Category Archives: web accessibility

Collaborative intranets for engagement must be accessible to everyone first

My thanks to @dianarailton who tweeted an article ‘UK retailers still failing to meet web accessibility standards‘.  With so many barriers in stores if you are disabled, shopping online from the comfort of your home is an attractive option.  Furthermore, under the Equality Act 2010 all retailers must provide access to their goods online as well as in store.

There were several common themes why all of the web sites failed to meet the Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  This means that disabled people would face difficulty in buying a product on each site, with half of the sites completely inhibiting people at certain points in their journey.

The Equality Act 2010 applies to intranets as well as external sites in the UK.  Other countries have similar laws their intranets need to comply with.

Are you serious about engaging with people and collaboration?

How can an organisation engage with all its employees if a minority cannot use the intranet?  How do employees collaborate using the tools on the intranet if some people cannot access them?  First, your intranet must be accessible for this to achievable.

When I hear people talk about making their sites accessible, some still think as long as the design can be read by JAWS for people who are blind.  It does!  But the scope is far wider than that for a site to be truly accessible to everyone.

It is accepted that 10-20% of people have some form of disability.  This includes people whose finger joints become stiff or eyesight needs glasses and the size of text to be enlarged.  Most of these disabilities happen just through the normal ageing process and wear and tear on life at work and home.

For your intranet to be fully accessible these barriers that prevent employees fully engaging and collaborating must be removed.

How to make your intranet accessible?

Wearing my governance hat I believe you need to take the following steps:

  1. Have a governance framework that covers how content is published and who is responsible for creating and managing it.
  2. Have an Accessibility publishing standard that refers to the WCAG guidelines and explains how a publisher creates accessible content.
  3. Have publishing templates that mean content can be enlarged to allow everyone to read it.  Have images with mandatory fields to describe what they show as alternative text for people unable to view the images.
  4. Provide training to help educate your publishers to understand why this is important and how they comply.
  5. Audit random samples of content to ensure it complies with the Accessibility standard.

If you put all these steps in place you will have a solid foundation for your intranet.  You can encourage people to engage with your organisation and to collaborate with each other.

You can then be confident you can reassure your stakeholders this will happen.

 

The lowdown on publishing standards

Publishing standards are key to providing the right foundation for your intranet.  Your organisation will invest in the technology needed to publish information but technology will not be enough.  For people to be more productive, they need to be confident in the integrity and reliability of what they use and technology alone does not deliver that.

Publishing standards make that critical difference.  They form the basis for your intranet’s user experience to be consistently good.  These standards need applying to different types of content and tools.  You can set up publishing standards based on the following requirements:

  • Information policies
  • User needs
  • Legal
  • Regulation

The publishing standards you should consider are:

  • Ownership
  • Timeliness
  • Security
  • Findability
  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Navigation
  • Copyright
  • Compliance

As well as making your intranet the best experience for people using it, you also need to make it a good publishing experience.  The better the processes and support offered, the more likely it will be that publishers will follow the standards.  Make it easy for publishers to seek the right guidance by providing it on the intranet, saving everyone’s time.

With confidence in the integrity of your intranet content and applications, people will want to use them more frequently and become more productive.  To ensure that this happens, you also need to take steps to ensure publishers comply with each standard.  Compliance, implemented in a smart way, can be simple, effective, and of great benefit to your intranet users.

Find out more detailed information and publishing standards best-practice examples in ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Try the introductory chapter for free.

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!

Standards that make SharePoint 2010 a success

When you are faced with implementing SharePoint 2010 your intranet needs the right standards to make the launch and ongoing use a great success.

How can you do this?  Firstly you need to be clear why you have standards.  The reasons why usually include:

  • Legal: web accessibility, copyright and image rights
  • Regulatory: compliance with country and international agreements
  • Business: content reviewed regularly and up to date
  • Users: content ownership clear, easy to use and find

Your intranet standards need to:

When using SharePoint 2010 I recommend five standards you must include.  These cover the different types of content and tools that you can use with SharePoint 2010 ranging from accredited information through to collaborative discussions.

1. Ownership

You need to be clear that all your information is managed and has an owner.  Intranet managers need to be able to contact an owner if there is a problem with their content quickly and easily.  People need to know who to contact if they need more information not shown or wish to check about anything that has been published.  You need to reassure your senior managers that any risk has been removed of non-compliance from information not managed.

2. Currency

Your employees must be confident they are using the most up to date information.  You need to clearly show a review date, in line with your information retention policy, for people to see.  Your content must be reviewed regularly and be removed if it is no longer needed and out of date.

3. Security

SharePoint 2010 permissions need to be correctly set so people only see the information they have permission to see.  Get these right at an organisation-wide level to save time and effort later.  Owners (site administrators) of content can decide at a site level who can have permission to create, edit, as well as view content published.

4. Usability

Your information must be usable and valuable to people using it.  Use SharePoint 2010 webparts to create the experience research with people has shown is needed.  Train your publishers on ‘tone of voice’ and ‘writing for the web’ to help achieve this.  To use the full range of SharePoint 2010 features well you must make it easy for people to share views, discover other people and their skills, find the right information and use what they find with the minimum of effort and time taken.

5. Accessibility

This is not an optional extra.  It is mandatory.  You need to go that extra step beyond usable content and make sure your content is accessible to everyone whether they are impaired or not.  It needs to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  Legal requirements do vary from country to country.  For the UK AA level is the current expert recommendation.

What you need to do is check standards are complied with.  This can be achieved by using people or outside auditors to check content or better still, if you can afford it, an automated compliance checker tool.

What is the right governance model for a digital workplace?

Thank you to everyone who read my last post ‘What is a digital workplace?‘ and contributed to a great discussion helping to define it.  Staying with the digital workplace theme I want to show you the views given in my workshop at IntraTeam 2012 event ‘How to build the right governance model for the digital workplace‘ which produced some great responses.

The workshop covered four areas needed for the right level of governance: Ownership, Consistency, Standards, and Integrity. The outcome was:

Who should be responsible for developing and implementing the digital workplace strategy?

Digital workplace principles need to be put into your own organisational context.  A board of representatives from across the organisation is needed to coordinate a digital workplace strategy.  This board can have decision or advisory status.  Alternatively you could have a central business unit responsible for strategy, processes, planning and implementation.  While there was no clear decision on who led the digital board or business unit there was a consensus it was NOT to be anyone from Communications!

What should everyone expect or need when using a digital workplace?

Everyone should gain a better work/life balance from a digital workplace although managers and their team members will have different expectations.  The digital workplace should have all the information and tools you need integrated, easy to access and to find.  You are able to connect from any device you have.

What standards are needed for a digital workplace?

A governance framework is needed with standards forming a key part with tools to enforce them.  Standards are needed for:

  • Legal requirements: accessibility, personal information available
  • Business needs: usability, design, navigation, findability, ownership, information retention and employee terms and conditions need to encourage the digital workplace
  • Security needs: confidential information restricted, permissions model adopted
  • Technical support: platform functionality, server support, agreed levels of service.

How do employees gain confidence with the digital workplace?

Anyone who plans to work remotely, especially if they are the first person in that team, wants to have the same or better experience than where they currently work.  You gain confidence when the information and tools you need for work are always available to use.  You feel confident that your personal information is there for you (and only you) to use still.  You don’t feel any discrimination because you are working remotely from your manager, team, customers and other employees.

What is missing?

Please help me and the other intranet professionals at the workshop by commenting on the outcomes.

4 factors critical to good governance in a digital workplace

In my last four posts on the digital workplace I have covered ‘Must have digital workplace principles’, ‘5 steps to a great digital workplace strategy’, 7 ways to engage people in a digital workplace and lastly ‘Create a brilliant digital workplace with me’.

To have a successful digital workplace (my definition is ‘work is what you do, not where you go to’) organisations must have the right strategy, culture, environment and infrastructure to exploit the benefits fully. It becomes the natural way of working so everyone is more productive and your organisation more efficient with:

  • people work from any location as well as their office workstation
  • IT infrastructure for the same or similar experience
  • everyone can read news, collaborate, search and complete tasks
  • individuals choosing tools – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • organisations measure benefits and encourages digital workplace

Follow these ‘must have’ principles including strategy, engagement, governance, HR policies and IT infrastructure and you will have a great digital workplace.

Governance

It is important the whole of the digital workplace is managed so that it brings benefits to the organisation, individuals and collectively, everyone.  It should mean the feeling that ‘things are better’ permeates through to everyone and encourages even greater use of the digital workplace.

It means the level of governance balances the rewards to be gained while avoiding any risks.  That doesn’t come naturally but through good governance of the digital workplace including:

Ownership

Who is responsible for developing the strategy, implementing the digital workplace and ongoing management of it?  It is difficult for one person to have overall responsibility 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 made up of stakeholders from key parts of the business most affected by the digital workplace.  These stakeholders should be senior people with 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.

The worse solution is to have competing groups of people each implementing conflicting standards, designs and ways to use the digital workplace.  That will be a disaster and must be avoided!

Consistency

You really need a consistent level of governance across your digital workplace.  By consistent I don’t mean the same.  I mean it is what everyone using the digital workplace would expect or need.

For publishers/site owners who are publishing in the digital workplace accredited types of content (policies, factual stuff) the expectation is for a more rigorous approach than for collaborative content where opinions and views require a lighter touch.

For people using the digital workplace to view information and news, use workflow applications or collaborate with each other, they expect the look and feel of the digital workplace to be similar.  Tools needs to be branded in line with the business’ colours and designs.  Features need to encourages everyone to use them more such as help links, contact points, easily laid out and functional designs.

All the different parts of the digital workplace need to be integrated so they are seen as one whole entity not a different set of silos, resources with some electronic sticking plaster added to make them look as if they are connected when they don’t give that impression to anyone using them.

Standards

One approach is to have a set of standards based on the needs of the organisation (information retention), regulation (who has permission to see what), legal (web accessibility) and technical (DNS policy).  These can be applied appropriately across the digital workplace for each activity.  So for formal type content (policies and procedures) it’s most likely all the standards will apply.  For applications (HR processes) it’s probable that most will apply too.  But for collaboration 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.

It is about getting the balance right again.  You don’t need to be too restrictive and stifle innovation and collaboration.  But you don’t want it to be too loose so that the business and individuals risk non-compliance with a legal or regulatory requirements.  It’s not easy but getting it right is critical and benefits everyone and the business.

Integrity

This is the real litmus test, the crunch point for me.  Do people have confidence in the information and tools they are using in the digital workplace?  Does everyone feel encouraged to use the digital workplace more after each time?

The answer has to be ‘YES!’ to these questions.  That is the outcome your strategy and plans should aim for.

However you do this it must balance the needs of the business with those of people working well in a digital workplace.

My next post will cover the HR policies which enable digital working.

What’s your view on SharePoint 2010?

Like most organisations at the moment, BT is looking at what SharePoint 2010 has to offer and how it could meet our business needs.

I’ve read about SP 2010 in the blog posts for expert views, joined an IBF seminar last week, discussed it with other intranet professionals at conference and following #sp2010 on Twitter.

I still haven’t found all the answers to my questions around usability, accessibility, governance, integration, search, etc but I don’t expect to yet.

I have joined two groups on LinkedIn to ask these types of questions with other people who are involved with SP 2010.  There is a group on Sharepoint Governance and Sharepoint User Groups.  Anyone else want to join?

I really want to find a group of non-technical people who have the a similar view from a business rather than IT focus.

What’s your view on SP 2010?  Have you any good information links or groups to share that will help?