Why legal intranets lets users down!

For anyone who manages an intranet in a law firm, a recent webinar by BA Insight will definitely be of interest. Called "Why Legal Intranets Let Users Down"

The Webinar starts with an introduction to the four main issues that BA Insight see as being the most significant problems with Legal intranets. They are as follows:

  1. Not finding information
  2. Finding too much dis-organised information
  3. Lack of responsiveness
  4. Lack of personalisation

Not finding information

Not finding information is a problem for all organisations, not just law firms. However law firms might well be unique in the sheer number of places where useful information could potentially exist.

So within Law Firms information literally is everywhere from the Document Management System (DMS) to emails, Know How, Templates, Bound Volumes, intranets, extranets, toolkits, social networks, the list is potentially endless.

To help with this issues BA Insight suggest that instead of having multiple search tools organisations should think about having an enterprise search tool and that provides a single window into an organisations multiple sources of information.

It's also important to understand what your users requirements are. So you shouldn't be building something and expecting your users to start come and using it. You should understand what users are looking for by looking at analytics and other sources of information and ensuring your search tool reflects what users are looking for.

Too much information

A related issue to not finding information is finding too much information. So it's quite common in many organisations for users to run searches and find that they are presented with 100's of results. Ideally the result or results they are looking for would be on page 1, but if it isn't then you need to think about how you could organise the information that is being indexed by your search engine.

So one of the ways in which you can "better" is look the both the available metadata an item has and what metadata you can derive from it. Organisations could also look at auto-classification/auto-tagging to organise content. Metadata is important because it can help boost an items relevancy.

Another option might be to improve how content looks, this means providing previews, clickable links where appropriate so that a user has access to the system where the content came from or can find out more about the piece of content they are looking at.

Lack of responsiveness

The next issue with Legal Intranets is around a lack of responsiveness. This doesn't necessarily mean that the intranet is slow, although it can means this, but that it is hard to use or not as intuitive as it should be.

There were several points made during this part of the webinar, which are worth repeating here:

  • Search is slow or hard to use - A very common complaint in my experience!
  • Find it fast is second in importance behind only Find it period - This is crucial, what's the point in having a search tool that returns results in milliseconds, if it doesn't return the results you're expecting!
  • Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) - We can get overly technical and provide too many controls
  • One click rule - This seems obvious but users should be taken where they want to go.

Ultimately simple is better and where possible we should avoid giving people too many options as many different options will just confuse users.

Lack of personalisation

Unfortunately the recording goes a bit awry at this point so whilst it continues to play the start of this section doesn't include any audio. Fortunately it re-starts again after about 40 minutes and this sections looks at how you can make intranets and search more personalised.

There are several ways you can do this within SharePoint (which seems to be the tool of choice). One interesting suggestion is to add My Recent Matters and My Recent Documents to intranet homepages. This immediately customises the intranet or portal to the user.


This was a useful, albeit it not groundbreaking, webinar on some of the issues law firms are facing when it comes to managing content.

The future of enterprise tech-nolo-gy!

It's hot and chrismassy...a win win situation!
It seems odd to be writing about something in 2016, that took place in 2015. But that's exactly what I'm doing in this post, which as you may have spotted is called "The future of enterprise tech-nolo-gy.

This was in fact a webinar from the team at Brightstarr in which they looked at the following:

  1. The biggest digital workplace trends from 2015
  2. The need to know Microsoft developments from 2015 and how these changes are affecting intranet solutions
  3. What's hot in enterprise collaboration for 2016

Lets cut right to the chase, whilst the developments within Microsoft might be interesting, what we're really interested in are the predictions for 2016. If only so that we can see how close they were at the end of this year. So these were (in no particular order) as follows:

  1. There will soon be an "information of everything". We've all heard of the Internet of Things well Brightstarr think there is likely to be an "information of everything" This has already been highlighted as a top tech trend for 2016 so they are definitely on the right track!
  2. The age of the employee and how empowered employees are starting to shape business strategy. This is an interesting trend and one that is certainly developing.
  3. BYOD will find balance (finally) We all now expect to be able to use our own devices at work and this will continue. However what's likely to happy is that the number of individuals using BYOD will increase, especially with the introduction of more mobile optimised products.

So there you have 3 predictions for 2016, lets see how far these trends develop in 2016.

You can watch the full video on the Brightstarr Vimeo channel - Happy New Year!

Social, to Knowledge Management's Rescue?

Two articles recently published on the CMS Wire website have caught my attention because they
mention both Social and Knowledge Management, two of my favourite subjects :-)

In the first article called "Social to Knowledge Management's Rescue" the author looks at how Knowledge Management has been brought back to life by Enterprise Social Networking (ESN's) tools and other social tools. For anyone involved with Knowledge Management you might be thinking that Knowledge Management is alive and kicking and doesn't need bringing back to life. However the author argues that KM initiatives fizzled out in the late 90's and early 2000's because the technologies available at the time could not facilitate the activities individuals within organisations wanted to undertake.

I think this is a fair point and I remember using some of the very early "Web 2.0" and social media tools and thinking that their used could be extended to assist with KM initiatives. The author then looks at how ESN's in particular have assisted KM initiatives since their launch in 2006/2007 and one particular problem which is around how ESN's are often seperate from other Knowledge Management Systems. As the author says in order for ESN's to be used more effectively to capture and share knowledge "social collaboration functionality needs to be embedded into business processes and the major business applications that support them"

The author then asks whether enterprise social collaboration platforms can help push KM? Fortunately he has an answer, however it depends on your definition of KM, From the article

I believe “social” has a very important part to play in information capture and information sharing. Social collaboration platforms democratize content creation and information sharing, in smaller “bite size” chunks
So there you have it, social tools have the potential to resurrect Knowledge Management...that is of course if you think it has died!

The next article is by the same author and is called "Social collaboration meditated Knowledge Management" In this article the author backs-up the argument in his previous article by mapping it to a popular KM model called "SECI" This is a model, which helps explain how Knowledge is created, capture and managed effectively by organisations. In the article the author looks at how social collaboration tools can be used to facilitate the capture of tacit and explicit knowledge.

I've not come across the SECI model before so some aspects of the article were a bit heavy going, but the author very clearly argues the case for social and collaborative tools having a big role in the creation, capture and management of both tacit and explicit knowledge. If you are interested in any of these topics then this article is well worth reading.

Intranet Resources - October 2015

I can't believe how quickly this year is passing us all by, I'll soon be putting up Christmas decorations
and then taking them down again, but before we all start thinking (even more) about Christmas, it's time for a round-up of some of the intranet resources I have seen recently.

The first is a review of the Intranet Now conference by Sam Marshall. Sadly I wasn't able to attend this conference as I was attending the Making Social Collaboration work conference in the same week. However from what I have read and heard the conference was a great success and this review certainly seems to support this. Although I do feel the same in relation to the quick talks, in that sometimes it can be hard to take in what someone is saying very quickly, which is why I prefer longer talks in order to understand and appreciate more of what the presenter is saying.

The next item is from the Thoughtfarmer blog and looks at how you could increase intranet adoption by using a scavenger hunt. The blog looks at a case study of an organisation in New York who encouraged their employees to explore their new intranet through a scavenger hunt. This seems like a very practical way of letting users explore a new intranet, especially if there is a prize or reward on offer for completing the scavenger hunt.

The 3rd blog post from October is a post called "Intranets in a digital workplace and cloud era" in it the author looks at how nowadays it is impossible to ignore the wider concepts of the Digital Workplace and solutions provided within the cloud. There are a number of reasons why cloud solutions in particular are so popular and the author outlines some of these reasons;

  • regular flow of new features and improvements
  • improved user experience developed through constant user testing
  • reduced costs for the maintenance of servers
  • connected environment that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and with any devices
  • After taking a close look at some of the benefits and of course issues with cloud solutions, the author takes a look at how intranets will fit into the broad concept of the Digital Workplace and asks the following question;
    should we, Intranet managers, size this opportunity to lead the development of our Digital Workplace? But do we have the right skills for doing this? 
    Last but by no means least we have a very interesting article from the Intranet Connections Blog which asks "Does the way you present content affect intranet usability?" The answer is of course it does and the author provides some tips and tricks on how to present intranet content effectively. This article is well worth a quick read.

    That's it for this month, when I write my next Intranet Resources we will all be thinking about Turkey and sprouts!

    Intranet screenshots & Insights from the leading edge of intranets

    Earlier this month I listened to a Step Two webinar called Intranet Screenshots & Insights from the leading edge of intranets.

    For anyone not familiar with Step Two they are an Australian company that help plan and design online solutions for organisations and their employees. Their focus is on delivering intranets, but they have a lot of experience with UX, different technologies, collaboration and the digital workplace. In addition to this Step Two organise and present the Intranet Innovation Awards. This was the focus of this webinar to some extent as we were treated to a deep-dive into Gold Award winner Robin Partington & Partners intranet.

    Before this deep-dive James Robertson outlined what the webinar would cover and there were 3 broad themes:

    1. How to deliver the digital workplace
    2. Intranets blurring inside and outside
    3. Design leading to success

    Sadly I didn't take a huge amount of notes during this webinar, but I did make some notes in relation to how to deliver the Digital Workplace. So an important point that James made was that any organisation thinking about implementing a Digital Workplace, really needs to think about the concept first and what is it that they're trying to do. Also whilst the Digital Workplace might be easy to define, the journey to a fully fledged Digital Workplace is actually very difficult. This is because there are 3 streams involved in any Digital Workplace journey:

    1. Technology stream
    2. Business stream
    3. Design stream

    Understanding the importance of each of this and how they all work together is crucial in ensuring organisations deliver an effective Digital Workplace. 

    Sadly that's all the notes I took from this webinar as there followed a deep-dive into the Robin Partington & Partners intranet as well as loads of screenshots from some of the other winners. I'm hoping that Step Two will make the recording or presentation available from the webinar, but until they do this is all I have :-(

    However James recently spoke at the Intranet Now conference in London and his presentation from this conference looks very similar to the one he delivered during this webinar, so I have embedded this below, for you all to enjoy!

    Making social collaboration work - MWD Advisors conference

    On Thursday the 15th of October I attended the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass, MWD Advisors. Through the power of Twitter I was lucky enough to win a free place, so was looking forward to hearing from other practitioners on how they were implementing social technologies. This was the first event MWD Advisors had ever hosted and I have to say I was very impressed right from the start.

    Venue and Facilities

    The venue for the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass was the Wallspace event space in Clerkenwell. Not only was it a convenient location, but the conference started with a free breakfast! What is there not to like about a conference that starts with a free breakfast, apart from my ever expanding waistline. After breakfast masterclass attendees moved down into what was called "The Den" but was essentially the basement, despite this it was a well lit and very welcoming space, with more free tea and coffee, sweets, biscuits, chocolate bars, cans of coke and even Irn Bru in the fridge! I think I was definitely distracted by the sweets!


    Back to the important stuff and the agenda. This was a mix of case studies and some interactive sessions, which are always good to keep attendees awake and engaged. First up was Angela Ashenden from MWD Advisors who provided an overview of the key drivers and some of the challenges facing organisations that are thinking about implementing social technologies. Below are some of my notes from this first session.

    Better collaboration = a better business

    • Better sharing of knowledge
    • Driving innovation
    • Connecting distributed teams
    • Building better relationships

    What does it mean to be collaborative?

    • Networked and non-hierarchical
    • Open, honest and trusting culture
    • An engaged and valued workforce

    How to get there!

    • Organisational support and leadership
    • Strategy and purpose
    • Technology alignment
    • Governance and community management
    • Adoption management

    Top 3 challenges

    • Getting senior level buy-in
    • Expanding adoption beyond the early adopters
    • Convincing the middle management layer to engage

    A key takeaway from this first session and something that Angela stressed was that social collaboration is about more than just a technology in other words building or implementing something and then expecting people to use it just isn't going to happen!

    The next session was delivered by Kim England of Pearson who talked about how they were using Jive to mobilise colleagues and drive change across Pearson. This was a really interesting look at their 5-year journey, which highlighted how important it is to engage with senior leaders to help drive adoption. My takeaways from this sessions were as follows:

    • Transformation within organisations can take time
    • You (or senior leaders) need to lead by example
    • Two way engagement is critical

    The next session was delivered by Sheila Parry who looked at how to build a business case for social collaboration. One of the first things that Sheila discussed was what the outcome was when people started working together in a more connected way, the following should all be positive results:

    • Reduced duplication of effort
    • Reduced time wasting
    • Improving difficult processes
    • Making isolated workers feel less isolated
    • Reducing silo thinking

    After a very pleasant lunch (curry) we hear from two more speakers about their collaborative efforts. The first of these was Virginia Henry who I have heard speak before. Virginia talked about how her organisation (UnLtd) was using Igloo to provide a collaborative workspace for her users. UnLtd were using Wikis a lot to facilitate collaboration including allowing users to post news content on to the homepage of the intranet! This looked like a truly social intranet, which had a significant role in the on-boarding of new joiners. The final speaker was Katherine Jones from Springer Nature, Katherine spoke about how Macmillan who have recently become part of Springer Nature were using Jive to create a collaboration hub to unify a merged company. This was a really interesting case study and according to Katherine they are having to do it all over again since Macmillan education became part of Springer Nature in May 2015. 

    Overall this was a very interesting day, full of some very practical advice from individuals who had already rolled out collaboration tools as well as some interesting discussion among the other attendees. For even more analysis of the event I would recommend Angela Ashenden's blog post on the MWD website. This post include sketch notes from the event, which I think are fantastic!

    The Digital Workplac​e: Can your Intranet do M​ore to Drive Engagement?​

    Are you?!
    Earlier this week I attended a Brightstarr event called The Digital Workplac​e: Can your Intranet do M​ore to Drive Engagement For anyone who hasn't heard of Brightstarr they are an award winning "digital design company" that works with Microsoft products to build intranets; usually using SharePoint on-premise and SharePoint online/Office 365, although they have recently started using their own product Unily to provide an intranet as a service to organisations.

    Taking place in the Barbican Centre the event started with an introductory session from Martyn Perks called "What the hell is the digital workplace". At the start of the session Martyn asked attendees to indicate using "Ready steady cook" style cards whether they knew what the Digital Workplace was. Surprisingly a significant number of individuals in the room were already aware of the Digital Workplace, but of course that didn't stop Martyn from finishing his presentation. At several times during his presentation Martyn referenced external sources, including significantly a reference to the Capita Employee Insight Report 2015 which provides insights into how employees think and as a result how organisations should develop their digital workplaces. Martyn's session concluded with a definition of the Digital Workplace, which I may have noted down incorrectly, but was something like "The Digital Workplace is about unifying how your business communicates and collaborates using a core set of tools". An intranet should of course play a major role in any organisations Digital Workplace, which is reassuring for intranet managers around the world.

    The next session was delivered by Anna Maslanka who showed how the different technologies Microsoft has made available to organisations, could be used to develop a digital workplace. It was very interesting to see the sheer number of tools that Microsoft has made available and the extent to which they are being used by organisations. However my favourite take-away from this session was the acknowledgement that the gap between what users are used to using outside of work and what they have to use whilst in work is huge and that teams working within organisations need to try and close this gap. This makes perfect sense to me as users within organisations expect to be able to use the same tools in work, that they use outside of work.

    The next session was a case study from Merlin Entertainments, which looked at their deployment of a new intranet. This was an interesting session for two reasons. First was that Merlin Entertainments focus seemed to be on making the intranet fun (which is a reflection of their vision and values) to the extent that they have a fun-meter on every page to indicate how much fun the content is. I'm not quite sure how this would work with something very dull! The intranet they had built did look really great and I'm sure it would be a pleasure to use, but I have to wonder about where all the boring but essential stuff would be published. The other interesting aspect of this presentation was that they had only designed the intranet for desktops. Now given that a large percentage of Merlin's staff are likely to be outside you would assume a mobile site would be essential, but apparently not. According to the Merlin representative this is a technical limitation of the technology they are using, which was a bit odd given that they were working with Brightstarr so it was presumably SharePoint or Unily, the latter is more likely in my mind.

    Following a short break the final session of the day was a panel session, which included Marc Wright from Simply Communicate, the Internal Communications Manager from the Marine Stewardship Council, the Communications Manager from Envigo and an Account executive from Microsoft. This was a lively session with some very interesting questions taken from the floor about how to get over the barriers to adoption, what tools the panelists saw as being key to the delivery of the digital workplace and lots more!

    If you are interested in learning more about the Digital Workplace and the technologies that support it then the slides from the seminar are available.