Tag Archives: standards

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.

Intranet Pioneer: more mobile and collaborative

Welcome to the new Intranet Pioneer site.  I hope it helps you even more than before.  As well as my regular blog posts remaining centre stage I have added two areas that I can help you with.

Collaboration

A good collaboration strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.  Using my knowledge gained from first-hand experience I can also help you choose the right tools to help you improve customer service, problem solving and idea creation.

Mobile

Using my first-hand experience and knowledge gained from helping clients implement mobile solutions I can walk you safely through the minefield of security, bring your own device, and creating apps and content that are right for each mobile device.  A good strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.

Whether you need help with strategic advice, developing a governance framework, project planning or practical implementation, or detailed guidance and support, please contact me to find out how I can support you.

Resistance is futile – the digital workplace is coming

I had the great privilege to present the keynote at the first Intranatverk conference in Gothenburg last month.  All my expectations before I went were surpassed.  For those of you who didn’t go, you missed a real treat.  The good news is Kristian Norling plans to repeat Intranatverk so look out for future announcements!

I talked about how “Resistance is futile – the digital workplace is coming”.  Showing how a better way of working – for people and for organisations – using new ways of working like the digital workplace, is something I feel passionately about.  Adopting the digital workplace can help improve how we work now and achieve the many benefits other organisations have achieved already.

Why would you choose alternatives with benefits like these?  The examples of Google and Yahoo! will prove to be wrong and need U-turns if these organisations want to avoid falling behind their competitors who take the right approach to transforming their intranet into a digital workplace.

People benefit by:

  • Working from any location or while mobile
  • Having the same or similar online experience
  • Collaborating, searching, reading, and using apps online
  • Choosing which mobile devices to use
  • Feeling comfortable whenever they are using it
  • Being confident they can use it when they need to
  • Having a better work/life balance

Organisations benefits with:

  • Less wasted property space and costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Lower absenteeism rates
  • Reduced people turnover
  • Stronger business continuity
  • Less environmental impact

The approach needed is to:

  • Develop and align your strategy with other strategies
  • Engage with senior managers to sponsor, endorse, and support your strategy
  • Connect with everyone affected so they feel positive about this new way of working
  • Create a governance framework that benefits the organisation and everyone using the digital workplace
  • Implement policies that engage employees and encourage this shift of working
  • Support the digital workplace with an IT infrastructure so it is available 24/7 and enables you to quickly use the content and tools you need for work
  • Have flexible places to work – home, mobile, hubs, suitable work places – depending on what you need to do

Read more about these benefits, watch the video of my presentation and the brilliant sketchbook of the key points by Francis Rowland.

Good governance signals right mobile direction

In my previous post in this series on mobile I asked ‘Why you need a mobile strategy‘ and showed that 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.

Mobile governance principles

You need to have the following in place:

  1. A champion who will sponsor your strategy and the direction you take
  2. Stakeholders who represent your organisation’s key business areas and functions with the right decision-making authority
  3. Roles and responsibilities that include meeting the needs of mobile users
  4. Standards for owners of content and tools to follow so mobile devices can easily use these

Mobile standards

You need to have standards consistently but appropriately applied for mobile content and apps.  This may mean a change of focus to how your publishing standards are applied to how content is already used.  I will focus on three standards which are most important to a good mobile experience:

Security

It is critical to protect the intellectual property and commercial interests of your organisation.  It is also important to make the method of accessing content and apps from a mobile device secure and easy to do.  It is no good having several logins with different passwords just to quickly look up a person’s contact details you need to quickly check something with just before you enter a meeting.  People just won’t have the time and patience to follow this method.

But you do need some intelligent software working in the background to ensure you know who is accessing content with a mobile device.  Getting the balance right between these two needs is sometimes delicate to achieve but essential for the benefits of mobile use to be achieved.

BYOD

Bring your own device is increasingly seen as important to employers and employees.  It offers businesses opportunities and productivity benefits if it can be successfully introduced.  It manages the threats from wider security systems by having processes to monitor these.  You need a BYOD policy for mobile devices coming onto the network that may not have been checked.  By a combination of tools to implement it and educating and building trust with employees on how to use mobile devices this can help.

Usability

This is even more important than usual because of the smaller and different screen sizes for mobile devices.  Think about the difference in size of screens between a smartphone, tablet, and laptop.  Yet you will need mobile workers to be able to use the device that is best for their needs.  You need to get your content editors and apps developers to think about mobile first when designing how people need to use their information or apps for their work.  This may be some mind and culture change for some people!

The interface for each device needs to be clean, simple, with any key functionality easy to find and use and unnecessary links, extra content, and functionality stripped out.  Always test with mobile users at each stage of development and before launching to check it will meet their needs.

My last post in this series will focus on the mobile experience.

Congres 2013, SharePoint and Digital Workplace – all together!

I am really looking forward to my first time at the Congres intranet conference, Congres 2013 (Twitter #intra13), on 18 and 19 March in Utrecht, Holland.  Many people have told me about the great time they have networking with other intranet people and learning from the workshops and presentations given by great speakers.

I am very pleased to be asked to run two workshops on SharePoint and the Digital Workplace on the first day and a breakout session on the second day.  For those of you who have not heard about this (where have you been ?!) this is the fifth annual Intranet conference designed for senior managers, communication people, information and IT professionals engaged in intranets, enterprise social media and corporate employee portals.

Speakers this year include Luis Suarez – The Evolving Knowledge Web Worker, Euan Semple, Eaun Semple – The Future Proof Intranet, business as usual?, Jonathan Phillips – The Coca-Cola Intranet: from research to delivery and Steven van Belleghem – Internal Communication is dead.

Congres 2013 (#intra13) offers you the opportunity to learn about current innovative intranet solutions, new developments and best practices. In addition to acquiring all that knowledge, the networking as a big factor at the conference.

And if you want to find out more about how to plan and implement strategies for the Digital Workplace and SharePoint and how to manage them, join my workshops and say “hello’ in person as well as on Twitter, etc.  I will be very pleased to welcome you!

How to govern a digital workplace

In my last post on the digital workplace I talked about how you need a strategy to help you create a great digital workplace.  Remember you’re not just doing this for the sake of it!  Your aim is to demonstrate how it will support your organisation’s strategy and key priorities.

Once you have your strategy agreed you need to build a governance framework to help you to implement and manage your digital workplace.  It is important all your digital workplace is managed to give the maximum benefit to your organisation, individuals and collectively, everyone.  The right level of governance needed will balance the rewards to be gained while avoiding any risks.  That doesn’t come naturally but through you establishing a good governance model.

The aim is to create a great online user experience that encourages people to feel comfortable shifting their how and where they work to a digital workplace.  To do that you need a governance framework that includes:

Ownership

You need to have a governance hierarchy that starts at the top with who is responsible for the digital workplace and flows through to who uses the it to publish, collaborate, complete tasks or just view content.

Who is responsible for developing the strategy, implementing the digital workplace and managing it?  It is difficult for one person to have the knowledge, experience, and authority needed for so many key roles and activities.  Neither is it best for it to be one person.

The best solution is to have a steering group with senior managers from key parts of the business most affected by or have most influence on your digital workplace.  These senior managers should have decision-making authority not someone who has to refer back to his/her line manager and delay matters.

There may be dedicated roles for people responsible for collaboration, ways of working, etc., but they should ultimately report in to the steering group.  You need to avoid competing groups of people implementing conflicting standards, designs, and ways to use the digital workplace.  That gives a confusing and poor experience for anyone using it.

Consistency

You really need a consistent level of governance across your digital workplace.  By consistent I don’t mean the same but what everyone should expect.

People who publish in the digital workplace accredited types of content (policies, news, etc.) need a more rigorous approach is needed than for collaborative content where opinions and views change and require a lighter touch of governance.

People using the digital workplace to view content, complete tasks or share knowledge with each other, expect its look and feel to be similar.  Tools can have minimal branding without great costs or customising.  Features need to encourage you to use them more such as help links, contact points, with easily laid out and functional designs.

Integrating the different parts of the digital workplace is needed so they are seen as being connected and encourage you to use it more and feel comfortable.

Standards

One way to gain consistency is to have standards based on the needs of the organisation, regulation, legal and users.  These can be applied appropriately across the digital workplace depending on their use.  For accredited content (policies and procedures) you will apply all or most standards.  For applications e.g. HR processes, it’s probable that most will apply too.  But for collaborative content e.g. opinions, you will apply a lighter touch.

Alternatively you can create standards that only apply to certain information and applications to meet the purpose people need to use it for.

The aim has to be about getting the balance right.  You don’t have to be too restrictive and stifle innovation and collaboration.  But you can’t to be too loose and inconsistent and risk sensitive information leaking out.  It’s not easy but the right balance is critical.

Integrity

For me, this is the critical goal to aim for.  Are you confident using the information and tools in your digital workplace?  Does it encourage you to use the digital workplace more?

The answer has to be ‘YES!’ to these questions. Having the right governance framework with standards consistently applied and clear roles and responsibilities are vital to a successful digital workplace.

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 engage people more with 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!

Have you got intranet litter?

Has your intranet got content littered all over it which isn’t very useful to people needing to use it?

By litter I mean no or little thought has been given by the owner on how people need to have this information presented so it is easy to use.  Examples can include:

  • Links to documents instead of content on an intranet page
  • Poorly worded content that doesn’t make sense
  • Poorly constructed content that is hard to follow
  • Poorly presented content with the wrong balance of images, text, and video

I wonder how many intranet professionals are nodding their heads as they recognise some of these examples being on their own intranets!  Yes, it is irritating and creates a poor user experience.

So, how can you make your intranet look neat and tidy?  I recommend you consider these:

  • Usability standard that sets out what the user experience should be
  • Feedback button so people can report back on bad examples
  • Document library for content that has to be shown in its original format (legal document)
  • Training for publishers on tone of voice
  • Training for publishers on how to ‘write for the web’
  • Guidance on use of different media with best practice examples
  • Audit content and encourage/persuade/force publishers to publish it following best practice

And you can always contact me if you need more help and advice.

Are your intranet standards ‘smart’?

I have reviewed many intranets and have been amazed at the variety of publishing standards and how they are enforced.  These vary from no publishing standards through to everything being locked down depending on the importance of complying with standards.  More importantly it is the amount of time, effort, and money that is used to enforce people to comply with the standards when they publish information.

I sometimes think organisations lose the plot and forget to look at the costs being spent for the  benefit being gained.

Your intranet needs standards to make sure your organisation complies with business, user, regulatory, and legal requirements in any country it operates in.  The best approach is to have ‘smart’ standards that need the minimum time, effort, and cost which achieving the maximum effectiveness and benefits.  How many of these questions can you answer “yes” to?

  1. Do you train your publishers on what your intranet standards?
  2. Do you also train your publishers on why your intranet has these standards?
  3. Do you educate and support your publishers with guidance to understand more about your standards?
  4. Do you embed any of your standards in the publishing templates e.g. branding, navigation menu?
  5. Do publishers need to comply with your standards before their content is published e.g. images need to have alternative texts before they can be used?
  6. Do you review content for compliance?
  7. Do you remind your publishers if their content is non-compliant?
  8. Do you remove content if no action by your publishers to comply?
  9. Do you measure how compliant your intranet is?
  10. Have you measured it more than once?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions then award yourself a gold medal!

If you answered “no” to any of these questions perhaps you had better contact me?

How to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 governance

SharePoint 2010 gives you the opportunity to upgrade your technology to meet the current and future needs of your business’ intranet.   You can make other changes to improve business effectiveness at the same time.  In my last two posts in this series I gave some tips on the user and publisher experience your business needs so it is ready to use SharePoint 2010.  This post covers governance.

Governance

  • An intranet governance framework will underpin the user and publishing experiences.  It will include roles and responsibilities, information architecture, standards, policies and processes.
  • An information architecture is needed to show where all content will be hosted in SharePoint 2010.  It needs to take account of future as well as short term business needs.
  • Publishing standards are needed to meet business, regulatory, legal, and user requirements.  They should be embedded wherever possible into SharePoint tools e.g. owner shown on footer of every page to be completed before page is published.
    • Accessibility: meeting the legal needs of disabled people
    • Usability: ensuring productive use of the intranet
    • Ownership: information managed by owner clearly shown
    • Currency: information integrity is assured by review date
    • Sensitive content: permissions set so only right people see content
  • Roles and responsibilities for managing and publishing information defined, agreed, and implemented for day 1 of SharePoint 2010 e.g. Site Collection Administrators.
    • Intranet Steering Group: Senior stakeholders representing key business functions to regularly review the strategy and key activities to implement it.  The Intranet Manager should report to theis group.
    • The Intranet Team will implement the strategy agreed and develop and manage the intranet to meet the business’ needs.  They will ensure owners will comply with business policies and legal requirements.
    • All publishers need to be trained before they are able to publish.  Publishers will need to comply with publishing standards.  Publishers will either be a Site Administrator if publishing for a site or an Author if for part of it e.g. a page of content.
    • SharePoint Designer can change the look and feel of pages and navigation structure that has been agreed by the Intranet Team.  It needs to be used carefully with selected people approved to use it.
  • A process will be developed for all requests to publish being approved before being set up for the right part of the intranet
  • A Domain Name policy is needed at the top level of an intranet.  A ‘friendly names’ approach should be adopted from a usability approach and avoid elongated URL addresses.
  • A top level taxonomy that is a blend of functional and organisational names is needed.  It should be presented on each page as a drop down menu that a publisher has to choose from.  More than one heading can be chosen if applicable.  Further words can be added by the publisher at their discretion to enhance the search experience for anyone trying to find the right information.

I hope these three posts on governance and the user and publisher experience help you with implementing SharePoint 2010.