Tag Archives: beta testing

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.

BT Homepage: agreed by users

After testing with users on the changes to BT Homepage I have been able to launch it with the changes to some sections of the top page and site.

While some users when asked for their views wondered what all the fuss was about for the small changes proposed, most appreciated being given the chance to give their views and liked the changes.

I have greater confidence that I’ve made changes which users want and need to give them an even easier way to find what they need for their work.

A lesson I have learned is to try to make changes small rather than keep them back until a major change is needed.  It avoids users being disorientated with all the changes.  Of course keeping the number of times changes are needed to a minimum helps too.

Testing with users involves them more and suggestions made will help me make further small changes in 2010.

Here is the final version in normal colours and in Team BT/2012 Challenge colours when quarterly updates publicising progress and how people get involved are made.