Tag Archives: collaboration

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.

 

Is your intranet a campaigning tool?

Have you been asked to support a campaign or issue that you feel strongly about?  I don’t mean someone asking you in the same room.  I am talking about finding out using social media like Facebook posts or tweets on Twitter.

Campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Sumofus are very successful in focusing people’s attention on an issue, engaging their support and transforming that into action that is effective in achieving its aim.

The speed with which support can be gained is very impressive.  The method of giving your support is very quick and simple.  The ripple effect from publicising progress gains a momentum of its own.

I am sure we can all think of recent successful campaigns.  Probably most of you have supported a campaign because the issue meant something to you…..

……which got me thinking (I know, that’s a dangerous thing for me to do! )

Would organisations have the courage to use their intranets as a business tool to identify barriers to employee satisfaction and productivity using a version of these tools?

Accepting that factors like communication channels, inclusive culture need to be working well, would tools like this help organisations avoid long-running disputes or make business decisions without being aware of the full picture?

In the UK (still part of the EU!) if an online petition reaches 100,000 signatures it has to be debated by MPs in Parliament and people who signed are updated on its progress and the outcome of the debate. (the latest was whether Trump should visit the UK or not).

So, with my governance hat on I believe this could benefit organisations and add to an intranet’s reputation as the nerve centre with a few simple rules.

  1. Avoid moderation.  Employees want to be trusted to have a free hand in the views they express and the range of support and how to gain it.  Most employees are able to see whether an issue is a genuine or just someone raising a personal gripe.
  2. Set a time limit for the length of the campaign.  You want to identify the burning issues that could quickly cause problems rather than those that will keep chuntering on for ever and are unrealistic.
  3. Set a sign-up threshold for issues to achieve before action is taken.  You could make that an absolute number e.g. 1,000 or a percentage of total employees.  An upper limit could mean that when the top-level of management next meet the issue is given a minimum of time to be raised and a decision to be made.
  4. Give this channel/tool the appropriate prominence and senior management support.  Employees need to realise it is not a gimmick but a serious approach to tap emerging thoughts and issues.

I am sure some of you will think this is unnecessary or even ridiculous and create nothing but problems.

Others may think ‘What is the downside?’ ‘What is there to lose by trialling it and seeing what happens?’.

You decide….!

How to make a great start to 2016!

The start of a new year gives you the chance to make a fresh approach.  One area you may consider is improving how you manage your intranet, digital workplace, collaboration tool or site.

Have you a clear strategy that is aligned with other business area or function strategies?  Is it supported by a strong governance framework?  Most importantly, do people have a consistently good experience?

I have found having these helps people to be more productive and effective.  A consistently good overall experience helps achieve these benefits.  People need this every time they go online.  Whatever they want to do, they need to be able to rely on it.  It needs to give them confidence that it will always meet their requirements.

This benefits their organisation too.  People use it more frequently.  They are confident they can easily find what they need.  They know they can rely on the integrity of the information and applications.  Most importantly, it will help them with their work.  Organisations recognise it supports their business requirements.  They are viewed as valuable, even business critical, in achieving their strategic goals.

How do you achieve this consistently good experience?  Is it using a publishing technology?  Is it the visual design?  Is it the access people have?  It may well be that some or all of these do contribute to this.

However, having a clear strategy aligned with your organisation’s strategy, supported by a strong governance framework definitely helps.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersBased on 20 years experience, I have written for you ‘Digital success or digital failure?‘.  It is a practical, experience-based approach to growing and managing a successful intranet, digital workplace, collaboration tool or site.

Every approach is based on my experience with many practical examples, strategic guidance and quick tips to help you plan or turnaround an unloved intranet, digital workplace, collaboration tool or site.

Buy a copy of my book and keep it by your side so you can refer to it whenever and wherever you need to!

What exactly is a digital workplace?

Recently several people have asked me what exactly is a digital workplace.  I start by defining the digital workplace as:

Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

While the digital workplace will vary depending on each organisation’s size, culture and structure, you will be able to all of these:

  1. Work in any location:  At home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  2. Complete tasks work online:  Make a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  3. Use any device:  Use your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone  or tablet anytime, anywhere.
  4. Share information:  Be able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  5. Solve problems: Ask for help from people you may not know in discussion forums and shared workspaces.
  6. Search:  From one place across all the places where information is and you have permission to access.

Of course, how your digital workplace is managed with a governance framework is critical to how good and integrated the experience will be.  You can find more here on how to get it right.

I will post next about the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace.

Do your intranet and internal comms approaches clash?

Whatever the strategy for your intranet is, it needs to align with your organisation’s overall strategy.  It must clearly show how it supports and will help your organisation to deliver its strategic priorities.

You should also consider how it aligns with other strategies that support different business areas and functions.  It is important to know the direction they are taking and if they support or conflict with your intranet strategy.  One of the most common business functions relevant to your strategy and plans will be Internal Communications.

In some cases, the intranet strategy is part of the internal communications strategy. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, your intranet is more than a communications tool.  It has a much wider strategic role that includes operational information, business processes and tools to share knowledge.

There is normally agreement and minimal conflict between each strategy.  However, there are two areas with the highest risk of conflict between the approaches for the Intranet and Internal Comms.

News

Sometimes Internal Comms’ focus on news to the virtual exclusion of any other information.  There are probably several places on the intranet where people read the news: corporate homepage, each business area and function site, senior leader’s pages, etc., as well as news feeds or discussion groups.

But they don’t want to find the same news article or angle on that news wherever and whenever they go to these sites.  When people reach a saturation point they will be turned off by the amount of news that is the same.  People feel bombarded by news and will switch off rather than feel engaged and interested.

I have not found one survey that showed reading the news as the most effective use of an intranet in helping people with their work.

You need to find the right balance so people see the right amount of news in the right places at the right times.  Less is more.  Make sure the news is only in specific places and relevant to each audience.

homepage

The other area of concern is the amount of space news takes up on your corporate intranet portal or Homepage compared with business tools, operational information and ways to share ideas and problems.  Too often I find a mismatch.

The majority of people emphasise how important business tools, information and sharing are but the majority of space is taken up with news, particularly images.  While not directly a strategic or governance issue, it does contribute to the overall user experience if the Homepage does not meet people’s needs.

Ultimately, this can affect people’s overall effectiveness and productivity.  That risks a conflict with Internal Comms narrower approach to the intranet as a good communications tool rather than it being a great business tool as well.

Get the balance right so you provide what people need.  Test out with people who use the Homepage to find out what helps them with their work, then provide it.  That will probably be less news than exists but will likely mean the remaining news will be viewed more because it matches people’s needs.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information on how to avoid this conflict sinister underwebs from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is available.

How can new publishers comply with your intranet standards?

Implementing publishing standards that meet your organisation’s requirements helps create a consistently good experience for people accessing your intranet.

They are critical to you implementing a successful governance framework.  The publishing standards will support your intranet strategy, publishing model, roles and responsibilities.

All your content owners and editors need to comply with the publishing standards.  Knowing this, people will access your intranet and use it more, confident in the integrity of the content and applications and aware that you ensure publishers comply with each standard.

And that can be the weakest link in your governance framework!  How do you continue to provide that consistently good user experience with new publishers?

I am talking about publishing accredited – news articles, company policies, etc. – content, not collaborative – blogs, discussion groups, etc. – in this post.

Your governance framework must cover how you manage new content owners and editors.  This is the best way to sustain the baseline you have established for best practice.  Without it, people will inevitably see a decline when they access your intranet.  Their productivity and effectiveness risks declining and affecting their overall work performance.

There are five actions that you need to consider taking so new publishers are good publishers:

  1. Induction training on how to use the publishing tool.  This is not just about what to use it for.  It includes how to use the publishing templates.  It needs to covers features like global navigation bar, content owner, review and last updated dates.  By explaining why this is important it helps encourage best practice.
  2. Have good communications channels so new publishers can keep up to date with the latest news that affects them.  Publishers should be able to ask other publishers for help and get answers.  New publishers should feel they are fully informed about how they use the intranet.
  3. Offer clear online guidance and best practice tips on how to publish on the intranet.  Reinforce this when you contact content owners and editors e.g. email, discussion group, conference call or webinar.
  4. Invite all new publishers to join a discussion group covering publishing topics to help develop a broader understanding.  It is much easier (and cheaper) to have peer-to-peer conversations where practical tips are shared quickly with each other.
  5. Have one set of publishing templates that you manage.  Keep publishing simple and easy to encourage best practice.  One publishing process will save content owners and editors’ time.  It avoids the temptation to try alternative methods or create more templates.Book cover - Digital success or digital disasters

Find out more information on how to manage your publishing community and intranet from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is also available.

I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!