Tag Archives: beta testing

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

 

Chaotic or consistent: What is your intranet experience?

I recently wrote a guest post on how you can change a chaotic intranet experience into a more consistent and better experience.  I showed how a governance framework that has roles, responsibilities, and publishing standards that are implemented smartly can encourage people to use the tools and information more frequently and deeply with consistent design, features and structure.

You can read ‘Chaotic or consistent: What is your intranet experience?’ here.

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?

7 navigation principles for mega menus

Many organisations are are planning to or already use mega menus on their intranet to help employees navigate to the information or tools they need to use.  I have been involved in developing several mega menus based on different business needs while helping with SharePoint 2010.  Some have been more successful than others at giving a great user experience……….and that’s what you are really aiming to achieve.

People need to be confident wherever they are in the intranet and with what they need to go and do next.  I believe some navigation principles help you decide if a mega menu is for your intranet.

Navigation principles for mega menus

  1. It helps people get to what they need more quickly.
  2. The headings are consistently placed in the same position on every page.
  3. The headings are specific and clearly labelled to avoid any confusion or hesitation.
  4. The content under each heading is relevant to the heading’s title and links to the right page.
  5. The content under each heading should only be the most important and popular headings – don’t try to duplicate all your intranet.
  6. The size of the each section of links under each heading should be limited and be used.
  7. Test it with a sample of people first before launching or making any major changes every time.

My view is the mega menu must help people to get quickly and easily to the most important and popular pages they need to use on the intranet.

I have experienced both static mega menus (same headings, position nd links) and moveable menus that change as they follow you around from one part of the intranet to another.  The feedback has been almost universal from people using them.  Static menus work and changeable menus cause confusion and are avoided by most people.

When people are more familiar with and use the intranet more frequently maybe you can test with people want to change to moveable headings and content depending on where they are in the intranet?

Help with intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration and SharePoint

Thinking about what is the best way to implement SharePoint 2010?

Are you looking for good examples of managing intranets?

Are you planning how to transform your digital workplace?

Maybe you want to use collaboration tools to increase employee engagement?

Now you can find helpful information on all these areas in one site.  It combines my first-hand experience managing BT’s intranet with my knowledge and help improving other intranets to show how you can improve your intranets and digital workplaces.

If I can help you further please contact me whenever you want to.

5 tips to succeed with an intranet business case

I recently discussed this subject with some intranet practitioners in Copenhagen at an IntraTeam community of practice meeting. Several people there had yet to experience the excitement of knowing a business case had been approved or the disappointment of one being rejected.

I know how both of these experiences feel from first-hand experience when I was the BT intranet manager! It was the frustration rather than the disappointment with the rejection of a business case that has stayed with me longer. Frustration because I couldn’t get the people deciding to ‘get it’ and realise how much it would improve the intranet, the experience of people using it, and the business overall that I felt so passionately about.

How to succeed

You need to ask yourself if a business case is needed at all. Maybe by using open source technology there will be no costs that need you to ask for funding? Maybe you do need to later when you have something more convincing, more persuasive even more tangible, in the benefits you can demonstrate have been achieved by what you are doing.

Tip 1: Pick your timing to give yourself the best chance.

You need sponsors, preferably senior sponsors, better still the CEO as your sponsor. The more strategic and senior the level of support gained by you in your organisation, the better your chances of success and your efforts and time to achieve it will be rewarded.

Tip 2: Build up your relationship with your stakeholders.

You need to be complete in your business case.  That means include all the costs – technology, licences, support, training, and implementation. But don’t forget all the savings – paper, accommodation, time, benefits – productivity, better decision making, risks avoided to brand, and reputation. There could also be revenue generated from extra sales because what you offer could mean more time and ability to compete than before for new business.

Tip 3: Don’t leave off something which could come back to bite you and affect your credibility with future business cases.

You need to consider the wider context for your business case. Is your organisation looking to expand or is it just trying to survive? What is your organisation’s strategy? Is your intranet strategy in line with it? Is your business case connected to your strategy (make sure it is!)? You need to align what you will achieve with the organisation’s values – teamwork, openness = collaboration tools.

Tip 4: Choose your agenda and use the language your audience will recognise.

You need to make your business case as compelling as possible.  That means showing as many savings – money not leaving the organisation – and income – extra money coming in – that can justify.  While there will be many benefits from productivity and reduced risks, it is the bottom line that will be the main focus and the hardest to achieve.

Tip 5: Focus on the savings and benefits which are most important to your organisation.

Lastly don’t forget to use every weapon in your artillery to help convince your sponsors of what your proposal will achieve. In addition to the five tips you can highlight how it fits with the organisations’ values, the downside of not approving the business case and risks being taken by that decision.

Good luck, be passionate about your business case. GO FOR IT AND WIN!

My interview about the social workplace

I posted recently that I will be a panellist at the Social Workplace conference in London, UK, on 1 November.  Ahead of the conference I was interviewed for my views on the social workplace by Jon Ingham discussing engagement and collaboration.

You can see my interview on YouTube if you are interested or just curious to see me in my digital workplace.  There is also a great interview with Sam Marshall who will be at the conference too.

It was a bit wierd talking to Jon using my webcam and not fully appreciating my facial expressions!

I hope to meet you at the conference or tweet about it on the day if you can’t make it.

Start small, build quick, keep it cheap

While I was at the Employee Portal Evolution Masters conference I was struck by the number of organisations who were interested in using social media tools but were not sure what approach to take.

To justify any investment funding you need to have a strong business case – even more so in these difficult economic times – that clearly shows the benefits to the organisation of adopting social media tools.  That justification has to have good reasons backed up by clear evidence of how it benefits the organisation.

 Here are a few points to remember and use:

Start small

Have an idea of what you need to do.  Try using personas to help identify a typical group of people with a similar need.  Find a few volunteers to test out what the tool will do.  I talked in a previous post about beta testing with people as you develop a new tool. 

Build quick

You need one friendly person in IT, a PC, maybe a small server and the software.  You need to make sure it works – no fancy design, just out of the box functionality – before you start to testing. 

Go with the flow! 

Whatever you think it needs to do let the volunteers testing it set the direction that helps them most.  They will be using it in future – not you!

Keep it cheap

It is important to avoid any unneccesary costs.  If possible try something for free.  By keeping it to a small number of people testing and just one PC or server you avoid high star-up costs.

Next steps

When you have clear evidence of benefits, more people wanting to use it, buy-in from IT, you can then build a business case showing how it will help your organisation.  You may be asked for more or better examples but it is less likely you will get a ‘NO!’ response.

Then consider what guidance, training, education and governance is needed.

Good luck!

Designing intranets: a ‘must read’

I have just finished reading ‘Designing intranets – Creating sites that work’, the latest book written by James Robertson.  For those of you who have seen James present or read his blog posts, you will know he gives a clear view to help you – whether you agree with it or not.

James is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on intranets. He has used this experience to write this book.

Whether you are new to intranets or, like me, involved as an intranet manager for years, this book will be very useful to you.

This book will cover all you need to know to be able to create intranet sites that work. And it is the ‘sites that work’ words that make this book different to others. It is more than just a pleasing design. It is what else is needed to be researched, planned and created too that will make your time and effort better spent. Even more, you want the people using your intranet to get the best out of it. This book helps you to do just that!

I have found it helps reinforce why BT’s intranet is like it is and why the things I do are important such as:

As I write this blog post ‘Designing intranets’ is by my side. Some parts of James’ book are looking well used already as I’ve thumbed through them several times for tips to help me!

Why not treat yourself? Read James’ book and help make your life easier and your intranet better by reading James’ book.

So, how good is your intranet?

I regularly ask users what they feel about BT’s intranet.  I use a variety of methods to do this.

1. Survey – I ask each year questions to compare with previous years for trends as well as new areas to focus on.

2. Beta testing – I ask for people to test out new features to make sure it meets their needs or improve further so it does before launching.

3. Feedback – every page has a feedback link for anyone to ask for more information or raise a concern.

Find out more in Intranet Ideas article ‘Conducting an Intranet Performance Review’ which has comments from me and other intranet professionals.