Tag Archives: communication

10 free guides to help you create intranet content

It is not often that I recommend on my blog information to read that I believe is helpful and easy to read.  Today is an exception (not just because I played a very small part in its creation)! :)

ClearBox Consulting with Kilobox Communiqué noticed that while on the top level of intranet sites there is good quality content, as you get into the lower levels standards start to drop.  Often people have been trained on the publishing tool but had little guidance on how to get the most from an intranet as a channel e.g. how to write headlines, how to phrase links, etc.

They have created an excellent set of 10 FREE guidelines, each 1-2 pages long, covering the following topics in plain English:

  1. Effective headlines: help people choose what to read
  2. Images: attracting interest and conveying meaning
  3. Links: how to link to pages and files
  4. Layout: how to structure articles for scanability
  5. How to help people search for, and find, your content
  6. Content: write for your audience, not for your boss
  7. Documents vs pages: when to use PDF, Word, and other formats
  8. Engage: writing to start a conversation
  9. Channels: how to reach the right audiences with your content
  10. Mobile content

I recommend you read and share these with your publishers to help improve the overall experience people have with your intranet.

Thanks Sam and Wedge!

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.

My 2014 predictions

I reviewed my predictions for 2013 and believe they are happening more as we move towards 2014.  So what has 2014 got in store for us?  Here are my five predictions:

Cloud

Organisations will more seriously consider what approach will best meet their requirements.  Factors that will need to be considered before a final decision is made are:

  • How much will it save compared with the costs of keeping it within the firewall?
  • Will you have better business resilience?  Will it remove the single point of failure problem?
  • What will be the levels of service?
  • Who do you trust with your data?
  • Will your content be secure?

Mobile

I know a lot has been said about mobile and how it is driving the transformation of intranets towards digital workplaces.  But how many employees still only use their smartphones for emails and texts?  Organisations need to get serious about realising the benefits and consider:

  • Increased productivity by people able to find information, complete tasks, share problems and knowledge when they need to without delay
  • Save accommodation costs and reduced dedicated workspace so people share as and when they need it
  • Support new ways of working with distributed teams and managers enabling and facilitating rather than controlling or limiting activity
  • Fear of the unknown is not a good business reason to stop employees using mobiles for their work
  • Bring your own device is a solvable problem when everyone wants to reach agreement over intellectual property, security and building trust and behaving sensibly

Collaboration

I am starting to see real examples of collaboration which showing through on business’ bottom line and getting the attention of senior manager.  This will bring benefits as it is taking more seriously and investment decisions are easier but the pressure to continue delivering larger savings will also increase.  Examples include:

  • Project teams sharing and creating online documentation without having to meet face to face or email each other
  • Solving problems more quickly using tools to find people with similar skills and experience
  • Sharing knowledge that helps others to solve problem and the organisation’s culture increasingly supporting this way of working

governance

Organisations are realising, especially if they are implementing SharePoint, that all the areas where content is published need to be managed.  The problems of gaps in information managed and risks it can create are being recognised more.  More robust frameworks are being developed and used.  Examples include:

  • Different types of content such as accredited e.g. policies, news articles, and collaborative e.g. comment in discussion group, blog post are being accepted
  • All the different areas for content are being joined up e.g. content management, document management, project spaces, and news.
  • A hierarchy which sets out roles and responsibilities help identify overlaps and gaps in managing information
  • Publishing standards are being applied in smarter ways taking less time and effort with digital workplace teams

Value

As intranets are transforming from their original purpose as communications tools towards digital workplaces that are critical business tools that people in that organisation increasingly need to rely on for their work, so their value is increasing and the need to measure that value.  Examples are:

  • Productivity savings are accepted in principle now even if the amount is not agreed by everyone
  • The impact on property usage and type is becoming more linked to new ways of working
  • The value an organisation places on a person’s digital assets e.g. knowledge in documents is starting to match that of any physical assets e.g. computer
  • Business resilience is critical to organisations and along with plans to use the cloud are plans to benefit from a more distributed workforce that no longer has to be in just one location

This is my last post of 2013.  I hope anyone reading this has had a great 2013, will have a relaxing break over the Christmas period, and be hoping for more success in 2014!

The digital workplace is for everyone (not just office-based workers)

In my last post ‘BT field-based workers use the digital workplace‘ I  talked about the benefits and drawbacks of people who work remotely adjusting to huge changes in the way they work.

It made me think of when I have discussed with clients or people at workshops or after presentations who had the view the digital workplace only affected people in offices or more specifically ‘knowledge workers’.  They were surprised this wasn’t the case.

So, let me say now very clearly (big drum roll please) the digital workplace is for all employees.  In fact it can extend to their customers, suppliers, and other third parties who they share a working relationship with.

A digital workplace’s prime aim is to help and support employees whether office, mobile or home-based, to be more effective.  That will mean being more productive – no delays finding what you need, completing tasks when you need, sharing knowledge online with other people – and effective so your organisation benefits too.

Examples of how other employees, not office workers, can benefit from using a digital workplace are:

  1. Retail staff using tablets to stock-take on products and order more.
  2. Retail staff at check-outs having latest news shown on equipment they also use for payment of products.
  3. Mining of minerals using vehicles and tools operated from remote locations away from the mining area.
  4. Meter readings for customers’ use of utilities e.g. gas, electricity, and water uploaded in real-time for bills to be created and issued while the person is still continuing to visit other customers.
  5. Parcel deliveries tracked using GPS by customer service to monitor and send updates to the delivery person’s mobile device.
  6. Field engineers able to use mobile devices to receive customer information before visiting and update with the outcome before moving on to their next customer.

These are just a few examples to illustrate the point I am making here.  The digital workplace affects all employees.  The level of impact will be different depending on the work but it is hard to think of work that is NOT influenced in some way by a digital workplace with news, collaboration, online tasks and processes.

What examples can you think of?

Is SharePoint ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

Many people have asked me if I think SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?  It’s a great question to ask but it is harder to give the right answer based on my experiences with SharePoint creating strategies, leading project teams, implementing  governance frameworks or just using the many features.

I have seen with each SharePoint version – 2003 to 2013 – how some new features help but other features can hinder how an organisation needs to use it….but one thing is clear, Microsoft don’t package up ‘good’ or ‘bad’ versions of SharePoint.

I believe it is how an organisation implements SharePoint that helps you feel if it is good or bad.

Here are five factors that can help you decide if SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’:

Strategy

It is important you have a strategy for your intranet or digital workplace that SharePoint can be shown will help to achieve. A strategy helps set the direction you are moving in.  It helps identify key priorities you need to achieve to help your organisation.  Timescales also help to manage expectations and show what is practical from what is aspirational.

You should not just have a SharePoint strategy.  That can lead to you delivering technology solutions that don’t meet the aims of your organisation or cover wider aspects of cultural change.  Your strategy must not be based on SharePoint: it should be wider and align with your organisation’s overall strategy and related areas e.g. IT, Comms, HR, etc. and measure the benefits.

Governance

You need to have a governance framework that underpins your strategy in the long and short term.  This means having clear roles and responsibilities, linking these together into a hierarchy with publishing standards, training and processes for new content editors.

Without a governance framework people could be unclear on the purpose of each SharePoint tool e.g. MySite, TeamSite, and how is the best and most appropriate way to use them.  Without a governance framework there can be chaos and a digital mess that can be very difficult to untangle and gain any benefit from for a long time.

Planning

Have a clear plan for why you need to use SharePoint, what you need to achieve, how you plan to achieve it, and when you need to complete each phase by.  This helps you to see what is the best approach and prioritise the way you introduce SharePoint to people in your organisation.

If you are planning to replace many existing online tools e.g content and document management systems and/or collaborative tools it is critical that you consider the impact that actions taken in an earlier phase could have knock-on effects during a later phase (which maybe 1-2 years ahead) e.g. permissions, SharePoint Designer.

Without any plan the consequences for your organisation and people’s online experience could be disastrous.  SharePoint is a very powerful tool and needs to be managed carefully!

education

You need to have a strong communication and training approach to anyone who will be touched by SharePoint whether that is your CEO, content editor or casual user or contributor.

People publishing and using SharePoint information need to appreciate that it is not all the same in its value (something I will be writing about in the future) e.g. a policy is unlikely to change frequently and be inaccurate but an opinion expressed in a discussion group may be inaccurate, incomplete, change next day.

People need to understand the differences in the information they use and behave accordingly in their judgement and actions based on how much value they place on it.

SharePoint is more than a change of technology, it can change business policies, processes and how people behave when they have a problem or want to share some helpful information.

business need

I have heard how IT have approached the business saying “we have this free tool option on top of X product that we’ve bought which we’re going to use for Y purpose”.  It’s a natural reaction to test out something for free but many organisations have found it doesn’t work out the way it is planned.

Firstly, you need to make sure you have a business problem that SharePoint is a good (note I didn’t say the best) technology solution to solve.  Sometimes I have seen the introduction of SharePoint create problems that didn’t exist before.

Make sure you involve people who will be affected by any changes you plan to make as early as possible who can also test these to see if they do help as you expect SharePoint to and feedback any issues to be acted upon before it is launched.

Your organisation needs to be clear on what the problems and their root causes are before considering whether technology, and if so, which solution e.g. SharePoint can best help resolve the problem.

summary

I hope this can help you to appreciate there are factors that influence why people feel SharePoint is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ apart from the technology itself.  It is more likely to be how you have approached and implemented SharePoint rather than the tools and features people can use that affects your view when you think about it more deeply.

Please leave a comment with your views and contact me if I can help in any way.

Why not use a wiki to develop policies?

Ever since organisations have existed there has been a need to manage how their people behave by encouraging, sometimes even mandating, how work tasks need to be carried out and by whom.

There can be various reasons for policies: business, regulatory, and legal are the most common.  The way that policies are created, updated, and developed has changed very little in my experience working in or with organisations.  There will normally be an owner, champion, or stakeholder who will have overall responsibility for creating and managing the policy throughout its life cycle.

When a policy is created or needs to be reviewed it will normally be the owner who will start some form of a consultation exercise.  This may simply be an email to a few people across the organisation who are most affected by or can influence the policy asking if there are any changes they need to be made existing policies or what needs to be included to new policies.

It may involve a more robust approach being taken:

  • maybe a focus group
  • a request to a wider audience who have an interest in the area of the policy
  • or a project team who work through the detail and check back with their business function or stakeholder for guidance on the progress being made.

The variety of approaches used by organisations when creating new policies or reviewing and updating existing policies hasn’t changed much in recent years.

But the ways that organisations can now engage their people to create or update policies are changing.  There are new approaches being used which help encourage people to be more involved in what their organisation’s purpose, aims, values, and culture – amongst many others – should be.

Adapting social media tools used successfully on the internet include:

  • people using blogs to give their views and opinions
  • feedback any questions to news articles
  • share information through discussion groups about a wide range of work related activities.

I believe a corporate wiki that any person in the organisation can use is a great way to create a new policy or to update an existing policy.  It gives the chance for any person with an interest in the policy – maybe they are affected by it and want to improve it – to give their views.

Have you tried this in your organisation?

How a digital workplace can engage people

In my last two posts on the digital workplace I talked about how you need a strategy with a governance framework to help you create a great digital workplace.  In this post I want to cover how a digital workplace can help the engagement of people working in your organisation.

Encourage

It is vital your Human Resources policies encourage and make it easier for you to work in a digital workplace.  You need a culture where the values include sharing of knowledge, openness, and trust.

You need policies that help encourage you achieve your own, your team and overall business goals.  You need to show how the digital workplace helps engage everyone more to the business.  This can include:

  • Allowing access to social network tools like Facebook and Twitter.  Common sense policies balance the risks with the rewards of engaging and sharing knowledge and help with people in your organisation and with other organisations with a similar interest or problem.
  • Having a new ideas scheme to encourage your suggestions to improve your business and recognising and rewarding you for successful ideas.
  • Building a more informal, less hierarchical structure, and management style so you feel you can approach any person (no matter what their seniority or role is) to ask for help or offer helpful information and advice.
  • Encouraging feedback.  You should feel confident you can raise contentious but relevant issues and get a helpful response that takes your views seriously.
  • Treating you as a responsible adult and trusting you will behave online accordingly,

Recognise and reward

What’s in it for me?  That’s a typical response to any policy decision made especially when it is an HR policy affects you.  You need to see how digital working benefits you.  This can be achieved by:

  • Recognising positively your move to a digital workplace e.g. making sure team meetings become team calls with you staying at home
  • Incentivising your knowledge sharing using digital workplace tools e.g gamification, measuring your activity with blogs, wikis, discussion group comments
  • Performance framework rewarding your output not your time spent working in a physical or digital workplace e.g quality of work not just quantity
  • Having simple guidelines saying what you can say (nothing slanderous, etc) and encourage the right behaviours through a common sense approach e.g. gentle reminders not formal disciplinary action.

Working styles

You should be encouraged to work in a digital workplace.  This can include:

  • Paying for your equipment (desk, chair, etc.) and your phone/broadband service from home.
  • Making sure you have a laptop and/or tablet and/or smartphone so you can connect to your digital workplace when you need to.
  • Training managers to manage employees remotely.  Just because you are out of sight doesn’t mean you are not working effectively!  A facilitating rather than directing management style helps.
  • Flexible working hours to fit a sustainable work/life balance e.g. not 09:00 – 17:00 but maybe split to fit yours and your organisation’s needs.
  • Having confidence your personal information is secure and always available whenever you need it with the right permissions.

Please contact me if you need my help or leave a comment on this post.  My next post will cover how your digital workplace can make you more productive in your organisation.

My 2013 ‘fabulous five’ predictions

Several people have asked me what my predictions are for 2013 for intranets and digital workplaces.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to give my view from more of a practitioner’s perspective than maybe others have done.  So as that legend in his own lunchtime, Tony Blackburn on Pick of the Pops  (c’mon you’re not that young to not know him in the UK at least! :) ) says “Ok pop pickers, here is the fabulous five!”.

1. Not just a flexi fortnight

In 2012 we had the fantastic experience of the London Olympics and Paralympics.  Many blue chip and dyed in the wool organisations with office workers in London had a big shock and had to wrench their employment practices quickly into the 21st century by letting people work away from the office at home or other more local places.  People were trusted to work as normal for each of these games events.  Amazingly it all went smoothly with many organisations realising here was a quick way of helping to save costs with pressure on their business performance.

I predict many ‘flexi fortnight’ organisations will invest heavily in making the digital workplace permanent in 2013 and help change many people’s work/life balance for the better as well as improve overall business performance.  They will need help though!

2. SharePoint will be ‘good enough’

SharePoint 2010 and increasingly 2013 will continue to be the major technology deployed by large organisations transforming their intranets into digital workplaces.  Why?  Well, there are not many alternatives to choose from now or likely during 2013.  Organisations may not choose it for the right reasons ‘herding sheep’ is sometime the image that comes to my mind.  Where the real challenge will be is the perennial areas of strategy and governance.

I predict many organisations will need help unpicking poor decisions taken without the full knowledge of what SharePoint is capable of.  We know that it can be capable of many good things if in the right hands – then again the opposite happens too.

3. ‘Social media’ a threat to internal comms?

And the problem is partly the term ‘social media’ which is misleading in my humble opinion.  I always use terms which are more practical and relevant when talking with clients.  The same should apply for intranet/digital workplace practitioners when talking to their internal partners and customers.  So we’re helping people to find other people with similar interests to help solve a problem quicker, easier and maybe cheaper rather than ‘knowledge management’ and improving communications by people showing how much they value it by sharing, liking, rating, and commenting on it rather introducing ‘Facebook’ or ‘social media’.

I predict internal communications will ‘get it’ and see this as a big opportunity to gain better employee engagement.  Use the right terms and examples to get a better understanding of what it’s all about.

4. Security and compliance taken more seriously

We have seen several high-profile examples of organisations with previously strong reputations and brands suffer severe setbacks because of insecure processes and training and not complying with regulations and legal requirements.  It really is time that organisations looked at ALL the legal and regulation requirements as a joined up picture for what is needed in a digital workplace.  There has always been a risk that sensitive information can be mislaid since the written word many centuries ago so it’s not a new problem.

I predict organisations will ensure their digital workplace governance and processes are robust using software and education to make sure the right behaviour is encouraged to minimise risks of sensitive and commercial information being found by the ‘wrong’ people.

5. Intranet practitioners become INTRANET or DIGITAL WORKPLACE PRACTITIONERS

Yes, it’s my shorthand method of saying the profile for practitioners will grow in 2013.  I do believe as intranets transform into digital workplaces, organisations are realising the value they give them.  I also believe your profile will increase as you engage with more senior managers over wider areas that are relevant to a digital workplace than just to intranets.  I sincerely hope the value you provide in your role will be recognised and rewarded.

I predict 2013 is the year when many intranet practitioners will find by the end of it their career on a much stronger path with many people showing more interested in wanting to be part of this journey and more willing to help you.

Whatever happens in 2013 I hope you achieve your ambitions!

Who should not own the Digital Workplace?

In my last post I asked ‘Who should own the Digital Workplace?’.  From my experience one function that I feel should not own the digital workplace is Internal Communications.

Communicators’ first priority is to communicate.  Their first reaction to collaboration between employees using blogs is to increase the frequency of communications and their prominence on the intranet.

But digital workplaces are used by employees primarily to do things or find information or people, not to read communications.  They still do read communications but it is not their main purpose or first priority.

This is a dilemma that communications will need to resolve as they find a new role that continues to add value to the organisation that is more strategic.  It is NOT a good approach to seek to own the digital workplace from the view of communications being its main purpose.  It isn’t.

While communications still has a key role, increasingly it is human resources, knowledge management and business functions that are largely affected by or have a high influence on how the digital workplace is created that are increasingly involved.

A group of senior representatives who are stakeholders in the digital workplace should form something like a digital board, responsible for strategy, high-level decisions, and priorities for collaboration, communications, tools, and mobile use.

This group should have cross-organisational recognition and support that needs to be seen to be acting in their interests.  A clear strategy and prioritised action plan for the short term with owners and timescales will achieve that.

But there still needs to be a leader of the digital board whose authority is accepted.  The obvious choice would be the CEO of the organisation.  However the reality is the CEO probably won’t have enough time to focus on leading the digital board.

The next best solution is for the CEO to nominate someone or, if not possible, for there to be a senior person who is naturally seen as the ideal candidate by other digital board representatives.  The main criteria are someone whose finger is on the pulse of the organisation, is involved and aware of the key decisions being taken, and has the respect of everyone involved.

It is essential to have the right people in place who own the digital workplace strategy and future direction it will take that will benefit both the organisation and everyone working in it.

Am I unfair in my views on internal communications?

Who do you believe are the best people and functions to own the digital workplace?

8 ways SharePoint 2010 can help internal communications

I have covered in previous posts how internal communications can improve with collaboration tools.  I also believe SharePoint 2010 can help organisations’ intranets if applied well.  This post covers 8 ways that SP 2010 can help internal communications.

I’m not saying that SP 2010 is the only way to improve internal comms or intranets generally.  There are other technologies that can do this as well or better.  It is how you use the technology that is critical to it being a success.

These 8 ways can help SharePoint 2010 make a difference to internal communications by offering more agile and tailored solutions to meet the organisation’s needs:

  1. Polls: you can use polls to ask for feedback on a subject with a menu of answers for people to choose from.
  2. News: you can tailor a section of a page to show as many stories as you want.  You can give people the choice to see extra news and mandate how many news stories they must see and how many are optional.
  3. News stories: people can read these and show how they feel by using the SP 2010 features to like and rate the stories.
  4. Share news stories: people can also share a story with people who will be interested.  This is usually by email like with internet sites.
  5. Tag news stories: people can also tag a story with words or phrases that group it with other information or news they can find easily in future.  Tags can also be shared with other people and their tags can create a folksonomy.
  6. Discussion forums: people are able to extend their feedback on the news story by discussing it further with other people.  Internal communicators can also join the discussion and help explain any points that are unclear to people.
  7. Blogs: people (including internal communicators) can give a personal view on a news story.  Again it extends the original message if someone feels strongly about or offers an opinion to challenge another view.  This can help tease out small issues that can be quickly resolved before they can become major issues later that are more complex and harder to sort out.
  8. Podcasts: internal communicators can show and tell how to do something to help illustrate a message better than using words.  This is different from high quality corporate videos.  The quality may be lower but much cheaper and normally accepted by people.  It is the informal, personal, style that can make a positive difference to people’s perceptions.

The real benefits with SharePoint 2010 are when you use it on a major scale.  If you create the content to be communicated once, then be able to re-use it across many channels, you can focus on quality of the message.  You can communicate it as a news article, mobile text, video/podcast, etc. and get feedback from discussion forums, polls, rating, comments, shares and likes to it.

Have you found any of these have helped you?