass each course – just doing them isn’t enough – with an 80% pass mark.

Publishers who do not use a content management system, plus service owners and template designers, also have to do the advanced training courses.  These cover how standards need to be embedded in their site design.

Content management system publishers use templates which have these features built into them before use such as global navigation bar and meet AA accessibility standards.

All publishers of formal content need to do a one-off training course for the content management system you are using (e.g. Obtree, Teamsite).

Your views are important!

I have just finished completed Jane McConnell’s annual intranet survey.  This will give me and anyone else globally with an interest in intranets an invaluable insight in to what is happening with other intranets.

I know how important it is to get as wide and balanced a view with my own surveys of BT Intranet usersThe feedback – both positive and critical – helps shape my thoughts and plans for the future.

If you want to take part but haven’t registered for an invite from Jane yet, please contact her.  You have until the end of August to complete the survey which will take you about 1 hour to complete.

Go on!  You know you want to………… :-)

All intranet content is not the same

I have realised that I’ve blogged about BT’s intranet strategy; our blogs and wikis; publishing tools and our 2009/10 action plan.  But so far I have not covered the different types of content that people publish and use on our intranet in much detail.

Content on the BT Intranet is divided into four different types, to enable information to be managed appropriately and allow users to separate fact from comment.  A fifth category covers services, which are online processes where people do tasks to fulfil their roles.

The categories are:


Formal content is authoritative, reliable & up to date.  People will able to use it with confidence, knowing it is current and relevant.  It is usually information that has a large audience, probably line of business or BT-wide.  

A limited number of people can edit the information, with access controlled by permissions.  People have to undergo mandatory training and need to ask permission to publish.  Usually one person will have clear ownership.

Formal content will usually be found on a web site that is managed via the content management system.  All of the publishing standards are mandatory for formal content.


A group of people will usually own team content, with shared responsibility for editing and ownership.  It can be permission driven, with editors clearly identified, or it can be open for anyone to edit, and possibly require a managed environment.  Team content will usually be for a defined audience, which in some cases could still be all of BT.

Team content will usually be found on one of the collaboration platforms, such as SharePoint.  Most of the online publishing standards are mandatory for team content.


Many of the publishing standards are optional for personal content and will be managed by the publishing platforms.  People do not have to undergo mandatory training and do not need to ask permission to publish.

Crowd-sourced content is community owned information, with an open environment for anyone to edit and contribute.  The management of the information is less stringent because low levels of trust are required.

Many of the publishing standards are optional for crowd content and will be managed by the publishing platforms, such as BTpedia.  People do not have to undergo mandatory training and do not need to ask permission to publish.


Personal content will usually be opinion based content, owned by an individual, who will be the only editor.  It will have very light governance but will be open to a wide audience who can comment on the content.  Personal content will be on platforms such as Blog Central.

I’ll post about the training our publishers need to do for some types of content next.

Really Simple Publishing – that’s what we need!

I am a great user of RSSReally Simple Syndication – and you can use it to know when I have updated my blog with a post or comment if you wish to.

I believe we need the same for any web publishing  – RSP: Really Simple Publishing – so publishing content is as simple as sending an email.


Well it removes many barriers that prevent the right people from being able to publish.  It will also reduce the total cost to your organisation of web publishing while gaining all of the benefits.

RSP would save BT the:

  • cost of training of people who need to publish
  • cost of technical support as people won’t need help
  • reduced time to make changes and make them live much quicker
  • delays while changes are emailed to someone skilled and trained in using a more complex publishing tool
  • reasons why the owner of the content couldn’t publish it too.

That’s why BT is testing out publishing tools like WordPress to achieve the full value of our intranet and meet BT’s intranet strategy and plan.

All those in favour, reply and say ‘Yes!’.

Who uses WordPress?

I met with Janus Boye last week and discussed a range of intranet topics including BT’s plans to replace our existing publishing tools.

BT already uses WordPress as a blogging platform very well.  It is very easy to use and gives a great experience to bloggers, contributors and viewers.

BT is now testing WordPress as a publishing tool for micro intranet sites.

Have you used WordPress for this type of publishing?  Do you know anyone who has please?

I would love to hear about what your experience has been so far.

Thanks! :-)

How to get and use a successful intranet podcast

In my last post about the right collaborative tools I said I would talk about how BT has been successful using podcasts.  How did we achieve this?

Why use podcasts?

BT needed a cheap and easy way for people to explain by ‘show and tell’ with other people how to do something.  They say a picture paints a thousand words and demonstrating how to do something in a few minutes is much better than screens and screens of guidance and tips.

What did you use?

BT beta tested an open source solution with a few users who were keen to share content this way and helped them with their work.  Others wanted to find out how to do things using this approach rather than reading words or phone calls.  Building on the experiences of podcast producers and consumers we have developed it into what we call Podcast Central.

Podcast Central has grown in a year to over 300 podcasts.  In May alone we had over 22,000 page views and over 8,500 downloads. 

We have wider needs such as online training courses becoming shorter podcasts with a more friendly, informal, approach.  We are reviewing what to use in future so any suggestions you can share will be great.

How does Podcast Central work?

I have attached some slides on how we use Podcast Central.  They take you from the BT Homepage, our corporate intranet portal, to Podcast Central.  You can find out how we publish a podcast, how we view a podcast,  feedback comments and ask for a transcript. 

It is based on the You Tube approach of keeping it simple and easy and not trying too many ‘nice’ features that can over-complicate the user experience.

Using the right collaborative tools

On 9 June I’ll have the pleasure of taking part in a discussion group at KCUK 2009 with David Ott, Manager, Information Worker Applications, World Health Organization and Ben Gardner, Client Engagement Manager, Research Informatics, Pfizer.

We’ll be identifying the business purpose of using the right collaborative tools.  If you are not going to the conference but have some ideas to share with me on this I would love to hear from you.

We’re covering:

Comparing the business benefits of blogs and wikis over other web-based publishing models

Encouraging employees to share and communicate their business knowledge

Demonstrating the benefits of podcasts and RSS feeds to communicate your corporate message and employee insight

My view is covered in my previous posts on how to start intranet wikis and blogs and the more advanced steps.  You need to consider your organisation’s culture, strategy and needs to collaborate online.  Then you need to start small, test early and build or fail quickly.  It is important your users know the difference between opinions which can change and authoritative facts that won’t when using this knowledge for their business needs.

I’ll post in next few days about how BT has successfully used podcasts and RSS but let me have your views in the meantime. :-)

5 simple steps to a good intranet wiki/blog

While talking to people after presenting ‘Adding value to your intranet – Intranet governance at BT‘ at Intranätdagarna 2009 in Stockholm last week it made me realise some simple steps could help an intranet blog or wiki be successful or not.

So, using BT’s experience, here goes:

Your sponsor

You need someone in an influential position in your organisation who will champion this. You need to be clear what their expectation is.  Is it the same or similar to your own?  You need to be clear what a wiki or blog will achieve…… and the timescales for achieving it too!

Your culture

If your organisation isn’t very trusting of communications; it doesn’t share information; unwilling to respond to any feedback that is critical but constructive then you will find it very difficult to introduce wikis or blogs.  You need an organisation willing to collaborate; responds to ideas and feedback from anyone; encourages honest communications to have a successful launch.

Your technology

You need to agree with your IT partners on the technology to use.  It should be free or very cheap.  Open source applications are ideal.  Without IT accepting and even better, agreeing, with what you plan to do it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to do.  If you haven’t got a good working relationship already with IT, now is the time to start!

Your plan

Start small with your wiki or blog.  Just have one template for users to contribute.  Invite people who you know have a need or interest from different parts of your organisation to test it out.  See what the feedback is for the future direction you need to take.  Don’t spend lots of time, effort and MONEY testing.  If you are it isn’t going right!  There’s more on beta testing in another of my posts.


If the beta testing is successful and the objectives are being  met you then have the justification to develop it further for wider use.  If you need to apply for funding you have evidence to support from request.  Again, keep the next stage small to start with, publicise with users who will benefit or be interested and WILL contribute.  Sit back and watch it grow but……….make sure you respond to any feedback from users so that continues.

I’ll blog soon about more advanced steps BT needed to take to continue the success!