Tag Archives: training

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.

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.

…or is this a better way to rebuild SharePoint 2010 content?

In my last post I talked about the first of three approaches to rebuilding your content from your existing publishing tool in to SharePoint 2010.

For each approach it is the conflict between minimising the impact on performance of the business with the cost of extra contractors while retaining the knowledge and experience of using SharePoint 2010.  There isn’t just one answer and it can be a difficult choice to get right.

Blending content editors with contractors

My second approach combines the use of your content editors with external contractors.  Your contractors will have a more extensive role to play than my first approach.  You hire external contractors who have the experience and skills you need to support content editors and can rebuild more complex content more easily or rebuild a large number of content pages more quickly than your content editors.

Wherever possible priority must be given to your editors rebuilding their content with support from contractors with the right expertise to help.  However the option for a contractor to step in and take over is now available with this approach.

Benefits

Combining your own content editors with contractors skilled and experienced with SharePoint 2010 will still enable you to retain the knowledge and skills gained from your editors being trained on how to use SharePoint 2010.  Your editors will use their knowledge of your organisation and the context in which the newly rebuilt pages are developed.

The knowledge gained during the rebuild will be retained and allow content editors to support other existing and new content editors when they are trained.  This approach can also help create ‘Super Users’ who can provide support to other content editors who are trained in future.

Contractors supporting content editors and rebuilding complex and large numbers of content pages will be able to use their SharePoint 2010 expertise and knowledge.

Drawbacks

There is still a risk of disruption to normal business activities if there are many content editors to train and content to be rebuilt.  The ability of editors to become ‘Super Users’ retrain other content editors is more limited as there are less editors who rebuilt content and probably not the more complex content.  The balance of knowledge gained to lost is more balanced with this approach.

You will also need to have extra checks for the content rebuilt by contractors to confirm the right context has been met and it links to other related pages correctly.  This can extend the length of the project.

There is the cost of the contractors to factor in and making sure you train enough content editors with the right skills so that all types of  content are updated and managed correctly after you launch.

In my next post I will cover my final approach to rebuilding your content.

Is this the best approach to SharePoint 2010 content migration?

In my last post I talked about what is the best approach to training content editors on how to use SharePoint 2010.  I now want to cover in my next three posts what is the best approach to rebuilding your content from your existing publishing tool in SharePoint 2010.

For each approach it is the conflict between minimising the impact on performance of the business with the cost of extra contractors while retaining the knowledge and experience of using SharePoint 2010.  There is no right answer and it can be a difficult choice to get right.

Using your own content editors

The first approach I will cover is training your own content editors to be able to rebuild your existing content.  You may not need to train ALL your content editors.  You can try training a few content editors to rebuild the content that many other content editors manage and have already re-written.  It will depend on how many content editors you have and the amount of content to be rebuilt.

Whatever number of content editors you decide on, they will rebuild the content, link the content up, and add any navigation headings to the templates.

Benefits

By using your own content editors you are able to retain the knowledge and skills gained from being trained how to use SharePoint 2010 within your organisation.  The benefit of knowing the organisation and the background with the existing content means the newly rebuilt pages are developed with the audience in mind.

The knowledge gained during the rebuild will also be retained and allow content editors to support other existing and new content editors when they are trained.  This approach can also help create ‘Super Users’ who can provide support to other content editors who are trained in future.

Any contractors employed for the rebuild can be used to support content editors and use their SharePoint 2010 expertise and knowledge to help rather then actually do the rebuilding of content.  This reverses knowledge being lost and becomes a gain.

Drawbacks

There is a risk of disruption to normal business activities if there are many content editors to train and content to be rebuilt.  If the advance notice for the training and rebuild is very short then it may be better to hire contractors to rebuild the content.   If the cost is low then it may also make sense to hire contractors instead of training content editors.  Lastly the content to be rebuilt may be complex e.g. using JavaScript and need special skills.

In my next post I will cover a different approach to rebuilding your content.

What is the right SharePoint 2010 training approach?

Have you decided what is the right approach to review and rebuild your content in SharePoint 2010?

I will post about the different approaches organisations can take towards who is best placed to rebuilding the existing content in SharePoint 2010 in my next few posts.  This builds on my other SharePoint 2010 posts.

Firstly, I want to set out what content editors need training for.  This usually happens when you are implementing SharePoint 2010.  You may already be using an earlier version of SharePoint or different publishing tool.  However it can be used as ‘business as usual’ when you have new content editors who replace existing publishers.

I’m not talking about the training content here.  There are many good training courses – both online and face to face – that can help you with that need.  I’m also leaving aside the ‘super users’ who have administrative rights for site collections, etc., and just focusing on the vast majority of people who need to publish content.

Content editor training

This training should be ‘just in time’ so content editors can start using it immediately.  The longer there is a delay between when you have been trained and you start using it, the greater the risk you will do something wrong or differently because you have forgotten.

Where it is a straight forward and simple activity online training can meet this learning need.  However for more complex activities face to face training may be the best way.

A good tip is to reinforce any face to face training with short online videos or podcasts that ‘show and tell’ how to d it the best way.  Use the test of ‘Is it easier to go through the online training module than to contact someone for help and advice.

Content rebuild

Content editors need to first review their existing content.  Is it still relevant?  Does it need to be re-written?  The aim is to only have the content that is still needed.  Most migrations find a very high percentage of content is deleted for various reasons when reviewed.  That content should be updated for accuracy, tone of voice, and any change of context e.g. to fit with any other content in another web part that could be merged.

The content rebuild should be the first task after your training.  You need to have all your content ready before you can link it together.

Content linking and styling

Once all the content has been rebuilt you can restore the links and fix any broken links as the content will have entirely new addresses (URLs).  Then you review each page to ensure that it is styled and written correctly.

Content structure and navigation

The final stage will be checks on the intranet homepages/portals, global and site navigation menus, that any content needs to be ready for launch.

My next post will cover the first approach you can consider for how you rebuild your content.

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.

How to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 – the publisher experience

SharePoint 2010 gives you the opportunity to upgrade your technology to meet the current and future needs of your business’ intranet.   It also enables other changes to improve business effectiveness to be made at the same time.  In my last post I gave some tips on the user experience your business needs so it is ready to use SharePoint 2010.  This post covers the publishing experience.

Publisher experience

  • All site collection administrators, site administrators, and publishers need to be trained before they start using SharePoint 2010.  The training should be a blend of face to face and online modular training depending on its complexity.
  • The look and feel should be consistent – either ‘out of the box’ or corporate branding -  so it is familiar to all publishers.  It also cover the intranet standards – why as well as what they are – and need people to show they understand and will comply with them.
  • While the training will mainly be for publishers there will need to be training for Site Collection Administrators and Site Administrators.  The training needs to cover their roles, how they manage the intranet and comply with the publishing standards.
  •  The training content and method of delivery needs to be tested and shown to educate publishers in SharePoint 2010 best practice and publishing standards.
  • A process should be developed so people who need to publish can request permission to publish.  This will be approved by their manager and the Site Collection Administrator will set permissions and space to publish.
  • The process should cover all publishers to request permission, show they have been trained, alert the approver(s) to decide if it should proceed before being implemented.
  • You need to decide on your approach to reviewing all types of existing content – news, video, blogs, and audio.  Your approach could include content no longer needed being deleted and people pointed to more relevant content if needed.  If the content is still current and needed, it can be updated to meet the publishing standards and right tone of voice.
  • An overall project plan and owner needs to be agreed who can give updates on progress.
  • Once all content has been reviewed and updated it will be ready for migration.  All content needs to be signed off by the owner.  Ideally meta data must be added from the taxonomy with extra relevant words and phrases added to help people find the right content.
  • When content is migrated it needs to be aligned with your information architecture.  It also should appear in search results.
  • All new content published from day 1 needs to meet the publishing standards and have the right tone of voice.

In my next post in this series I will cover how to get your business ready for SharePoint 2010 governance.

How to improve communications using collaborative tools

In my last post ‘Should collaboration tools redefine internal communications’ role?‘ I gave my view on the corporate environment needed to encourage internal communications professionals to welcome collaboration tools being used by employees.  But which collaboration tools can you introduce and improve internal communications too?

I recommend researching employees’ needs to find which are most needed and likely to be adopted.  Some contact with senior managers to understand the corporate values will help too.  Let’s start by increasing employees interaction with existing communication channels before we move on to new collaborative tools.

When a new article is published on the intranet employees normally have no easy opportunity to show how valuable it is, what their views are or the effect it has.  Introducing a few features can help to change that.

Rating

Employees are able to rate how useful the information has been.  The higher the rating, the more useful it is.  It helps show internal communications what is most valued by employees and encourage similar messages to be published.  More importantly it shows what is not useful and could be reduced or stopped.  This information helps plans for future communications that have the best impact.

Comment

Employees are able to comment on the news item.  A comments feature gives freedom to express positive and negative views.  It also enables other employees to see these comments and show if they dis/agree with what has been said already.  This helps internal communications to understand better how useful, complete, and relevant it has been.  It helps internal communications to improve future messages and empowers employees to influence these by expressing their views.

Like

Employees are able to show they like the news item.  This helps internal communications understand how valuable and useful the message has been to employees.  It is a simpler approach to rating content (see Ratings) and gives a basic indication by the number of employees who how liked the message.

Share

Employees are able to share news items with other employees who have a similar need or interest.  This helps spread news more quickly using the channels that employees prefer to use rather than the formal, existing, internal communication channels with other employees.

How I can help

I have several years’ first hand experience improving communications and helping other organisations too.  Please contact me if you would like me to help you:

  • decide on the right collaboration tools
  • communicate better using collaborative tools
  • improve internal communications
  • research employees needs and attitudes
  • train internal communicators

My next blog will cover how blogs can help improve internal communications.

Have the right SharePoint 2010 governance

Based on my experience and knowledge gained when I was the BT Intranet manager and helping other organisations implement many SharePoint 2010 features I can help you too using my checklist.

SharePoint 2010 may be “the best sweetie shop in town” for all its range of features for people to use but the need for effective governance raises for intranet professionals a different set of challenges.  The strategy for SharePoint 2010 governance has to be very different to other publishing or collaborative tools.

I believe there are three approaches which can give your organisation the right governance it needs with SharePoint 2010. You don’t have to use just one. You can combine some of each to find the right blend for your organisation. What works best for you will depend on a number of different factors. Among them:

  • Restricting use – stop some features from being used
  • Encouraging best practice – guidance and training
  • Preventing problems – check content before it is published

Each of these approaches can support your governance strategy for SharePoint 2010. The key is to understand what you need to use SharePoint 2010 for.

Find out how to build SharePoint 2010 governance and how to use my experience to help you.