Tag Archives: publishing

Is your governance good enough for SharePoint?

I have written many blog posts on SharePoint based on my first-hand experience from developing strategies through to the full implementation of features such as TeamSites, MyProfile, etc.

One of the most common requests I get from clients is “How is the best way to manage their intranet while using SharePoint?”  This question is asked because SharePoint is a ‘big beast’ and needs a more rigorous and broad governance framework that is good enough for the challenge.

Your approach needs to consider:

  • Restricting use: stopping some features from being used e.g. SharePoint Designer
  • Encouraging best practice: making sure guidance and training are available
  • Preventing problems: checking content before it is published

Each of these approaches can support your governance strategy for
SharePoint.  The key is to understand what you need to use SharePoint for most of all.

My first-hand experience at BT and from working with clients is that well planned and managed governance is good enough to gain the benefits from using SharePoint.  It is how you approach this which is the critical success factor!

You can out more information on how to build good SharePoint governance to help you.

How to manage your intranet

After you have developed a clear intranet strategy as explained in my post ‘How to develop an intranet strategy‘ you then need to follow this with an implementation plan, publishing standards and a governance framework.

While every intranet is different there are some common factors that need to be considered so your intranet supports your business requirements:

  1. The size of your organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  If it is based in one location and you know everyone by their first name then it is likely you can manage your intranet on your own.  If it has many thousands of people in many locations you will need a different approach and involve other people to help you manage your intranet.
  2. The type of organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  Is it streamlined on administration, informal decision-making?  Or is it more formalised, committee driven, when making decisions on how publishing standards and intranet roles and responsibilities?
  3. The culture of your organisation will affect how you manage your intranet.  Is it a very top down, command and control, culture with feedback discouraged?  Or is it more open, democratic and consensual?  Whether it is either or a mix of both will influence your approach to managing your intranet.

My first-hand experience and from working with clients is that intranets can be managed well no matter what size, type or culture your organisation has.  It is how you approach this which is the critical success factor!

You can out more information on how to manage your intranet to help you.

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.

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!

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!

Valuing information tip 2: can you rely on your content ?

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  In my previous posts in the series of ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you to show to people how valuable it is.

Making sure your content is up to date so people using it can rely on it is vital to showing its value to everyone. There are two main types of content: accredited and collaborative.  I will start with accredited in this post and cover collaborative in a future post.

Accredited content

Accredited content is authoritative and reliable.  People will use it with confidence, knowing it is current and relevant.  It is usually information that has a large audience.  A limited number of people can edit the information with access controlled by permissions.  Usually one person will have clear ownership.

Accredited content normally meets all of your publishing standards.  Here are some features which help show people it is of value:

  • Review date shown to reassure you the content is current and can be relied upon
  • Last updated date to show it is actively being managed too
  • Comply with your organisation’s Information Retention Policy
  • Remove content that is no longer relevant or accurate

How to show its value

When a policy is no longer needed the normal method is to remove it so people are no longer using something which is out of date and not relevant.  The best approach is to replace the content with an explanation of what has happened and a link to the most relevant content people should now use.

This shows the content was valued by the care taken to remove it, explain what has happened and help people find related information which will help them.  This also helps the related information to retain its value because of this approach.

Valuing information tip 1: Show who owns your content

In my post ‘Showing the value of your information’ I wanted to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  I asked ‘What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?’ and what pitfalls should you avoid.

I want to show you how knowing who owns your content can help people realise how valuable it can be.  When I was the BT Intranet manager there was a publishing standard which made it mandatory for all accredited content e.g. news article, company policy to show on every page who the owner was.

The smart part was to also link to the content owner’s contact details in the Directory, which were automatically updated, so you could easily choose the best way to contact the owner to seek further information or clarify anything.

If you don’t show the owner or editor of the content how can anyone feel they can rely on it.

For collaborative content e.g discussion groups, it isn’t so easy to show the owner.  However it is possible to show who owns the community and any comments should have an owner that ideally is linked to their contact details.  This allows for some communication to continue directly with the owner if more appropriate.

I don’t recommend anonymous postings to blog, micro blogging, or forums.  If you have a comment to make you should feel confident that it will be accepted in the right spirit as long as it meets the terms and conditions e.g. no abusive content.  The culture of your organisation should encourage sharing of ideas and problems and a mature debate on how to move forward with each one.

Lastly you need to have a good governance framework which covers roles and responsibilities for publishing and managing content.  A publishing standard on how you show you own content will help too.  Having a template for entering your details helps and a process for reminding when the content needs reviewing is essential.

Showing the value of your information

I want to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  Information should be something that can be used to help you with your work and be useful to you.

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  What pitfalls should you avoid so people avoid your information!

It always surprises me when I see other intranets and digital workplaces how poor the management of their information is shown to people who need to use it.  Most of this is down to poor governance but there are other factors that come into play and show people the content is not valued.

There are also good examples of best practice shown with other intranets and digital workplaces which should be shared and adopted more widely.

As people use an increasing variety of ways to find and use information e.g. laptop, tables, smartphone, and the type of information grows e.g  company policy, news article, blog post or discussion thread comment they still need answers to some basic questions:

  1. Why should I use this information?
  2. How can I rely on it for my work?
  3. Who can help me further?
  4. Can it help others?
  5. Will it change in future?

In future posts I will give you tips on what to do/not to do to help you to show how valuable your information is to people who want to use it.  A lot of these will be very simple and obvious steps you should take.

Please leave me a comment with any good examples or gripes you have over problems you experience with information.  I am not the font of all knowledge on this subject and would love to help you to help others. :)

 

Intranet governance first – intranet launch next

I have seen many intranets over the years.  One thing that always makes me sad is when I see a new intranet launched with a great design, clear structure, interesting content……but no or poor governance.

It is sad to see all the time, effort, and money slowly being wasted away as the effects of little or no governance inevitably start to take effect with more and more problems appearing as the weeks go by.

What governance problems?  Where do they appear?  What is their impact?  Well, I’m thinking about these examples:

No owner

There is content published everywhere but no one to contact if you want to find out more or query anything that you have read.  You spend lots of wasted time trying other people and ways to find out who is the right person to speak to.

No review date

You are not sure if the information is still up to date.  It may be a policy, a news article, or a guide to help with a work activity.  You don’t know if it is the current version and no one else seems to know either so again, you waste time trying to check if it can be relied upon.

review date is out of date

Even worse than having no review date can be finding it has been passed and the information is available but could be out of date.  You waste time checking it is still reliable and wonder why it hasn’t been updated or removed.  Maybe your confidence in the integrity of other content drops and you waste more time checking or use other sources?

No last updated INFO

It helps reassure people that a site is active and give them confidence the content is reliable and up to date if a last updated date is shown at the bottom of each page of content whenever it is edited.

feedback

It saves time if you have a standard feature for feedback in the same place on every page.  It means people can easily ask questions, offer extra information, or clarify its use.  Without it, people waste time trying to look for a feedback box, link, or heading.  If there isn’t then people try to use other ways to find out what they need to know and can get dissatisfied with the intranet.

These are just some of the problems poor or no governance can cause when you launch a new intranet or site.  It is possible to have a good, strong, governance in place for your intranet launch for no extra cost or time taken.

To find out how to do this the smart way please contact me.

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?