Category Archives: wiki

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!

I agree the digital revolution is cultural, not technological, and….

In Gerry McGovern’s latest post he says ‘Digital transformation is cultural transformation first and foremost. Some time ago, I dealt with an organization that had just installed collaborative software. The problem was that the employees saw no benefit in collaborating. Surprise, surprise, collaboration didn’t happen. Collaboration, first and foremost, is a cultural thing, not a technological thing.’

While I agree with Gerry as far as he goes, I also believe the type of governance deployed for collaborative content can be a major barrier to people adopting these tools.  Too often the governance used for accredited content e.g. policies and news articles, that are official and factual is also tried (and fails) for collaborative content.

A more ‘light touch’ form of governance is needed to remove the barriers that prevent people wanting to share their ideas or offer suggestions that may help someone with a work problem.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  1. Posting on a blog or contributing to a discussion group should not need you to ask for permission before you start.  It should be ‘on demand’ so there is no delay between when someone needs to use a collaboration tool and being  able to.  Often the need is urgent and passes quickly so any barrier preventing its use could mean the content is lost forever.
  2. You should not need formal training before you use the collaboration tool.  A) the tool should be so easy to use it isn’t needed and B) understanding how to comply with the publishing standards such as ownership and content review dates shouldn’t be required.
  3. Usability and design shouldn’t be something you need to bother with.  The important thing is your content.  Make sure the template you use has the right functionality that people can just start using and understand easily.
  4. Adapt and embed as many of your publishing standards that are relevant to collaboration into the templates e.g. navigation menus, field for contributor to enter their personal details.

Taking this approach shows how the culture has changed from a ‘command and control’ view of governance many years ago for a limited amount of corporate content.  Now, many people can use a wide range of collaboration tools to publish their views and opinions and be comfortable with the experience and knowledge that the content is managed appropriately.

The governance adopted fits the cultural revolution and helps, not hinders, it.  Long may that continue!

Turn company jargon into a knowledge gold mine

I have worked with many clients to improve their intranets.  I find that each client has its own language and specific terms that are known by more general terms with intranet professionals.

This can be an abbreviation, acronym, or term used within parts or the whole organisation.  While it may help conversations online within an organisation it can often be a barrier to other people not familiar with these terms.

I call this jargon.  The risk is people don’t ask every time they hear company jargon and take an educated guess what it actually means.  Sometimes this is right and helps build up future understanding but many other times it will slow progress or even cause mistakes to happen.

The more jargon used, the harder it is to understand what is meant, and can lead to projects overrunning, costing more, or having a poorer outcome than expected.  Some of these costs will show through to the bottom line.

What I don’t understand is why more organisations don’t recognise this and do something about it.  Creating a corporate wiki that is open to every employee to create and edit is a quick, cheap and easy way to turn company jargon into a goldmine of knowledge.

Publishing all the jargon – acronyms, shortcuts, abbreviations – as items in a corporate wiki helps people to understand more easily and quickly what they are.  It also helps to prevent mistakes being made and time wasted through misunderstandings.

It will also be a wonderful tool for any newbies being inducted into the organisation’s approach, culture and ways or working.

Why not turn all that company jargon into a knowledge goldmine and create a wiki that can contain them for every employee to view, add or edit to?


Strengthen employee engagement while working remotely

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a relaxing break and have recharged your batteries for 2014.

I was recently asked by Simply Communicate to follow up my 2014 predictions with one for internal communications.  Here it is:

Organisations increasingly face the challenge of how to strengthen employee engagement while their workforce increasingly work from remote locations or while mobile. There is a great opportunity for internal communications to take a leading role with developing a plan that addresses these challenges with greater use of communications channels.

What is different now from previous years is the range of tools and know-how which can be used to successfully have engaged and mobile employees. The key to this will be the rich experience employees will have online as they are able to read communications when they need to, where they need to, and be able to share, feedback, rate the value of the messages with other people who share a similar interest.

An example of this could be combining collaboration tools with traditional online communication channels will help provide that rich experience so a key company announcement video, CEO blog post and detailed background information available is strengthened by a discussion forum managed by internal comms to continue the conversation with quick polls on the awareness and understanding of key messages.

It is how it is implemented and how it is managed within a wider governance framework will help decide how successful it will be. Good luck with whatever you do in 2014!

Read about more 2014 internal communication predictions from simple communicate.

Valuing information tip 3: how to manage collaborative content

In this series of posts ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you with tips and advice.  In my last post I covered  how to make sure your accredited content is up to date so people using it can rely on its value.  I now want to cover collaborative content in this post.

collaborative content

Collaborative content can be owned by everyone, an individual or community.  It can be an opinion expressed in a discussion forum or blog post.  It offers a personal view which may be right or wrong and may change frequently.  Other people can support and build on that view or challenge and change it.

Collaborative content is less stringently managed because it needs lower levels of trust.  Many of your publishing standards are optional for collaborative content e.g. no review date or security classification normally needed. However what you do need to see is the:

  • Name of contributor to a discussion thread
  • Name of blog owner
  • Name of person making a comment on blog post
  • Date (and time) when comments were made on discussion thread
  • Feedback link to raise issues with discussion forum owner e.g. report abuse

how to show its value

This is not so easy to manage!  Normally comments made in discussion threads or to blog posts on the internet are managed by the amount of continuing interest shown by the large number of people updating it.  The content remains on the internet but if fewer people use it, it won’t appear in the top search results or be prominent in discussion forums, unless you dig deep enough to find it.

When a comment in a discussion thread on your intranet is made that type of behaviour can’t be replicated.  Even the largest intranets only have a fraction of the number of users compared with the internet.  A different approach is needed which creates the dilemma I mentioned earlier.

You can remove discussion groups and blog posts if there has been no activity with them after a period of time.  An advance warning of what is planned if no one adds to the discussions can prompt it re-energising.  But if it doesn’t do this what should you do?

If the content can no longer be found then people don’t get distracted by out of date information when trying to share their views or solve a problem raised by someone else.  However it may be that nugget of wisdom is buried within a discussion thread and lost forever because it can’t be found.

A strong governance framework can help you to decide what content to keep, remove, or delete and who is responsible for making those decisions.

4 ways and 3 benefits using a wiki to develop policies

An organisation’s purpose involves how to manage how their people behave by encouraging, sometimes even mandating, how work tasks need to be carried out and by whom.  In my last post I asked ‘Why not use a wiki to develop policies?’.  How would using a wiki to develop work in practice?  Here are four ways to consider:

  1. You need to have the right culture which will encourage people to contribute and feel comfortable challenging what exists and being constructively critical.
  2. You need ground rules, or terms and conditions, or guidelines which set out clearly what the expected level of behaviour is for anyone using the wiki.
  3. Make sure the wiki is easy to create and edit as well as to read.  Anyone who has used Wikipedia will know it is a very different experience if you want to create/edit an article compared with reading it!
  4. I recommend the person responsible for the policy adds a draft – something which makes sense but its structure and content is loose enough to encourage people to edit – and asks anyone interested to contribute.  It is much easier to comment upon what exists than to start with a blank screen.

It is best to start with a policy that affects most or all people working in the organisation.  Choosing a Human Resources policy best fits that aim.  A policy on employee’s terms and conditions; holiday – how much and when it is taken; flexible working hours – shift patterns; and grading and pay rates.  All of these are policies people will have a view on what they believe is appropriate and will help build up a policy that is accepted by most other people.

Why should your organisation take such a risk?

My answer is “Why not?”  I believe there is very little to be risked if you pick your first policy to be one that has widespread interest and is not seen as being contentious.

One way to encourage stronger engagement with people within your organisation is to ask for their views and listen and act upon them.  Giving people the opportunity to shape a policy which affects them means there is a stronger chance of buy-in to the final version and the impact it has.

When organisations treat their people as adults with a chance to express a view you will generally find it is taken seriously and the outcome is very good.  This applies to blogging, micro blogging, feedback, and discussions that are moderated by the members of the group.

Here are three benefits to consider:

  1. It is probable that a better thought through policy will be developed that takes account of many more concerns and points than an expert or small project team could expect to include.
  2. It is likely to be completed in less time with less effort.  And if it doesn’t work an organisation should be honest and explain why e.g. too few comments, too negative, and pledge to learn from the experience.
  3. Less time, effort, and costs will be spent policing the policy in future if everyone has had the opportunity to influence its development.

So, go on, why not use a wiki to develop a policy in your organisation?

Who should own the Digital Workplace?

I read with interest Jane McConnell’s blog posts on governance in the digital workplace.  Jane’s Digital Workplace Trends 2012 survey showed how a strategic decision-making body can increase the chances of creating an effective digital workplace.

Now, before I go any further I have a confession to make.  I was the BT Intranet manager for nine years.  During that time I helped transform BT’s intranet into one benchmarked independently and accepted as one of the best globally.  I also was heavily involved in developing the wider digital workplace which I define as ‘work is what you do, not where you go to’ to support BT’s ambitions.

My intranet role was in Group Communications as part of a team focused on intranet, internet, web publishing, design and development.  Being in Group Communications felt naturally the best place to be to improve the intranet.  It was seen by other parts of the business as right too and our authority was accepted and not challenged for managing information online and to work directly with our IT partners on business needs.

However as more tools were used for online processes and activities – room bookings, training, performance management – so the difficulties of managing these became more apparent.  To brand these tools with a BT mark was very involved and conflicted with an ‘out of the box’ and ‘no customising’ approaches taken by IT.

Combine that with a defensive reaction to introducing wikis to share knowledge, podcasts to show and tell how to do things and most importantly blogs which made every employee potentially a communicator across the BT and you can see the landscape is changing for communicators.

I believe despite the success of the previous years where most successful intranets have been managed by communications that it is time to think differently as digital workplaces expand that role and function.

The digital workplace is more than a news channel or document store.  It can become the natural way of working so everyone is more productive and your organisation more efficient with:

  • People working from any location as well as their normal place of work
  • Everyone able to collaborate, search and complete tasks
  • Individuals choosing tools – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • IT infrastructure giving the same or similar experience
  • Physical workplaces to meet future needs and ways of working
  • Organisations measuring benefits and encouraging the digital workplace

This expands the role beyond information management traditionally championed by communicators who own the intranet.  It also needs more than one person and it needs people who represent other key functions within the organisation.

Who do you think should own the digital workplace?