Tag Archives: research

Right requirements + right approach = right technology

It can be daunting when faced with the chance to improve your intranet or digital workplace by updating or replacing the technology you use.

I had mixed feelings when I was an intranet manager: good that I could make a difference; bad when thinking how I need to make the right decision!

Here are some steps I recommend you take to make sure you have a good outcome.

business requirements

Make sure you have a complete a set of business requirements.  The better informed you are on what your organisation will require, the more likely you are to meet their needs.

Check with stakeholders what they need.  What are their biggest pain points?  What works well and they want more of?

Present the business requirements in a way that helps everyone to understand what is needed.  This helps avoid misunderstandings and delays.


You now have the business requirements.  From these you need to build your business case.  This needs to show what the improvements will be.  More importantly, you need to demonstrate the benefits – how much and how quickly – to be gained.

How much money is available?  Is there a time limit for when the money has to be spent?  Who needs to approve your business case?

You need to gain approval and understand what the conditions are that you need to achieve.

Working with it

You have the budget and the business requirements now.  The next stage is to work with your IT partners to find the best technical solution. It is usual for your priorities to differ from IT.

You may want the best technical solution; IT want a solution that fits with their technical skills and experience.  You may want to stagger the changes so people can accept the changes gradually; IT may want a ‘big bang’ approach because they need to reduce their costs supporting existing technologies quickly.

Proper engagement, clear understanding, agreed priorities and roles and responsibilities help to avoid different approaches becoming huge barriers that prevent progress being made.

Only when you have reached this stage can you use the budget and requirements to assess the possible technical solutions that could help.


You now have agreed which technical solutions you need to investigate further.  This leads to the next stage of testing.  You need to be shown how each solution can meet your business requirements.  The best way is to test it on your own digital environment.

Agree with the provider of the technical solution what you require and for how long.  Develop your business requirements into user stories or journeys that replicate typical examples of how people use your intranet.

Have criteria to show the results and understand the differences between each new technical solution.  If you are only testing one then compare it with your existing technology you use.


You now have assessed the technical solution(s) by testing the business requirements.  You have a winner that demonstrates it can improve how people use the intranet or digital workplace.

But can you afford it?  The costs may restrict your choice.  Maybe the second best solution is far more affordable and best for your organisation?  Decide on the solution that will gain you the most benefits.

Next agree how it will be implemented.  What is the top priority?  Understand timescales.

Most importantly, have a governance framework and information architecture that supports your strategy before you start implementing your new technical solution.  Without these success will be more difficult to achieve!

more information

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information 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.

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.

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!

Digital Workplace Survey closes in 10 days

There are a lot of comments, opinion, discussions about the Digital Workplace but very few pieces of hard evidence that demonstrate what it means to you and your organisation.  There is even less evidence that is free AND reliable that you can find too!

But there is one way to have this for free by completing the Digital Workplace Survey.

The Digital Workplace Survey is in it’s 8th year and provides insight into short and long term trends in the digital workplace. This is useful, not just for staying in touch with trends and planning minor enhancements in your own workplace, but also in strategising the future roadmap and major updates. It’s a great tool to share with senior management as it shows what other organisations are doing in the space via survey results, expert commentary and case studies.

Participating organisations receive a free copy of the report and a customized Digital Workplace Scorecard which can be used to compare against similar organisations.

There are only 10 days to go before it closes on 21 November so don’t delay participating!

The Digital Workplace Trends 2014 survey is now open!

The 8th annual survey – Digital Workplace Trends 2014 – is now open.  It will close mid-October.  You are invited to participate in the survey and in return you will receive:
  • A free copy of the “Digital Workplace Trends 2014” report on 31 January 2014. (This report is commercialized at US$ 530 for non participants.)
  •  A customized Digital Workplace Scorecard. The scorecard is calculated based on responses to a selection of questions in the survey. It gives a sense of where the organization is at compared to other similar organizations. (Available in the first part of February.)
The survey will take you from 45 to 60 minutes to complete.  You can exit the online survey platform at any time, and return later to where you left off.  Just sign up to get started.
Themes covered this year:
  • What makes up the digital workplace
  • Impact on the physical workplace
  • Social collaboration
  • Enterprise social networking
  • Video and e-learning
  • Information discovery
  • Mobile
  • Business impact of the digital workplace on the organization
  • Leadership involvement
  • Strategy, governance and decision-making
  • Change and challenges
  • Preparation for the future workplace

Vendors, agencies and consultants can also be involved and get a free copy of the final report by bringing their clients to the survey.

The DW 2014 Quick Reference Guide can be downloaded and  there is a frequently asked questions page with a lot of information about how the survey works.

Information about the survey’s purpose and past survey participation is available.
Please get in touch with Jane McConnell if you have any questions or comments.

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?

A great mobile experience needs….

In my previous post in this series on mobile ‘Good governance signals right mobile direction’ I said mobile is one of the key drivers for the transformation of intranets into digital workplaces which could become mobile workplaces but progress is patchy.  It is no surprise if I say setting the right direction for your organisation with mobile is critical.  Having some good governance principles helps you to continue in the right way and underpin your strategy.

We also need to give people a great mobile experience.  But what exactly does that mean?  Here are my thoughts on what is needed to achieve this in my last post in this series.

Mobile audience

Firstly, you need to make sure the people who will benefit the most are able to use a mobile device.  You need to be clear who will benefit from having a mobile device.  It probably will not be everyone.  Even if it is, you will need to prioritise who has the greatest need.  Factors like the number of people involved, time spent away from their place of work and what contribution they can make, will help decide the greatest need.

When you have the right people then you can find out what information and which services they most need, when they need to use them and how they need to use them, to be able to design and test for a good mobile experience.

Mobile devices

Secondly, you need to choose which mobile devices are the best tool to help people with their work.  For example, is it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, or maybe a combination of more than one of these that is needed?  Will you let people bring their own devices to work or will your organisation provide them?  These decisions are critical and will depend on your organisation’s corporate values, type of employees, security, funding and speed of adoption.  Once these decisions have been made you can then focus on how you start to create a good mobile experience.

Once you know how to support the type of devices and size of screens being used, and the main purpose people will be using their mobile device for, you can start to create a good mobile experience.

Mobile platform

Lastly, you need to make sure you have the right infrastructure to support the needs of mobile workers in your organisation.  This means access to the information and tools needs to be 24/7 and not just normal working hours.  It means business continuity plans must include how people will still have mobile access to what they need for work.  Your organisation needs to consider the different mobile operating systems and devices it will support; what is the cost; what should be the limit; which systems and devices will have most overall benefit?

You also need to give a fast connection when mobile workers need it for their work to the information and tools.  Why would you want a mobile device if you find it takes ages to connect to any content or services you need to use?

Good mobile experience

So, what is needed for a great mobile experience?  These bullet points help summarise the posts on mobile:

  • A mobile strategy aligned to business needs
  • Supported by a governance framework
  • Helping meet the needs of people using mobile devices
  • Research and test with mobile users
  • Get the infrastructure in place
  • Have a policy on using mobile users for business purposes

If you need any more information please contact me.