Tag Archives: standards

10 best intranet designs…but you need good governance first!

When Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) announced the best intranets of 2015 (hats off to Verizon as 3 times winners!) they said “While intranet teams continue to grow they simultaneously streamline processes and work faster, resulting in innovative designs. Common feature trends include: responsive design, search filters, flat design, and mega menus, to name a few.”

What did become clear to me is these intranets did not win by luck.  What NN/g didn’t say this is also because they have good governance, applied effectively, to build the foundations for well designed (and managed) intranets.

What do I mean by good governance?  Here are a few practical examples:

1. Have a clear strategy and direction set.  This should be approved by your stakeholders who help its implementation by openly supporting it.
2. Have a governance hierarchy setting out the roles and responsibilities for people involved with the intranet.
3. Develop publishing standards, especially for Usability, based on business requirements.
4. Most importantly, have the means to combine all these features of governance in a great way that results in the wonderful examples we can see with the winners.

These intranets didn’t win by accident but through managing their intranets well.  Good governance leads to great user experiences!

How you can avoid your digital workplace becoming a barren desert

Do you know where everything is in your digital workplace?  It’s an easy question for me to ask.  However, the answer may be more difficult for you to answer.

In 2015, intranets are now at a jumping off point to become digital workplaces.  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 two posts I have covered how this is a wonderful opportunity for you to make your digital workplace a great experience, encouraging more frequent use and improving the productivity of people using it for their work.

By combining a clear information architecture with a good governance framework you create a thriving digital workplace, not a barren desert where there is little chance of finding that oasis of vital content you need.

To successfully transform your intranet into a wider digital workplace where everything may be in the cloud with people accessing it from any device, anywhere and at anytime, you need to consider these steps:

  1. It is critical your governance framework and information architecture are synchronised and have the same scope.  You should have one person with overall responsibility for making sure this happens.  You also need a common understanding of what they both include.  Making this transparent on your digital workplace so other people can see them helps any gaps or overlaps to be spotted quickly and acted upon.
  2. You need to agree what that scope should be.  Is it for accredited content, collaborative content, and applications or only some of these?  Whatever the scope is, you need to communicate it clearly with stakeholders.  You also need it approved so you have the authority, should you need it, to contact anyone operating outside of its scope.
  3. Your governance framework needs to have the roles and responsibilities set out with a hierarchy showing reporting lines for strategic and operational activities.  It also need to include the publishing standards for your content owners, editors and application owners to comply with.  This is essential for a consistently good experience for anyone using your digital workplace.
  4. Your information architecture needs developing to meet the requirements of your organisation.  It should become an overarching structure for all your content and applications. Get these right and you have the ingredients for a consistently good user experience, achieving two aims:
    1. Help people using your digital workplace to quickly find what they need for their work and to be more productive.
    2. Help publishers and app owners to easily find the right place for their accredited and collaborative content, and applications.

Try to avoid a piecemeal approach by implementing only some of these steps.  That can lead to confusion and a poorer experience as people keep adjusting to the changes.  It will also lead to less productive employees and less frequent use of your digital workplace.

That is something you need to avoid by considering how all the steps can be adopted and the full benefits gained for your organisation.  Now, that’s a good message you want to communicate, isn’t it! :)

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.

 

My 2015 predictions

When I first got involved in 1996 with intranets people could only access them from their desktop PCs at their normal place of work.  The pages of content were hosted on a server probably in the same room or building they worked in.  What was on offer was limited to news, policies and some tools e.g. People directory.

Haven’t things changed a lot since then as we move towards 2015!

Intranets are transforming into digital workplaces offering people an amazing choice in information and applications and wider use e.g. you can collaborate with people in different locations, share and rate content and complete processes online.  You can access your intranet or digital workplace from any device e.g. smartphone, tablet and laptop from any place using wi-fi, etc., and at any time with data centres operating 24/7.

What does this mean for 2015?  Here are my predictions.

1. Take the right direction

Intranets are now at a jumping off point to become digital workplaces.  You need to make sure you take the right direction and invest in the right technologies, skills, and resources.  In 2015 good digital workplaces will be created because there is a plan supported by a clear strategy.  Your plan, based on agreed business requirements, will have prioritise actions, and stakeholder support.  These are essential to have a digital workplace that supports your organisation.

2. consistently good experience

People will need to access your content and applications from any device, any time and from any place even more in 2015.  Their experience needs to be consistently good every time with publishing standards within a governance framework applied to make this happen to all content and apps.  People will then be familiar with what they access no matter what device they use.  Good publishing standards will mean productivity gains will be achieved as people avoid stalling while they check before they use anything.

3. know where everything is

More organisations will consider moving to the cloud in 2015.  But you need to manage this well to make this successful.  You a good governance framework to manage all the content and applications, with an information architecture that has the same scope and approach.  It’s no good trying to manage your content, etc., if you don’t where it is!  And if you don’t know, how can people find what they need for their work?  Plan the structure of your digital workplace to harmonise with your governance framework before you start.

4. show you are worth it

With the global economic climate unlikely to improve greatly in 2015, organisations will demand greater justification for any improvements you plan.  You need to demonstrate the benefits your digital workplace can provide.  Having a strategy, governance framework, and information architecture will indicate you do support your organisation’s goals.  However, to show the full benefits you will need to look beyond traditional financial ‘ROI’ to wider benefits that also help your organisation.  If you can do this, and you will have the resources you need in 2015.

Have you made any plans?  Good luck and have a great 2015!

SharePoint, Office 365 and moving to the Cloud

I was asked by Fredric Landqvist, my good friend and Information Architecture genius, to contribute to a series of posts on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.

We believe the way forward is to have a governance framework and information architecture with the same scope to avoid gaps in content being managed or not being found.  Both need to be in harmony and included in any digital strategy.

We will help you to consider the options and guide on the following steps:

  1. Strategy: Goals you are aiming for
  2. Plan: Moving content to the cloud
  3. Information Architecture: Structuring your content
  4. Governance Framework: Managing your content

You can also join our live breakfast talk in Gothenburg, or online seminar and final panel discussion and Q&A using G+ Hangout, the 20th November 8.00AM – 10AM Central European Time

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed contributing to them. :)

 

Intranet journeys to nowhere

I covered other ways of searching for information on your intranet under my post on Findability. I have kept it as a separate publishing standard because I believe navigation should reduce the need to use other ways to find what you need on an intranet. Good, logical, usable headings and menus help people to navigate to their destination quickly and easily.

It is only when navigation is poor and people can’t access the information they need easily that search queries increase and alternative methods are used more e.g. email people for a link to a site.  That’s why I recommend navigation has its own publishing standard.

You can have a publishing standard that splits the needs of your organisation from the site-specific needs for navigation by having distinctive menus and headings for each of these. You can combine them but there is an increased risk of people becoming confused as to their purpose and being unsure if a link or heading is to the same part or a different part of your intranet.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people by making content easier to read on your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People will have a much better experience and be more satisfied with your intranet. This will encourage people to more frequently and extensively use your intranet and save time reading information quicker to reach a strong understanding.
  2. You can encourage your publishers to realise that writing for the web can save them time by using less words to describe the purpose of their content and achieve greater satisfaction from people using it.
  3. Your organisation can see the increased satisfaction from people easily reading the information and gaining a quicker understanding to improve productivity.

This is the last in the series on publishing standards.  I hope you find them helpful when improving your intranet.

Accessible content for everyone and every device

Everyone whether they have a disability or not needs to have the same experience when using any intranet information or applications. Employees with a disability may use devices to help them. Your intranet needs to be compatible with these to avoid risking breaking the guidelines and any law that applies in the country where the person works.

Accessible content is also easier to adapt to use with mobile devices e.g. smartphones, tablets, and laptops with their different screen sizes. Try thinking of accessible content as being a step further on from it meeting your usable standard.

If your intranet has information or applications that are not accessible to all employees, you will be breaking the web accessibility guidelines. Legislation and codes of practice based on the latest World Wide Web, Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C Accessible content WCAG 2.0 AA) guidelines will apply in most countries. US Section 508 and UK DDA 1995 are two examples. These guidelines are at three levels, A, AA, and AAA covering the most basic problems to the most advanced problems experienced by people with a disability when using your intranet.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people with disabilities to use your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People with disabilities using your intranet will have the same or similar experience to anyone else. This will encourage more frequent and extensive use because the intranet is accessible and usable and meets the needs for everyone.
  2. You can encourage your publishers to make their content and applications accessible to meet their legal requirements. There is the added, sometimes overlooked, benefit that accessible content also displays well in other devices such as tablets and smartphones if it meets accessibility standards.
  3. Your organisation complies with a legal requirement. It can also see investment made in your intranet has the benefit of being available in other devices that help with new ways of working and while mobile.

My next post on navigation will be the last in this series.  I hope you have found them helpful.