Category Archives: user testing

Right requirements + right approach = right technology

It can be daunting when faced with the chance to improve your intranet or digital workplace by updating or replacing the technology you use.

I had mixed feelings when I was an intranet manager: good that I could make a difference; bad when thinking how I need to make the right decision!

Here are some steps I recommend you take to make sure you have a good outcome.

business requirements

Make sure you have a complete a set of business requirements.  The better informed you are on what your organisation will require, the more likely you are to meet their needs.

Check with stakeholders what they need.  What are their biggest pain points?  What works well and they want more of?

Present the business requirements in a way that helps everyone to understand what is needed.  This helps avoid misunderstandings and delays.


You now have the business requirements.  From these you need to build your business case.  This needs to show what the improvements will be.  More importantly, you need to demonstrate the benefits – how much and how quickly – to be gained.

How much money is available?  Is there a time limit for when the money has to be spent?  Who needs to approve your business case?

You need to gain approval and understand what the conditions are that you need to achieve.

Working with it

You have the budget and the business requirements now.  The next stage is to work with your IT partners to find the best technical solution. It is usual for your priorities to differ from IT.

You may want the best technical solution; IT want a solution that fits with their technical skills and experience.  You may want to stagger the changes so people can accept the changes gradually; IT may want a ‘big bang’ approach because they need to reduce their costs supporting existing technologies quickly.

Proper engagement, clear understanding, agreed priorities and roles and responsibilities help to avoid different approaches becoming huge barriers that prevent progress being made.

Only when you have reached this stage can you use the budget and requirements to assess the possible technical solutions that could help.


You now have agreed which technical solutions you need to investigate further.  This leads to the next stage of testing.  You need to be shown how each solution can meet your business requirements.  The best way is to test it on your own digital environment.

Agree with the provider of the technical solution what you require and for how long.  Develop your business requirements into user stories or journeys that replicate typical examples of how people use your intranet.

Have criteria to show the results and understand the differences between each new technical solution.  If you are only testing one then compare it with your existing technology you use.


You now have assessed the technical solution(s) by testing the business requirements.  You have a winner that demonstrates it can improve how people use the intranet or digital workplace.

But can you afford it?  The costs may restrict your choice.  Maybe the second best solution is far more affordable and best for your organisation?  Decide on the solution that will gain you the most benefits.

Next agree how it will be implemented.  What is the top priority?  Understand timescales.

Most importantly, have a governance framework and information architecture that supports your strategy before you start implementing your new technical solution.  Without these success will be more difficult to achieve!

more information

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is available.

Do your intranet and internal comms approaches clash?

Whatever the strategy for your intranet is, it needs to align with your organisation’s overall strategy.  It must clearly show how it supports and will help your organisation to deliver its strategic priorities.

You should also consider how it aligns with other strategies that support different business areas and functions.  It is important to know the direction they are taking and if they support or conflict with your intranet strategy.  One of the most common business functions relevant to your strategy and plans will be Internal Communications.

In some cases, the intranet strategy is part of the internal communications strategy. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, your intranet is more than a communications tool.  It has a much wider strategic role that includes operational information, business processes and tools to share knowledge.

There is normally agreement and minimal conflict between each strategy.  However, there are two areas with the highest risk of conflict between the approaches for the Intranet and Internal Comms.


Sometimes Internal Comms’ focus on news to the virtual exclusion of any other information.  There are probably several places on the intranet where people read the news: corporate homepage, each business area and function site, senior leader’s pages, etc., as well as news feeds or discussion groups.

But they don’t want to find the same news article or angle on that news wherever and whenever they go to these sites.  When people reach a saturation point they will be turned off by the amount of news that is the same.  People feel bombarded by news and will switch off rather than feel engaged and interested.

I have not found one survey that showed reading the news as the most effective use of an intranet in helping people with their work.

You need to find the right balance so people see the right amount of news in the right places at the right times.  Less is more.  Make sure the news is only in specific places and relevant to each audience.


The other area of concern is the amount of space news takes up on your corporate intranet portal or Homepage compared with business tools, operational information and ways to share ideas and problems.  Too often I find a mismatch.

The majority of people emphasise how important business tools, information and sharing are but the majority of space is taken up with news, particularly images.  While not directly a strategic or governance issue, it does contribute to the overall user experience if the Homepage does not meet people’s needs.

Ultimately, this can affect people’s overall effectiveness and productivity.  That risks a conflict with Internal Comms narrower approach to the intranet as a good communications tool rather than it being a great business tool as well.

Get the balance right so you provide what people need.  Test out with people who use the Homepage to find out what helps them with their work, then provide it.  That will probably be less news than exists but will likely mean the remaining news will be viewed more because it matches people’s needs.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information on how to avoid this conflict sinister underwebs from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is available.

I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!

Is your digital workplace experience good or bad?

Intranets are now at a jumping off point to become digital workplaces. In 2015 organisations are no longer just talking about ‘digital’.  People are increasingly using different methods to connect whenever they need to.  When they connect it is to find information, use apps, share some news or ask for help with a work problem.

In my last post I recommended you have clear business requirements, the right direction set with a strategy, support from your stakeholders, and measures agreed that can demonstrate the benefits of your approach.

You also need people to have a consistently good experience every time, with every device, from every place to successfully transform your intranet into a wider digital workplaceWhat can you do make this happen?  I recommend you consider the following:

Within a governance framework you need to implement publishing standards for everything people use across your digital workplace.  People need to be familiar with what they access, no matter what device they use.  This saves time with people not stalling while they check everything before they start using it.

This is easier said than done though!  Firstly, you need to identify your business requirements for your publishing standards.  Once this has been done, you can then develop what publishers need to do to implement each standard.

The difficult bit is getting your publishing standards applied to all your content and apps, whatever device someone is using to access them.  But you have to do this to be consistent.  Without achieving this, people may doubt what they are using because it may look different and the experience vary too much.  For example:

  1. Ownership: Every piece of content and app has an owner who can be contacted for further information.  Think about how you need to show this for each device people may use.
  2. Timeliness: Every piece of content has a review date that gives people confidence they can rely on it being accurate and current.  Again, think about how this can appear for every device.
  3. Findability: Every piece of content and app, in whatever format is needed for each device, is indexed by your search engine so it can be found quickly.  Making sure it is properly tagged by your publishers will also help people find what they need more easily.
  4. Usability: Every piece of content and app should consider mobile users first.  That can be a big change of focus.  More and more, people will use a smartphone or tablet to access what they need.  Test your content and apps with these devices to get the user experience right.
  5. Navigation: Every piece of content and app needs to be linked together so you can quickly move from one to the other.  Menus need to work with every type of device and will need testing before implementation.  You don’t want oasis of content that are disconnected from each other by a digital desert.

You will need to include in your governance framework how you can achieve this.  Publishers will need to be trained on how to use the publishing tools obviously.  For collaboration tools that really should be by following simple guidance because they are very easy to use.

However it must also cover what your publishing standards are, why they need to be implemented and most importantly, how that will be achieved.  You need this for a common platform of knowledge and understanding across your publishing community.

Follow up the training for your publishers by educating them with simple processes to publish content, develop apps, etc., and support their publishing needs with guidance, Frequently Asked Questions, discussion groups.

Taking this approach will help give people a consistently good experience every time, with every device, from every place to successfully transform your intranet into a wider digital workplace.


Why is the Scottish referendum similar to intranet governance?

Last week the people of Scotland took part in an historic vote to decide on the level of democratic governance they felt best met their requirements.  Did they want to have a full devolved level of governance where they made all their own decisions?  Or did they want to have a framework balancing the right level of central direction or strategic governance while meeting local requirements?

I thought it sounded familiar and I realised how our intranets have a similar approach.  If your intranet is out of touch with what your organisation, users, and publishers need to help them then you haven’t got the balance of governance right.

So, what are the lessons we can draw from this to help how we manage our intranets – whether they are based in Scotland or global?

  1. Keep in touch with everyone involved in how your intranet is managed and used.
  2. Find out what they require and plan how to meet their needs.  No last minute pledges that are not fully thought through!
  3. Have a framework with roles, responsibilities for all levels that can be flexible to meet new priorities.
  4. Make sure your approach to governance is in tune with the culture of your organisation and mood of people using your intranet.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask people what their view is and hold the equivalent to a referendum to find out.

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!


  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


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. :)