Are you a digital bridge builder?

I enjoy reading posts by Gerry McGovern and his latest post called "From Intranet to Net-Work: the rise of the digital bridge builder" is an interesting look at the changing role of in intranet managers and those involved in the management of intranets.

In the blog post Gerry looks at the challenges organisations face in making information in silos available to users. Unsurprisingly having information contained in silos and separate repositories will seriously hinder how well individuals can collaborate within organisations. As Gerry says in his post:
The culture of silos will hurt all data and information. It will lead to duplication, confusion, inaccuracy, slowness, incomplete information. It will become a significant drain on resources as employees waste their time navigating through many systems with different interfaces.
Gerry than looks at how in the World Cup many teams had outstanding individuals, including Argentina who made it to the final, but only one country had a team and that country was Germany. This is similar to how organisations work in that many organisations will have teams that work well in isolation (silos) but ultimately need to work in a joined up manner to help the organisation work more effectively.

This means that intranet managers and those working in the digital sphere need to work hard at linking the silos of information together. Only when the different information silos are joined up will organisations be able to work effectively as a team. For intranet managers this also means building bridges between people and content (becoming a digital bridge builder).

This is most definitely a challenge for intranet managers and those working in the digital workplace, but one I'm sure we're all open to.

What is a social intranet and how can it help your business?

Looking for a good introduction to what a social intranet is and how it can help your employees/business? Then the short video below, which was published to the IT Portal website is a good starting point.

The video "stars" Lori Williams from Appiro whose company provides a social intranet solution for many organisations.

Is there a difference between a social intranet and an enterprise social network?

Jenni Wheeler over at the "Confessions of an internal communicatior" blog has written a thought provoking post called "Social Intranet or Enterprise Social Network? Is there a difference?"

In it Jenni ask whether we should separate all the different tools we use, intranets, enterprise social networks, wikis, forums etc, as they are all effectively just part of a single online channel. I definitely agree with this, especially in the context of the digital workplace where intranets are often regarded as the glue by which other tools are joined together.

What I especially like about Jenni's post is her description of the different levels of social interaction that users can undertake on the tools that are now available.

For me, a social intranet is different to an enterprise social network (ESN). For me, an enterprise social network is an online tool that is designed for collaboration. That is about communities and file sharing and creating a space for anyone to add news and information. Content can be liked and commented on and people are able to add their own status updates and more personal details to a profile.
For me this is a great way to describe the differences between these tools, but what do you think?

Are we seeing the death of news on intranet homepages?

News on the intranet homepage is something that most organisations and many individuals expect to see as a matter of course, but a recent post on the Intranet blog questions whether news will always be on the corporate intranet homepage.

In the blog post called "The destruction of home page news" the author looks at whether activity streams will replace intranet news content. The article quotes several organisations that have replaced news on their intranet homepages with content from Yammer. According to the article "social media activity streams via Yammer are driving users to the news"

The reasons behind this move seem on the face of it very logical, given that email and other ways of delivering news were designed just to deliver content, not as organisations are increasingly doing encouraging engagement and adoption. Yammer like many social tools encourages users to contribute and create their own content, in this respect it can significantly increase employee engagement.

Another logical reason why having activity streams on the homepage rather than more traditional news content is that conversations between individuals and within the organisation are key to good communication. Social media tools, including enterprise social networks like Yammer, present a great opportunity for organisations to put conversations at the forefront of their intranet/communication strategy.

Of course the article doesn't say that intranets will be be devoid of intranet news stories anytime soon. My feeling is that Yammer and other social media sources will be used to supplement rather than replace intranet news stories.

Building a collaborative company dictionary

I love the team at Thoughtfarmer, they have an excellent looking product and are always publishing useful
tips on how to manage content on your intranet.

In addition to their blog, Thoughtfarmer publish a biweekly email which always contains tips and ideas on managing intranet content and developing your intranet. Their latest tip is to create a "collaborative company dictionary"

As they say in their email;

Most companies have loooooong lists of company-specific acronyms and industry jargon. So Oxfam America opened editing privileges on the company dictionary to all employees, while using page version histories to ensure any inaccurate changes were rolled back. The resulting comprehensive dictionary provides new employees with a wealth of information and models effective collaboration.
The results look very impressive and you can see the benefits of creating something like this. It strikes me as being especially useful for new joiners who certainly wont be aware of the different acronyms used in the organisation and what those acronyms mean. Of course an intranet isn't the only way you could create a collaborative company dictionary, wikis have often been used to create collaborative dictionaries, with Wikipedia being a great example of an online reference source.

So what are you waiting for, get out there and start building yours!

Is it time your organisation started using social tools?

Ready, set, go!
The big question many organisations are asking themselves internally is, should we be using social tools to encourage knowledge sharing and improve collaboration between teams and individuals?

Whilst there are some very good examples of organisations using social tools to great affect. There are many organisations who are only now beginning to look at the benefits social tools bring. So its not surprise that James Robertson, an world renowned expert on intranets and the integration of social tools within intranets has written a post called "How ready is your organisation for social tools?"

In his blog post James looks at how intranet teams can identify whether and organisation is ready to implement social tools. But before looking at this he discusses some of the issues that can arise from organisations implementing social tools too quickly or too slowly.

The danger with rolling out social tools too early is of course that the organisation isn't ready for them and they simply wont be accepted. On the other hand choose to roll out social tools too slowly and you may miss an opportunity to roll out social tools to a group that have shown an interest in them. Whilst it's important to carefully think about when you roll out your social tools, you also need to ensure you engage with the groups that will ensure the success of your rollout. James defines these as follows;
Leaders - who set organisational strategies and policies
Stakeholders - who own key business processes and system 
Staff - who must be active and engaged with the new social tools
As James says, "no social project can flourish without the involvement of these three groups" so you need to ensure you have their full support before embarking on a social tools project. James then looks at how intranet teams within organisations can identify whether an organisation is ready to implement social tools.

James uses what he calls a "temperature check" to identify how the various groups within an organisation feel about social tools. Rather then repeat what James has published I would recommend a thorough read of this section as it outlines a useful way to get a sense of how likely it is that a social tool will be accepted by the groups James mentions earlier in his post.

This is an excellent blog post, which I would recommend to any intranet manager who is being asked to look at social tools.

Have you got your elevator pitch ready?

The elevator pitch, something that is often talked about within organisations, but if you were in an elevator, or lift for those of us based in the UK, with someone very senior in your organisation would you be ready to pitch your intranet to them?

This is the question the team at Intranetizen ask in their latest blog post "Creating a winning intranet elevator pitch". In the blog post they take a look at some of the tools intranet managers can use to create elevator pitches.

My biggest takeaway from this blog post is to focus on who within your organisation the intranet is going to help. Simply saying everyone, even if you believe it's going to be everybody is not the way forward. In your elevator pitch you need to focus on a group or groups of individuals which will gain real benefits from using your new intranet or tool.

This is a good introduction to the elevator pitch, which all intranet managers should take a look and of course formulate their own!