8 ways to kill your intranet and other problems!

Fancy sorting this mess out?
I appear to have been a bit lax (again) about updating this blog so to stop that that in its tracks here are two articles I have read recently about intranets, which I think will be of interest more widely.

The first article is from CMS Wire and is called "8 ways to kill your intranet" in the article the author looks at some of the mistakes organisations can make when developing intranets.

The first mistake the author looks at is an intranet not being structured very well. All intranet managers should know how important it is to have a good information archictecture in place. However what the author suggests doing is to "focus on maintaining an organisational structure". This would seem to go against what most people believe is a better way to structure an intranet which is by task, but I'm not going to linger on this too much as there are 7 other mistakes!

Related to a lack of structure is an excessive amount of parent pages. Now this isn't something you would expect on intranets, wikis certainly, but intranets less so. However the author suggests it can be a big mistake and something that intranet administrators need to keep a close eye to ensure intranets don't get out of control.

Another related issue is hiding navigation tools, so this is about ensuring the ways by which users can navigate your intranet are consistent and obvious. So tools like related pages and breadcrumbs should help users find the content they're looking for and help them understand where they are in the intranet structure. A big issue which the author looks at is poor tagging, metadata and labelling, these are all essential to have in place especially to support search.

Of course it's all very well having a great structure and perfect search in place if the content that is being returned is old and really poor quality. This is a surefire way to ensure people stop using your intranet. For me these are the most important mistakes to avoid, although the article does list a few more mistakes which organisations can make.

Related to this article, is an article I read this morning by Rebecca Jackson. In this article Rebecca asks "How unique are your intranet problems?" and reports on an intranet engagement workshop she ran recently where the problems identified by intranet managers aren't unique and that there is probably somewhere out there who has the same problem, or who has a worse intranet! I think this is important to note when you are trying to address one of the problems listed by Rebecca, knowing that other intranet managers may be dealing with the same problem in my mind doesn't make it seem as big or difficult a problem.

Gravesend Floodlit Series 2015

My favourite number...ermm

Earlier tonight I took part in the final race in the Gravesend Floodlit Series. This is a series of 10k races, which take place at the Gravesend Cyclopark, this is a fantastic facility designed to facilitate both cycling and running around a 2.5km track, which used to be part of the old A2 road before it was widened.

I had previously run the 5th race in this series and had finished the 10k race in a respectable time of 48:17. I had entered the 6th race in this series which was due to be held in March, but unfortunately I was unwell, so missed out on trying to beat this time.

So on to the 7th and final race in this series and with the clocks going forward it meant that we were going to be running in daylight rather than darkness. As a result I had high hopes of beating my time of 48:17 by at least a minute, if not more than that. As it turns out I did much better than this and came close to running sub 45 minutes, which is a big benchmark for me! Here are my mile splits for the 10k race:

  • Mile 1 - 7:15
  • Mile 2 - 7:17
  • Mile 3 - 7:32
  • Mile 4 - 7:19
  • Mile 5 - 7:18
  • Mile 6 - 7:29
I'm not quite sure what happened during Mile 3, but it probably cost me a sub 45 minute 10k. So my finishing time for the 10k was 45:03, which I was absolutely delighted with. I cant remember the last time I ran close to 45 minutes for 10k and I've only ever run 10k sub 45 minutes twice and they were both a long time ago, so there is definitely the potential for me to do so, which makes me very happy!

 Bring on the summer and even faster times!

Intranet resources - March 2015

I thought it was about time I did another round-up of articles I've seen about intranets and other tools that interest me. I last did a round-up of intranet resources in  January and it proved popular so I'm happy to do it again.

So what did March bring us in the intranet sphere, well CMSWire seems to have run a special series on intranets v.s. enterprise social networks, publishing a series of articles which have looked at how these two tools can work together...or not.

The first of these is James Dellow's article called "Where intranets and Enterprise Social Networks Fit in your Business" James asks if an ESN can replace an intranet as James says you might be surprised by his answer.

The next article in this series is Oscar Berg's excellent article called "Are we asking the right questions about the digital workplace?" In this article Oscar suggest quite rightly that instead of asking people what tool they would like to use, or whether we should be replacing an intranet with an ESN and vice versa, we should be asking "what do people need to do to get work done". Oscar suggests we need to stop seeing IT systems as boxes into which we stuff as many features as possible. Instead we should view IT systems as mini-ecosystems which we can provide to users in a way that suits them. This is an excellent article, which I recommend anyone with any interest in the digital workplace, intranets and ESN's reads.

An article which might on the face of it sound like it wont be a very inspiring read for intranet managers is "Endangered species: The Corporate intranet" in which the author looks at some of the ways in which intranets are used and their future in the face of the many other service organisations now have available to them.

The last article produced by CMSWire as part of this series is Steve Bynghall's article called "Beware Red Herrings: Intranet vs ESN is a sham"In this article Steve looks at the crossover between intranets and enterprise social networks and asks what role these two tools have to play in today's organisations.

Other articles in this CMSWire series include "Intranets or ESN? Why not both" and "Are ESN's just intranets in new clothing"

Moving away from the CMSWire series the J Boye website published an articles at the beginning of March called "Want a social intranet have a plan" this excellent article looks at some of the steps organisations need to take if they're thinking about implementing a social intranet. This includes a community maturity model which outlines the processes and stages involved in developing a "networked organisation"

Some really excellent resources this month, especially if you're currently managing an intranet and an ESN.

ISKO - Findability and information management in the corporate workplace

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to attend not one but two Knowledge Management events. The first was the 4th Knowledge Management Forum 2015, which was organised by Practical Law Company and Thomson Reuters. I will blog about this in the next few days.

Following this event I attended the first ever ISKO meetup, which was called "Findability and information management in the corporate workplace" this event was designed to bring together 3 contributors (myself included) to talk about the chapters they had written for the "A Handbook for Corporate Information Professionals" I was the 3rd speaker to talk, following an introduction by Katharine Schopflin and an excellent introduction to taxonomies and how to manage them by Helen Lippell.

I wont say too much here about what I said, because you can read exactly what I said in my slides below and if you really want to, you can purchase the book from Facet Publishing.

Developing your intranet manager career

Mark Morell, formerly of BT has written an interesting post on the Clearbox blog called "Developing your intranet manager career: it's all about partnerships" In the post Mark describes how the opportunities for organisations to develop their intranets as part of the move towards digital workplaces, also offer intranet managers great opportunities to develop their careers.

Mark then looks at what you'll need to have in place to achieve both a great digital workplace and create a role for yourself within the organisation.

The key would seem to be in developing relationships across the organisation that you work for. As Mark puts it:
Your approach should be to invest at least as much time connecting with your stakeholders as identifying business requirements for technology. Getting that balance right will be a giant step forward to likely success. Asking people to approve your transformation when they are familiar with and where they understand its importance improves your chances of success.

It is essential your stakeholders have a clear picture with timescales, owners, costs and benefits. It is the best way for you to do justice to the time and effort everyone will be giving. You need to get involved with the key areas and functions of your organisation to make this happen.
I couldn't agree more with the argument Marks makes for ensuring that your key stakeholders have a clear picture about the transformation of the intranet or digital workplace is going to look like and what the timeline is for this transformation. Developing and maintaing good working relationships, especially when managing a large project, is an essential requirement for an intranet manager and something that intranet managers should invest a lot of time.

Ultimately this will help improve your position within the organisation you work for as well as increasing the chances of your project being successful.

If you enjoyed this post by Mark Morell, you may also be interested in reading two posts I wrote previously about my career and some tips for new intranet managers. I have linked these blog posts below:

5 priorities for intranet managers in 2015

5 is the magic number, or is that 3?
Elizabeth Marsh of the digital workplace group has written a very interesting post on LinkedIn, which looks at the priorities identified by Digitial Workplace members for 2015.

In her article she looks at the Top 5 priorities, which are in the order of priority and suggests some ways in which the Digital Workplace group can help support these priorities.

So the question is what are the priorities that have been identifed by Digital Workplace group members.

The first one is Governance which is of course extremely important for anyone managing a Digital Workplace or intranet to havea  good grip on. As Elizabeth says Governance forms the foundation of great intranets as it provides the principles and standards around which intranet content is created and managed. What Elizabeth does day is that some organisations lack governance at the strategic level e.g. deciding what the intranet or Digital Workplace strategy will be.

The next priority is Defining digitial workplace strategy and roadmap. As Elizabeth says whilst there are many benefits to having a digital workplace in place many organisations haven't even thought about how they're going to implement a digital workplace.

The third priority is about prioritising user experience. This is definitely becoming more and more important as intranets and other applications look to improve their user experience to something akin to the consumer websites we're all used to using. In addition to this intranet design is becoming much lighter, in part because of the move towards more mobile use, but also because that is what users now expect.

Closely tied to prioritising user experience is integrating social/collaboration tools. I would argue that this has been a priority for many years now and there have been some very good examples of organisations tightly integrating social and collaborative tools within the intranet. However there will always be an argument that says that irrespective of how closely you integrate these tools they will only be fully used when they're integrated within a users workflow.

The final priority is redesigning or upgrading our intranets. As Elizabeth says as intranet managers our work is never done and we should be continually delivering new functionality on tools within an intraent so that the user experience is always being improved. You should definitely not just stop developing an intranet!

So the top five priorities there. I'm sure there are other priorities that could have possibly made it in to the top five. What will be interesting to see is whether this list is different in 2016.

Intranetters meeting March 2015

Last Thursday afternoon I attended the latest Intranetters meeting. For anyone not familiar with this group, they are an informal group of intranet and internal communication managers who meet on a semi-regular basis to discuss the management and development of intranets.

The latest meeting was held at Robin Partington & Partners, an architecture firm based on New Oxford Street. The first 1/2 of the meeting was a demonstration of their intranet, which had been custom built in-house by a small team of developers.

The intranet manager talked the group through the process of how they got to where they are today. This process started with Sineks golden circle which helped them identify why they were implementing a new intranet and how they were going to do it. From here they looked at building something that had a real purpose and that also looked good, after all they do design for other people, so why not do it for themselves!

The result is a very impressive task based intranet, which focuses on providing users with the essential tools they need to undertake their roles. These tools include integrated project management and project planning pages, timesheet logging pages linked to Outlook and a very impressive appraisal system.

The second 1/2 of the meeting was a presentation by James Robertson of Step Two Designs who talked at length about how "design thinking" is transforming intranets. Design is now a powerful word in business and there are many design techniques that we can apply to intranets. Design is especially important in relation to intranets as they can often be ugly and difficult to use applications!

So for example if you have a strong external reputation and branding then the internal experience users have "should" be just as good. Unfortunately this isn't often the case and users have to endure ugly looking intranets and other applications despite potentially being part of a large multinational organisation.

This is especially galling given that design is fairly easy to do and most applications including SharePoint can be designed to look nice and engaging.

As James said in his Presentation, which I have embedded below* for intranet managers it's about taking a fresh look at the bigger picture within your organisation and applying the fundamentals of good intranet design to your intranet. Applying design thinking will help push intranets to the next level and reshape the way we work.

*This presenation is from the IntraTeam Event 2015, but they were almost identical.