Tag Archives: collaboration

What exactly is a digital workplace?

Recently several people have asked me what exactly is a digital workplace.  I start by defining the digital workplace as:

Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

While the digital workplace will vary depending on each organisation’s size, culture and structure, you will be able to all of these:

  1. Work in any location:  At home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  2. Complete tasks work online:  Make a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  3. Use any device:  Use your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone  or tablet anytime, anywhere.
  4. Share information:  Be able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  5. Solve problems: Ask for help from people you may not know in discussion forums and shared workspaces.
  6. Search:  From one place across all the places where information is and you have permission to access.

Of course, how your digital workplace is managed with a governance framework is critical to how good and integrated the experience will be.  You can find more here on how to get it right.

I will post next about the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace.

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.

How can new publishers comply with your intranet standards?

Implementing publishing standards that meet your organisation’s requirements helps create a consistently good experience for people accessing your intranet.

They are critical to you implementing a successful governance framework.  The publishing standards will support your intranet strategy, publishing model, roles and responsibilities.

All your content owners and editors need to comply with the publishing standards.  Knowing this, people will access your intranet and use it more, confident in the integrity of the content and applications and aware that you ensure publishers comply with each standard.

And that can be the weakest link in your governance framework!  How do you continue to provide that consistently good user experience with new publishers?

I am talking about publishing accredited – news articles, company policies, etc. – content, not collaborative – blogs, discussion groups, etc. – in this post.

Your governance framework must cover how you manage new content owners and editors.  This is the best way to sustain the baseline you have established for best practice.  Without it, people will inevitably see a decline when they access your intranet.  Their productivity and effectiveness risks declining and affecting their overall work performance.

There are five actions that you need to consider taking so new publishers are good publishers:

  1. Induction training on how to use the publishing tool.  This is not just about what to use it for.  It includes how to use the publishing templates.  It needs to covers features like global navigation bar, content owner, review and last updated dates.  By explaining why this is important it helps encourage best practice.
  2. Have good communications channels so new publishers can keep up to date with the latest news that affects them.  Publishers should be able to ask other publishers for help and get answers.  New publishers should feel they are fully informed about how they use the intranet.
  3. Offer clear online guidance and best practice tips on how to publish on the intranet.  Reinforce this when you contact content owners and editors e.g. email, discussion group, conference call or webinar.
  4. Invite all new publishers to join a discussion group covering publishing topics to help develop a broader understanding.  It is much easier (and cheaper) to have peer-to-peer conversations where practical tips are shared quickly with each other.
  5. Have one set of publishing templates that you manage.  Keep publishing simple and easy to encourage best practice.  One publishing process will save content owners and editors’ time.  It avoids the temptation to try alternative methods or create more templates.Book cover - Digital success or digital disasters

Find out more information on how to manage your publishing community and intranet 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 also 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!

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!

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.


It’s time for a change

I have been fortunate to work with and view many sites, intranets, digital workplaces, mobile and collaborative spaces since 1996.  Many technology features and fads aimed at helping people have a good experience have come and gone. However, throughout this time, having a clear strategy with good governance to support your intranet, has consistently been shown to help meet your organisation’s key priorities and add measurable value.

Your strategy sets the direction you need to move in with a clear scope and set of aims to be achieved, aligned with other related strategies and overall strategy for your organisation.

Your governance framework helps your strategy continue in the right direction.  It will show how you manage everything and how everyone can work together. It will cover scope, purpose, roles and responsibilities, publishing standards and support, and resources needed.

The main reason for a strategy and governance framework is the benefits to be gained from applying it well. The time and effort are the same but the impact can vary so you don’t always achieve a consistently good experience.

Measuring all the benefits and showing the value to your organisation of a critical business tool will improve your credibility and help to justify future investment.

With that in mind I have re-designed my site to focus on Strategy; Governance; and Measuring Value.

Please contact me if you want to find out more.